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Living Lightly column

Words About Birds

By Gill Baker, Wangaratta Sustainability Network

If you are as lucky as I am, you can sit in your garden and hear twenty or more different native bird calls. Luckier still, and you may catch sight of them. Several species of Honeyeaters and an Eastern Spinebill are enjoying the camellias and japonicas. Currawongs craftily teach their young how to hollow out oranges that missed the last marmalade pot, and various parrots and wattle birds feed in flowering gums. Satin Bowerbirds visit the bird feeder, and seem to enjoy swinging on it as much as feeding from it. They have lived here for years, but we have yet to find that elusive bower.

Puzzled over the use of our car door as a bird toilet, all was revealed when I saw a tiny Blue Wren admiring itself from every angle in the mirror. Whilst still considering the rear end of our subjects, the ‘yellow bummed sparrows’ so-called by a grandson, turned out to be Thornbills. Aptly named Babblers regularly fuss around under the trees, and pairs of ‘top knots’ strut amongst them. Crazed with their notion of child protection, a pair of Plovers are regularly prepared to take on our car, and while resident Maggies don’t swoop, they do knock on the kitchen window when humans prepare breakfast. Leave the door open, and they will hop onto the bench and have ‘conversations’ with us.

Springtime, and bird wars begin whenever a Kestrel or Brown Falcon appear in Willy Wagtail territory, the song thrushes are in full voice, and tiny, feather-lined Mistletoe Bird nests are hooked over camouflaged twigs. Cormorants and Darters hang their wings out to dry on lakeside branches, while Fairy Martens and Welcome Swallows hunt insects over the water. When grasses begin to seed red-browed and firetail finches will be hopping all over the lawns.

I could continue enthusing about our glorious bird life, but as populations shrink due to habitat loss, competition from introduced species and attack from cats, dogs, and foxes, it is more important to focus on protecting them. How? Control feral animals and the activities of our pet dogs and cats, limit tree clearing, plant bird friendly plants, make water available in hot weather. No garden? Walk in your local parks with some binoculars and enjoy them there.