Front Row Seat

The gang’s all here

Sitting alone with my laptop, my favourite brew steaming away in a nearby cup.

The morning sun warms the air, its rays penetrating the gloom.

It’s almost Spring.

The Bowerbirds fire their shrill staccato calls through the trees. They’re chasing each other, trying to be the dominant one that gets the bread I’ve tossed out.

The male, brilliant in his metallic blue coat dances near. It’s taken him seven years to earn this colour.

The ladies watch him closely, their drab olive plumage unable to hold a candle to his shining magnificence.

He makes a play for the scraps, but a Wattlebird lands and argues the point. He’s not in the mood for sharing.

As they discuss ownership a beautiful male Blackbird saunters by, he’s not one for discussion; he’ll just take what’s there. No time to wait. Eat now, or forever hold your belly – that’s his motto.

As he struts away with his prize a Kookaburra lands on my wall, raising his punk hairdo and giving me a quizzical look; asking if there’ll be something worth eating soon.

I tell him it’s all gone, he got it yesterday, but he waits, knowing that I’ll give in and find something to satisfy his carnivorous cravings. Maybe I’ll defrost the steak I have in my fridge, and carve him off a slice, or maybe it will just be a piece of leftover chicken. I’m sure he won’t mind.

I drink my tea, and think about my next piece of writing.

As my mind wanders I see Cockatoos flying overhead. I don’t want these guys around today, they’re noisy, and their incessant screeching hurts my ears. I can’t concentrate when they’re about.

They fly on.

Near the fish pond I see a Crimson Rosella walking up the rocks. He’s lucky now, there’s a constant supply of water around and thirst is not an issue. It wasn’t always so. He drinks quickly; scooping up the cool liquid and tilting his head back to swallow. He’s a lovely specimen.

The pond makes me miss Fred. He was an Eastern Water Dragon who came to stay last summer. Every day he’d be lurking in the garden, sunning himself as he waited for me to throw him tasty tidbits, or hanging out by the water’s edge staying cool in the moist shade.

I don’t see Fred any more. He no longer graces my back yard, having wandered off in search of other adventures. Perhaps he found a lady friend and settled down. Maybe he’s got kids.

I often think of him.

Inevitably the evil villains appear. Indian bloody Mynah birds; imported scum hell-bent on harassing other birds, ganging up to drive them away from food and good nesting sites. I hate them all.

Throwing rocks moves them on – for a while – but they’ll be back.

In the distance I can hear Whip birds – the male sending out his truncated call, the female finishing it as if to say, “It’s ok, I’m still here”. It’s a lovely sound, a real duet of affection, and much better than the chainsaw someone just started up.

There’s a mower too. It’s all work now. The sun does that to people. It makes them go outside where they notice the neglect of winter. It fuels a need to have dominance over nature. It turns people crazy.

If only they knew.

There’s nature everywhere, and although it’s not all manicured and straight-edged it is nonetheless beautiful.

Plump Wonga pigeons strutting nervously amongst the thickets, running away furiously if they see you move. They’re too lazy to fly – they’re too fat – and unless they really have to they’ll simply trot away when threatened. Makes sense, I guess.

Wonga Pigeon – the Fat Bastard of the bush

Multi-coloured birds singing multi-layered songs. Chirps and rolls and trills that defy description. Sounds so sweet it’s as though I‘m hearing them for the first time. Yet I’ve heard them often.

Spinebills and Thornbills. Birds so small I struggle to see them darting amongst the twigs, but whose songs land large upon my ear. Sweet nothings said between miniature partners.

It’s gorgeous to behold.

Rainbow Lorikeets, King Parrots and Eastern Rosellas show off their kaleidoscopic plumage. Brilliant reds and iridescent blues. Piercing colours more beautiful than I remember.

Maree with a friendly male King Parrot

And Magpies. They wander in as if they own the place, tapping on the screen door to announce they’re here and ready for a feed. They even come into the house given half the chance, watching impatiently as I open the fridge to get their mince.

They’re funny buggers, talking to me in their warbling chitchat as I unwrap their feast. When I throw pieces of meat they gather them up in their beaks. One piece, then two, and before long they’ve got half a dozen lumps of flesh jammed in their mouths before they fly off to feed the kids.

Lucky kids – home delivery starts early in the bush.

Self serve takes on a whole new meaning

I contemplate how brilliant this all is.

Some people travel far and wide to witness nature up close. Prisoners of some harsh concrete jungle they’ll only see this stuff on their holidays or on television. I just have to go outside. 

At least if they watch Mr. Attenborough they’ll have a unique and highly informed view of the magnificent beauty that awaits. He’s such an amazing man.

A piercing screech brings me back to reality. My peace and quiet is shattered.

With their typical cacophonous flourish the Cockies arrive. A scout has seen the seed I threw out yesterday for some other birds and he’s announced the event on Facebook.

Head down, arse up. It’s feeding time at the zoo

There must be twenty of them, flying in to crash-land on the grass they form a hungry mob. Picking fights to see who gets the most.

Noisy bastards.

As they crunch away the seeds crack open in their beaks, sounding like popcorn on a hot stove.

I catch myself smiling, and allow myself to think they’re almost cute when they’re like this.

Occasionally they take flight; spooked by a tiny Peewee sounding a distant alarm call their mob mentality kicks in, and they find safety in numbers. They soon realise however that it’s a false alarm and that there’s nothing to fear, so again they swarm, the great white horde descending en masse to wreak havoc.

Scared of their own shadows

I sometimes think I’m possessed of a very strange kind of grey matter, one that never seems to turn off. I think about stuff all the time, my brain constantly ticking over in a never-ending clockwork of absurdity. Serious stuff and weird stuff; funny stuff too – well, funny to me.

I’ll often start with an idea but then head off on a tangent so incredibly removed from where I began. A story on abseiling could end up as a thesis on the mating habits of Peruvian Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey.

By the way, did you know the Peruvian national bird is called the Andean Cock-of-the-rock? No? Neither did I.

But today I don’t need to think too much.

There’s a story right here in my back yard.

It’s the same story that’s been around forever, it’s just that sometimes life gets in the way and muddles up the simplicity of living.

It isn’t complicated, is it?

These beautiful creatures are a story in themselves.

They’re sharing it with me right now.

And I’ve got a front row seat.

Checking out my first draft


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