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Living Lightly column

Winged wonders at the bottom of the garden

By Katherine Muirhead, Tabletop

When we first moved to the “rural” suburbs 15 years ago, we planted hundreds of native shrubs including a variety of grevillea, callistemon and flowering eucalypts. Nearer the house we grew flowering plants, creepers, vines and buddleia to encourage birds, bees and butterflies.

We had a blue-tongue lizard for many weeks until a hawk dove down, grabbed it and took off with the poor thing dangling piteously.

An absconding echidna, a very handsome goanna and the odd turtle have all visited.

Garden dwellers include pobblebonk frogs and smaller grey frogs which frequent cool damp places; but our main visitors are birds – a  resident family of fairy wrens, firetails, honeyeaters, pardalotes, scarlet and flame robins, wattlebirds, flycatchers, willie wagtails, mudlarks, crested pigeons, bronzewings, king parrots and a couple of gorgeous spotted doves.

Also the occasional kingfisher, spinebill, yellow-rumped thornbills, silvereyes and innumerable, unwelcome sparrows.

A year ago a very bedraggled, very lame, bloodied, bullied and terrified baby magpie huddled under our outdoor table, apparently scared of what might descend from the heavens to finish him off.

He looked so pathetic I took him some grated cheese, though convinced he would die – but he returned and feeding became a daily routine.

After many months he grew, his roughed-up demeanour became sartorial and his limp improved, despite his missing back toe.

Eventually he began to relax and turned up with a couple of friends – maybe family?

They were impressed with the handouts and wanted a share.

Interestingly, for a day or two after any rain (well, the two drops we’ve had in the past several months) neither Maggie nor his mates came looking for cheese.  Presumably they find adequate tidbits in the dampened ground.

In the paddocks we have kookaburras, butcher birds, rainbow bee-eaters, two wedge-tailed eagles, black and straw-necked ibis and various hawks/kites.

We have a wonderful variety – flying, floating, gliding or soaring in the adjoining reserve and the nearby hills.

I have seen and heard a grey shrike thrush. Their call is so pretty but they are extremely shy. The butcher-bird’s call is hauntingly beautiful but we rarely actually see them. At night we hear boobook owls, possums and foxes – never a dull moment!

If you, too, love garden wildlife, please get involved with Gardens for Wildlife Albury-Wodonga. See: facebook.com/G4WAW