Not half a metre from our back door, amongst rain coats, a leather hat and a broom, is an old straw hat of J's. A disreputable hat, I would have said, old and holey, yet today it has become very precious.Two white-browed scrub-wrens have decided to make a nest in it. (See pic above; photographs from a sunny spot into veranda-gloom)
In the birds zoom, under the veranda, beak filled with moss and other treasure, and look about. No one? Then up to the hat, in the hole in the `top', a few seconds to arrange the new mattress material, then out to find more bedding. We should have realised sooner; why was there so much bird activity, and moss and detritus on the paving, and straw (or what looked like it - clearly the latest in wren fashion) hanging out from the hat?
And me? Oblivious, of course. It's between the door and our craftily placed washing line, also under the veranda. Today I was hanging out sheets with gusto, less than a metre from our brave little birds - until, a little later, J whispered `come and look' - and so the next washing load was hung out very differently; a dance, if you will.
Here I am hanging up some trousers and our wren flies near. So I move 2 metres away so that she feels safe enough to enter the hat, and I wait until she leaves.
Then I move back, finish hanging out that item and begin another until her mate flies down with a beak-full. I move away again...and again...
J and I gardened today and passed the new nest a dozen or 2 times. I think these little birds have decided that the lumbering humans are not harmful, in fact, they can be darted around.
Now after about 3 days it's the most perfect little nest, rounded, cosy, ready for eggs. There's wren activity still: they're keeping an eye on their sweet home and - who knows? - fertilising eggs (now there's a polite euphemism for you).
I just need to remember to not move the broom and those raincoats... or hang up my disgraceful old gardening trousers there for a while.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)