Demolition Mumma

The unmistakable rusty and incessant whinging of a young Yellow-tailed Cockatoo came floating in my kitchen window.

I followed the sound to a twin stump, where the ‘baby’ was atop one and the mother was at work in the fork of the other, ripping away bark with her beak.

The young of these big Black Cockatoos resemble the females, and I could tell the demolisher was a female from its pale coloured beak.

The father was keeping watch from a high branch of a nearby casuarina; you can see his distinguishing dark bill and brighter eye ring. Both sexes have that broad pale yellow band across the tail. This tail is almost half their total body length, so very noticeable in flight.

The mum was clearly finding something tasty, likely grubs of some sort, amidst the wreckage of the bark, stopping now and then to eat them, but at no time did I see her feed the whining young. Serve him right!

He got bored and flew about a bit, but not too far away, which made Dad move closer to keep guard.

Then the kid got the idea and began ripping at bark himself; unfortunately not the right sort of old bark, but at least he had the idea. Maybe Mum rewarded him with a grub after that, but when I next looked they had all three taken off to the creek.

This is the very efficient stump demolition achieved by one very strong beak, in about 20 minutes!

Midsummer moments

Here on the mid north coast hinterland of New South Wales it’s been feeling like the subtropics: storms, showers, searingly hot spells and perpetually high humidity. Not pleasant, unless you are plant life, for whom it’s boom time.

To beat the heat, I get up very early — and so often begin the day with beauty like this.

Apart from what I’ve planted here, birds have distributed seeds and amongst the most noticeable of their crops are the scattered tall sunflowers.

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This King Parrot spotted one whose flowerhead was nicely drying out to seed. It must have been too awkward to eat in situ so it yanked out a chunk as takeaway and found a more comfy perch.

I haven’t seen any parrots new to me, but I keep on seeing birds that are nothing like any I have ever struck before.

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This one literally ran into my view as I sat at my desk. It ran across the grass in the rain, halted, turned and ran back again out of sight.

I need help with this one; the closest I can find is a female Chestnut Quail-thrush, but the patterns and the body shape don’t quite match. Any ideas, birdwise readers?

Rosey roosts

The Crimson Rosellas are the main parrot here, but they aren’t always in as much evidence as they’ve been lately.

A group of five has been hanging about together, perching close by each other, if not all in the same tree. 

Three were quite enough for this young Red Cedar, especially as the recent shower was still weighing down its leaves. The others had to make do with the floppy vegie garden fence top.

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A few grey days later I spotted a group of birds silhouetted in the leafless Nashi tree. Hard to see just what sort of birds, but there were five…

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From a different aspect, with less contrasting backlighting, they were indeed the Rosella gang. I wonder where they’ll turn up next…

Taking turns

As I rarely put bird seed in my makeshift feeder, the Crimson Rosellas just keep their eye on it.  As the weather gets colder, I notice the wallabies are eating plants they’d previously left alone when the growth of grass and preferred plants was lush. Feed is getting scarce.

This morning one Rosey landed on the empty feeder and looked at me — or so I thought — through the window in front of my desk. ‘OK, OK!’ I agreed, ‘It has been about a month’. So out I went to drop a handful of seed in.

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The Rosey had flown off to a very near bush as I did so, and then returned once I’d gone back in and shut the door. In a flash — or two flashes — it and a mate were tucking in. They were like two little clockwork birds, alternating the ducking down and the straightening up.

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But then a third Rosey arrived; great flurries and a re-arrangement. It seemed only two birds were allowed to feed at one time, and those two kept changing. 

One feeding bird would rush at the interloper, return to feed, while the outsider edged closer and closer until it was deemed a threat again.

The process would start again, but it seems there is a fair play system at work, and after a time the newcomer was permitted to feed.

Back to normality

I had been worried about the aberrant, non-fruit pinching behaviour of the seasonal fruit-pinching birds like the King Parrots and the Bower Birds.

They had allowed me cherries, mulberries, figs and peaches — as they never had before.

But then last week normality returned, as the King Parrots squawked  and gorged in the tall and heavily-laden Nashi tree, knocking many fruits and quite a few leaves and twigs to the ground, nibbling bits out of many other Nashis in the tight bunches. I had judged them not advanced enough to pick and let ripen indoors, but clearly I was wrong.

Look at the expression on this one’s face, caught with a beakfull of Nashi flesh, on the alert in case I was going to shoo them off, or approach too close.  What a gorgeously coloured bird!

I’m sort of glad they are behaving normally again; but I’d better pick what’s left of those Nashis…

Parrot peeps

The King Parrots have arrived in all their green and scarlet glory, as raucous and belligerent as ever. This means that some of my orchard’s fruit must be close to ready for ruination, even though small and green.

No time for netting this year, so the Kingies and the bower birds will have their best season yet. This one was very briefly perched in a slender — and fruitless — birch tree.

I am grateful that my resident parrots, the Crimson Rosellas, are equally decorative — and much more musical. This one was neatly framed in a section of my less-than-sparkling  bedroom window.

Because it faces into a bank covered by a prostrate grevillea woven amongst hanging rosemary, the rosellas love to squabble amongst the flowers there. If I am quiet and still I can watch at very close quarters.

Nashi robbers

Usually the parrots and I share the crop from my two large Nashi pear trees. I get hundreds of fruit from the lower branches and they take even more hundreds from the higher ones.

Nashis ripen well off the tree so I can pick them when big enough, but not quite ripe, and layer them in foam boxes indoors. If I get a large wheelbarrow full from each tree I am happy. Last year I had so many I made Nashi pear wine, or Perry.

They are different varieties, as is needed for cross-pollination: Hosui, with grainy brown skin, and Nijisseiki, a smooth greenish-yellow. Their texture and taste are different too, and the Hosui ripens to a honey sweetness that is foreign to anyone who has only tried Nashis straight from a supermarket.

But this year there is not a single fruit left on either tree. The entire crop has been eaten or knocked to the ground, along with a great many leaves, now turning black amid the mushed fruit. As you can see, they haven’t left me any salvageable scraps.
Crimson Rosellas like this one are a major culprit but so are the red and green King Parrots, who are more elusive — or guilty.

Lego royalty

I was visiting a friend’s house in bushland in the lower Hunter. Her small grand-daughter was also visiting, so a child-sized table was set up on the back patio. Large Lego kept her amused.

My friend had fed the King Parrots there for a long time but the white cockatoos had begun to dominate, so she was restricting the sunflower seeds to where she could watch who was eating them.

‘The king is here!’ she called to the child. ‘Shall we feed him on your table?’
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To the delight of us all, the king deigned to leave the guttering and alight on the table. His queen watched from a nearby tree for a little while, until she felt secure enough to join him amongst the Lego people.

My friend, originally from Denmark, vividly recalls her amazement at these parrots when she first saw them. We all agree that their gentle yet blazing beauty continues to astonish us afresh each time.

Rosies can be green


One of the Crimson Rosellas brought her young one along to try the birdseed recently. It was the first time I’ve seen this happen.

Instead of the mature red, blue and black plumage, its blue was paler, its red more tomato than scarlet, and much of its body was dusted with light lettuce green. It looked like a different parrot altogether.

I assume the green is to camouflage the young from predators until they are old enough and smart enough to fend for themselves.

Mother and child weren’t there long, and the young one didn’t strike contemplative poses for me as the older ones do, so the photos are a little blurred.

Rosey harvest

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It’s easy to see when the predominant native grass in my `lawn’ is seeding, because the yard is taken over by a purposeful band of crimson rosellas.

They proceed en masse up the slope, through thin grass as tall as themselves.

Standing on one leg, each daintily grasps a seedhead stem with the claw of the other, bends it towards their beak and neatly strips it, rather as we’d munch sideways along a cob of corn.

The harvest appears organised and amicable: no crossing of territory, no debate about personal patches, not one squawk of protest.

It is a silent harvest, though highly visible, as the richness of their red and blue plumage turns my plain yard into a moving tapestry.
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Crazy season

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nashi pearsWith temperatures veering from 13 to 35 degrees, neither the fauna nor the flora know what’s going on here.

The snakes don’t know whether to hibernate or hunt, I’ve had to bring out the winter woollies, the autumn crocus are blooming and the ornamental grapevine began changing into its autumn colours only halfway through summer, while still putting out new green shoots.

On top of that we had 251mm in January: that’s nearly 10 inches, old style!! The track’s a squelchy mess, the back roof’s leaking and I’m sick of wearing gumboots.

And while I’m having a whinge, the king parrots and the crimson rosellas have eaten more than their share of nashi pears.

But I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve picked what’s left and now I’m condemned to nashi-ing for days: nashi butter, nashi and ginger jam, nashi Bavarian, nashi and date and walnut chutney, nashis in red wine…

Anyone got any more recipes?

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