Sunday 11 July 2010


Cold, cold, cold last night: frost front and back this morning, ice on the hens' water and the trees full of hungry birds. Nothing, of course, compared to the winter they had in the northern hemisphere this year, or even the snows down south, but for us thin-blooded Auckland types, it's pretty brisk. Emphasis on the pretty: clear, crisp, sunny, sharp edges to the trees and their shadows, blue sky and saturated colours. Lovely.
But not much fun for the birds, who fell on my beak-gluing mix of oats, dripping and fruit juice even though it was still steaming: silver-eyes in first, then sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, mynahs and doves.
The silver-eyes are so bold (or hungry) that they flock down before I've even got back through the gate, twittering and squabbling as they feed: it's so pleasing to see them flying free, after finding their poor relations trapped in tiny cages in Hong Kong.
It's really no different from budgerigars: we're so used to seeing them in cages, but in Australia, if you're lucky, you can see them flying in great flocks of flashing bright green through the orange, olive and blue of the Outback. I did once, years ago, from the old Ghan, when it was stuttering its way along one of the many dodgy sections of the track in those days: it was a revelation, to suddenly realise that the ordinary old budgie is originally, and still, as wild and free as a lark.

Though they're rarely tuneful, Australia's birds are certainly colourful, and I was delighted at the Alice Springs Desert Park to see so many of them going about their business right outside the aviaries where I'd just walked through and learned about them.
Grass parrots. Such an imaginative name, don't you think?

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