8th November 2007
There were two abandoned cats when we arrived at Rocky Springs. Now there are none.
In the absence of felines we are blessed with a multitude of birdlife, and as I write this on the verandah in the late afternoon, they are all having their last play before bedtime.
Perhaps the most conspicuous is the Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata). His colours are an unremarkable brown, save for a splash of brilliant pink on the back of his neck and he continuously hops around the garden with his squawking, rasping voice. He has built his bower under a big oleander and has studiously decorated it with broken glass, old bones, bottle-tops and most of the markers from my vege garden. It must be a particularly attractive bower in his world for he has several lady admirers and they all speak to each other in the most unattractive tones.
In the purple-flowering jacaranda trees the Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) is singing. He has the most beautiful, melodic voice – in sharp contrast to the bowerbird – and as well as the evening, he is also one of the first to greet us in the morning. Also in the jacaranda is a large family of Striated Pardalotes (Pardalotus striatus). They are tiny birds with truncated tails and a fairly monotonous two-toned call. When they get agitated you know something is up, like the other day when two of them were kicking up a mighty racket. I went to investigate just in time to see a black snake heading into their nest in a hole in the verandah steps.
Along with killing birds, the cats probably did a good job of discouraging the snakes and we have seen at least three black snakes around the house and sheds. They are dining not only on bird eggs but also have a smorgasbord of frogs. There are frogs everywhere – in all the tanks, in downpipes, in sheds and they are about to launch into their evening chorus. Brian wonders how we can have so many foxies and still have snakes. I wonder how we can have so many snakes and still have foxies.
In a crepe myrtle below our bathroom window a pair of Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) has a nest. We have watched as three little eggs were laid; then two fluffy balls emerged and grew into gangly teenagers. We have watched as they have preened and grown proper feathers and today they took their first tentative flights and left the nest. I was sad to see them go but later that day I saw them both perched high in the big jacaranda, safe and sound but looking a bit bewildered.
In the paddocks we have dozens of parrots. The Red-rumped or Ground Parrots (Psephotus haemotonotus) nest in the old windmill, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) and Galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla) send scouts to assess the maturity of any crop planted and the Pale-headed Rosellas (Platycercus adscitus) flit playfully among them all.
In the bottlebrush on the creek we have Double-barred Finches (Taeniopygia bichenovii), Sacred Kingfishers (Todirhampus sancta), and Singing Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus virescens) just to name a few and at night we hear the call of the Mopoke or Boobook Owl (Ninox novaeseelandiae), though the Kiwis among us prefer to call them More-Porks.
In the dry dam in the Front Paddock we have a jersey cow (Daisyus brownii). She has dropped her calf (a weedy beast named Billy) and cannot get up. Brian and I go to her rescue and push and pull in an attempt to get her upright. The dam has just enough mud to make this a sticky exercise. We get ropes, we plead, we badger, we drag Billy under her nose, we get muddier. A land-valuer turns up in a suit and wants to know if we have time to talk about the property. We tell him we are a little busy. He leaves. We curse valuers instead of jersey cows. Brian gets the tractor and we poke the forks under Daisy Browne. This gets her upright and we let her rest on the front of the tractor while her blood flows back to where it is supposed to be. Then Billy squawks like a bowerbird and Daisy Browne heaves her frame after him. She walks off with not even a nod of gratitude. Nature documentary my ar…………