We have just been attacked by a teeny tiny bird. The teeniest tiniest bird on the planet (well, probably not, but he was very teeny). A little black and white blur. Seriously. We were wandering along, minding our own business, on our usual morning walk along the path by the water and, out of nowhere, he was upon us. Swooping and diving and shrieking, barely an inch from my face. And swooping again. And shrieking again. He was really pissed off.
I imagine he was trying to drive us away from some hidden nest but his vicious onslaught had the exact opposite effect, at least initially. He took me so much by surprise that I just stopped dead, flung up my arms and madly tried to wave him away. This only upset him even further and he redoubled his efforts to be rid of me. From a distance I must have looked like I was having some sort of mad fit (or practising my secret kung fu moves . . .)
This totally unexpected (and unwarranted) attack also had an instantaneous effect on the girls. Molly and Maude immediately sprang into action, trying valiantly to protect me, leaping and barking and running in circles, but really, as they both only just reach the level of my knees at full stretch, their efforts were mostly in vain. Mabel, on the other hand, is a sensitive soul (also a bit of a sooky-la-la) and got so upset by the uproar that she just lay down on her side, closed her eyes and pretended to be in a coma. Also not terribly helpful.
Anyway, once I realised the wee bird was not going to give up any time soon I put my head down, scooped up Mabel, and cried, ‘RUN’, and the four of us fled down the path as far and as fast as we could to escape the tiny tormentor. When we stopped to catch our breath (in truth we didn’t run very far—I am not built for running) I turned and looked back to see an older gentleman now performing what looked to be some kind of manic break dance in exactly the same spot we had just left. On the path not far behind him stretched a long line of other unsuspecting walkers—all heading straight into the firing line. That little bird was in for a very exhausting day.
After all that excitement I was half inclined to go straight home (Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ immediately sprang to mind) but the dogs had forgotten the drama already (they have very short attention spans, except when it comes to food, then there is no diverting them) so I decided to keep going—although I do admit to looking back over my shoulder more than once.
The path we walk along continues on directly down to the sea with the nature reserve on one side and the river on the other—and I was sure I could feel thousands of beady eyes boring into me—and that wouldn’t be far from the truth. (I really want to say here that where I live is a ‘haven’ for birdlife, but the ‘pun police’ would be on me like a flash, so I won’t. 🙂 ) Suffice to say that the Camden Haven is teeming with birds of every shape and size—magpies (scary even when they are in a good mood, which doesn’t seem to be often), ravens, wrens, Willy Wagtails, Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Wattlebirds, ducks, herons, gulls, Pelicans and Plovers to name but a few.
(Personally I think Plovers (also called lapwings) are a little bit spooky. They produce an ear-splitting shriek when they are cranky with you, and they are usually cranky with you before you even know there is one in the area. They can be found not only in the parks, but also openly nesting on street corners or busy roundabouts around town. Their babies look like little cotton-wool balls on stilts—very cute—but you will not get a chance to get near enough to get a good look at one. A plover will think nothing of standing in the middle of a busy road and staring down a four wheel drive while its partner moves its babies to safety. Best to give them a very wide berth.)
In spite of feeling a tad nervous about them when they gather in large numbers, I really quite like birds—although I am also quite sure that they could care less whether I liked them or not. Except for the odd incident like the kamikaze ‘budgie’ today (and the occasional rabid plover) most of our feathered friends spend their birdy lives doing birdy things and pay very little attention to you or me at all. That’s fine. I don’t feel the need to directly interact with them (not like I do with puppies—no puppy is safe from interaction with me). I am happy to watch birds from a distance.
And watching from a distance is what I doing every morning at the moment as a flock of about 30 black cockatoos has taken up residence about two blocks from my house. They turn up about this time every year, stay for a couple of months and then move on. On my early morning walks I will often just stop and watch them as they lift into the sky, one by one, screeching and calling to each other, flying in wider and wider circles over the river as they gather up the members of the flock from their night time roosts. They soar and wheel and roll, shrieking the whole time (maybe deciding on where to meet for breakfast?) and looking like they are just glad to be alive. They have ‘attitude’ and I think they are pretty fabulous—although anyone who wants to sleep past 5.00am every morning wouldn’t necessarily agree.
Cockatoos aren’t the only birds with joie de vivre around here. There are also the big fat kookaburras who line up in rows along the tree branches and gaze, unblinking, down upon you. One will start to chuckle, followed by another, and then another, then they will all start giggling and then laughing uproariously, and although you can’t help but feel that you are the butt of the joke, you end up smiling too.
And there are the rosellas and lorikeets which swarm the trees, feeding off the acacias, constantly squabbling, and sqwarking, flashing their feathers at each other and then dropping from the trees and performing acrobatic manoeuvres at such a low altitude that you have to duck your head as they whiz past.
Pink and grey galahs hang hapazardly off telephone wires or gather in groups on lawns to feed, waddling about on their fat little legs and are a delight to watch (and so much fun to scatter if you are a dog).
And at home a cheeky little family of (very) Noisy Miners visits my front verandah every afternoons to commandeer the seed dish, toss insults at the other birds and take turns to dive bomb the birdbath and throw water all over my lounge room windows. (The girls line up in the window in anticipation, barking out scores out of ten, as the birds dive and tumble and generally just show off.)
We are really so very lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful creatures (yes, even the cranky ones), and yet for all their incredible variety, their beauty and their humour, when I find myself watching them I am not so much thinking about them, but more the fact that birds just always remind me my Frankie.
Frankie was a dear, sweet, goofy boy, with not a mean bone in his body. He has been gone 5 years now, but we were together fourteen years and I still miss him every day (he and his older brother Harry, who was with me for for 19 years). Frankie loved birds. He was fascinated with them since he was a tiny boy, and was the only dog I ever knew who seemed to be always looking up. On our daily walks his legs would follow me, but his eyes were always skyward. He would often just stop, dead in his tracks, and follow the flight of bird until he could see it no longer. I have very fond memories of seeing him out in the backyard in the fading afternoon sunshine, smiling and wagging his tail happily, surrounded by a little group of lorikeets and pigeons who pottered and scratched about in the grass around at his feet, totally unconcerned by his presence. He always looked so wistful when they eventually took flight and left him alone on the ground.
I don’t know whether it is possible but I have always hoped that if Frankie ever got a chance to come back from doggie heaven, that he got to come back as a bird. I think he would really have liked that . . .