I’ve started feeding the local birds again, now that the winter has properly kicked in. I know I don’t really need to. Even in the very depths of winter here on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, it could never be considered a harsh environment and there’s still plenty of greenery about and food aplenty for all the birds and little critters. But my magnolia tree has dropped all its leaves now and the bird feeders I hung there last winter (and promptly forgot about all spring and summer when the leaves grew out around them) have miraculously reappeared, and it seems such a shame to waste them. The ceramic feeders are shaped like big shiny apples (one red and one green) and I like the way they look (from a distance at least) like real fruit hanging from the bare skeleton of the tree.
So I filled up the feeders for the first time last Saturday. It took just about half an hour for a pair of brightly coloured little parrots to lay claim to their new-found treasure. I could see them from my kitchen window—one sitting proudly atop one ‘apple’ looking for all the world like he was planting a flag on Everest, while his mate hung perilously upside down from an overhanging branch, peering in at all the delicious delicacies on display inside the other. “How sweet”, I thought.
Well it was not quite so sweet the next day. Word had obviously got out that there was free food for the taking and by mid morning there was a flock—an honest-to-God flock—of about fifty rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, and a single black cockatoo all screaming furiously at each other as they jostled for position on the magnolia tree. I admit, the cockatoo was a surprise. I see groups of them over at the park regularly but I have never seen one in my garden before. As gorgeous as he was, quite honestly I’d prefer him to stay in the park—his earsplitting screeches were enough to make your eyes water. (And your ears bleed. I read somewhere that a cockatoo screech can reach 135 decibels. I believe it.)
And my poor pretty little pair of treasure-finders had really no chance of protecting their claim against the hordes of interloping cousins—but, bless them, they were giving it a good go. The shrieking, screaming and frantic wing-flapping (not to mention lots of pushing and shoving) went on for hours—or perhaps it just seemed that way to me . . .
(I did discover, quite by accident and, unfortunately, very late in the day, that if I said “Hey Maudie, where is your ball? Go fetch me your ball” she would rocket out into the garden in search of it, which would send the whole birdie flock soaring skyward (howling their displeasure as they went). Within moments peaceful silence would prevail once more. It didn’t last of course. As soon as Maudie was back inside the birds would start to regroup and the squabbling would start all over again, but a brief respite was better than none. I wonder if I could hire her out as some sort of doggie-scarecrow? She has no interest in the birds, but as long as you’re willing to play ball . . )
Anyway, after what seemed like a very long day, things eventually started to quieten down of their own accord as the birds (presumably all now fat and fed) began to wander off home to their nests and hidey-holes to rest their lungs and have a bit of a lie down. Phew. If they didn’t need a lie-down, I sure did. My head was splitting and my ears were ringing. (I can only imagine how the dogs felt. Perhaps this is why I kept finding my bed in such disarray when I came home from work early this week. I have visions of the girls all trying to burrow deeply down into my pillows in an effort to block out the din.)
I wonder if pet parrots are as loud as their wild counterparts? I have never owned a parrot (actually I have never owned a bird at all) but if their antics are anything like the ones I have been watching from my kitchen window they would not only be hilariously entertaining (and, as the quote above seems to suggest, quite mischievous)—but also extremely loud. I am not sure I could handle it. (Although, perhaps if your parrot don’t have parroty-friends around to egg him on he is happy to live a quieter life? Or will he just find something else to scream at instead—like the cat?) I am sure they make fabulous pets for some, but perhaps not for us. The girls and I like our peace and quiet.
Working towards the restoration of our quiet lives, we now seem to have hit on a plan which seems (so far) to be working for everyone. I now only fill up the birdfeeders just before I leave for work. That way the feeding frenzy happens when I (and hopefully my neighbours) are all away for the day and well out of earshot. I have piled extra blankets and pillows on my bed for the girls to hide under (and hopefully act as insulation) should the noise become too much for them. And my first two sweet little birdy friends, who were so unceremoniously thrust aside by their big bully cousins, have now started appearing, just the two of them, late in the afternoon after everyone else has gone home, to pick quietly at the days leftovers—and the tasty little bit of something special that I now put out just for them.
So, it’s all good. And, if something does go slightly awry and I do happen to be home during the next ‘feeding time’, I also now have a sure-fire, no-fail, back-up plan—
“Hey Maudie, Maudie, Maudie. Where is your ball? Go fetch me your ball . . . . “