Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Snapshot of Wildlife in my Garden

I'm lucky enough to live in an area bounded by wetlands (preserved as nature reserves), two well-wooded golf courses (one with a resident mob of Western grey kangaroos) and two areas of public open space, not to mention numerous small parks interspersed between the houses. It's green and leafy with trees although we are only about fifteen minutes walk from the ocean. The last market garden and stables and the wetlands adjoining them were destroyed recently and turned into upmarket housing with the complex flora and fauna of the swamps and pools cast out as the wetlands were turned into sterile, manicured lakes - more's the pity.
It's still very pleasant and it seems birds and other creatures like it as much as we do because in the last week the following happened:

1. I felt a tickle on my forearm and looked down to see a tiny, pale green creature about 5 mm long and looking for all the world like a short fat pin. The pinhead moved and revealed the triangular head and big eyes of a praying mantis. We gazed at each other for a long moment then it opened its wings and flew off. I don't know why but it had never occurred to me before that they could fly, I suppose because I always see them stalking along leaves and stems.

2. The plump pink gecko who hunts across our kitchen window and had been missing for three week returned minus her tail and the eggs that had been clearly visible through her transparent skin as they developed.

3. While folding the washing I discovered two rows - six in each - of dull jade 1 mm diameter eggs glued firmly to an elastic waistband by some insect.

4. A flock of about twenty Little Corellas flew over conducting a loud screeching conversation. We hardly ever see these birds in such numbers here so I suspect it is to do with the continuing drought.

5. The dog disturbed a grey-green frog the size of my fist in the potted mint. I don't know who was the most surprised. We have three resident species of frogs in the garden at present - motorbike frogs (named for their incessant call), moaning frogs (very aptly named) and another I have not been able to identify. There used to be a number of brilliant emerald green tree frogs but fifteen years ago all the frogs vanished. They started to return five years ago and now we have a dense population again except for the tree frogs. Sad really.

6. The giant marri tree in my front yard has burst into a mass of rich pink blossom - all delicately fringed. It buzzes loudly with industrious bees from earliest light. It is over three weeks late in flowering this year as it is usually in full bloom by Christmas.

7. Red Wattlebirds lining up along the fence to take turns to bathe in the bird bath. They 'chuck chuck' loudly as they emerge from the water sodden, fly up to a nearby branch, shake and do it all again. Keeping the bath full is a daily job because of their vigorous ducking and splashing.

8. A flock of Short-billed Black Cockatoos flew over on their way to feed in the Star Swamp Reserve. When we first moved here the flock numbered well over a hundred. Now there's around thirty-thirty five. Their nesting sites (they favour hollows in eucalyptus trees) have been cleared and these are mostly old birds, the remnants of the past. There are always a few young but this flock at least is not reproducing quickly enough to sustain itself. I hope the others are doing better.
One of my most memorable moments came from these birds. About ten years ago I went out along the side of the house to the back garden - fortunately for once without the dog. As I reached the end of the house I saw several large black birds sitting on the fence. I stopped, looked around and realised the whole triangular fence area was topped by grave cockatoos who stared at me without moving or showing fear. In the palm trees next door others were flapping and squawking. It took a minute of watching to understand what was going on but then I heard the unmistakable sound of a young bird being fed. Deciding I was no threat, the fence-sitters stretched their legs, scratched, preened a bit and chattered quietly among themselves while they waited occasionally inspecting me. I had the distinct impression that they were including me in their conversations. We stayed like that for about ten minutes then suddenly, in response to no apparent signal, they lifted into the air where they called raucously for a moment and flew off. I was so overwhelmed that I literally could not move for some minutes and even now the same feeling of awe fills me at the memory.

So there you are - a snapshot of the wildlife in my garden. Not bad considering we are only fifteen minutes along the freeway into the city centre.

No comments: