Saturday 22 May 2010

Tuppence a day? I should be so lucky.

We got what we'd been asking for yesterday - hours and hours of good, soaking rain, so the garden's not thirsty any more and all our doors open and shut like anything. But of course it was cold, too, so we moaned; and then this morning, though it was sparkling and sunny, it was still cold, and there were more than a dozen doves waiting in the trees, feathers fluffed up, for me to come and feed the hens and chuck some wheat their way. The frog's long gone, wherever it is he goes, the blackbirds are stripping the red berries off the cotoneaster, and it's time to reinstate the bird table and cook up my fatty, oaty breakfast special to glue all those little beaks together.

I come from a long line of bird-feeders, and have fed many different species, mostly deliberately (I'm excepting the eclectus parrot that did its best to sever my finger recently)...
(RW's photo, not mine: it was my shutter-button finger that had been seized) ... and mostly without regret (emu with great stabbing beak hammering at my packet of crisps as I shrank away in alarm, I'm thinking of you).
I feel proud, on the other hand, that as a lone Kiwi I was able to beat off a flock of swooping kites in the Northern Territory that were hell-bent on relieving me of my lunchtime blueberry muffin. I had thought that the Litchfield National Park crocodiles were the main danger, not a bunch of feathered muggers with vicious beaks and talons.
(This is a wedge-tailed eagle, actually - but you get the idea.)

But the most satisfaction I've ever had from bird-feeding was at the daily session at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Australia's Gold Coast - and it wasn't even me doing the feeding this time:

>>> His name was Cody, but it should have been Oliver — Twist, that is. He was standing by the fence, a small boy in a skateboard T-shirt and a cap that was just a bit too big, and he was holding his dish up high with both hands. All around the enclosure, people were ducking and laughing as wild rainbow lorikeets flew down out of the trees to perch on their heads and shoulders, scrabbling for foot-holds around the rims of the metal dishes that everyone held out. The staff at the sanctuary had poured a cupful of their secret-recipe nectar into each bowl and the birds were going mad for it — except down at Cody’s end. His dish had been one of the last to be filled, and the greedy lorikeets were still busy with those served first.

I watched as he stood there, gradually drooping with fatigue and disappointment as the minutes passed and no birds came near, but still doggedly holding his dish high, as instructed. My heart sank as the lorikeets suddenly took off in a blaze of brilliant green, blue and red back into the trees, and Cody’s shoulders sagged; then, one by one, they came back down and he stood up straight and hopeful. I couldn’t bear it when they all flew away yet again, but patient Cody kept the faith and finally, thankfully, a couple of gaudily-coloured birds landed on the edge of his plate, dipping their beaks into the nectar as he watched them with solemn delight. I felt like cheering...

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