Thursday, 22 October 2015

Avian Visitors and Residents

Have I become invisible - a part of the furniture - or like those trains in the night, loudly rattling past, that people on the line no longer notice?
Our little wrens by the back door - white-browed scrub-wrens - seem to have laid another clutch of eggs in J's old hat (see posts 5/9/15, 26/9/15, last picture) - and they've definitely hatched. But now, no longer do the adults put on hold every planned nest swoop when they see me; and even when I'm about 2m away, hanging out washing, they no longer pay me any attention. Better yet, they hop all around the clothes line above my head (if I freeze), 30cm (one foot) above me until they finish looking for danger, and decide where next to dart, foraging for morsels for their voracious young. 

Meanwhile Mr and Mrs Superb Blue Wren (above) are `flirting' by the southern window distracting  me from my work. Afterwards: preening each other, and blue-bejewelled male hopping back and forth over drab female as both looked into the house, taking `selfies'. A week later they are still flirting; surely they should be building a nest? (That blessed - there is no comparable secular word - rain has spurred on garden, weeds; and also, best of all, birds to try another clutch of eggs.)

It's a wonderful change from many years ago when Mr Wren would fight his own reflection in the windows (`What's he doing in my patch?'). We'd put white paper strips here and there on the lowest 10cm of windows where the wren seemed to be fighting most which calmed things down. Don Burke used to say that birds got used to windows and stopped fighting their reflections. I didn't believe him then but now (after 20 years), I think they finally do (Sorry Don). This couple don't even seem to be visiting this odd foe in the house (and the female used to look for extra...activity from the mythical male), they've finally decided there's no risk, even - it really seems - they've realised it's their reflection and they like to watch themselves cavort on a window sill with just the right width.
They also visit me when I'm digging in the edible patch, looking for little bugs I guess, which is usually the role of yellow robins. Where are the robins? 

Precisely the other side of the house, to the north, I've mown my circular lawn again, but this rain has kept the annual grass going and there's still masses of seed. Often flocks of around 10 red-browed finches will move through the garden and they love the lawn at the moment. I felt a twang of guilt mowing yesterday but loads of short, seed-bearing stalks remained. Balancing a `Land for Wildlife' property with a human's often natural desire for neatness makes for an interesting conflict now and then. 

With wood ducks - and ducklings - along our street; powerful owls hooting at night; tree creepers and crimson rosellas in our trees; and honey eaters darting about the garden from flower to flower, the garden (and bushland) is wonderfully full of avian visitors (and some residents - a fantastic new phenomenon). All I have to do is top up the bird baths and remember to avoid using my raincoat by the wren's nest. No problem! 

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 (

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