The Debutante

We have a new member of the Garden Bird Social Scene.

Over the summer, the Bush Stone-Curlews retired to their country manor in the wilds of Chiconia. They’d tried raising a family in the hustle and bustle of bird society near the House, which revolved around the feeder, the water dish and the fruit, seeds and bugs so plentifully available in this vicinity. But it had all proved to be Too Much for Lady Evangeline Bush Stone-Curlew’s nerves, and she and Sir Horace decided to rusticate instead.

Left to right: Sir Horace, Lady Evangeline and the Honourable Henrietta Bush Stone-Curlew, setting out for an evening’s festivities

Imagine our surprise, then when the Bush Stone-Curlews emerged from their pastoral seclusion with a young companion. They are clearly intent on launching their elegant daughter, the Honourable Henrietta Bush Stone-Curlew, into polite bird society, and she made her début yesterday, at the evening assembly that follows the Watering. It is widely acknowledge that this time of day is the prime feeding and territorial displaying moment, so wise bird mamas proudly show off their shy, delicate and sleekly-plumed offspring for the approval of Society. We wish the Honourable Henrietta a successful season and a suitably advantageous match at the end of it.

With apologies to Miss Jane Austen…

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An ignominious retreat

Small birds are amazingly courageous.

I’ve often seen a crowd of small and not normally fierce garden birds seeing off a larger potential predator. Today, though, I had to applaud. A pair of Peewees (Grallina cyanoleuca) were relentless in seeing off a large juvenile Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus), who’d wafted down and had taken up a watching post on the neighbour’s fence. He sat there impassively for a while as they swooped closer and closer, yelling noisily all the while, until finally he leapt into the air, clapped his wings hard a few times, and disappeared into the sky to take his hunting exploits elsewhere.

Sorry about the poor focus – I ran in for my camera and fired off a couple of shots but by the time I’d got the thing properly focused he was already away. Brown Goshawks prey on small birds, but will take larger ones if the opportunity arises. They have large, strong yellow legs and talons, a raptor’s tearing beak and mad, staring yellow eyes under heavy eyebrows. You can tell this one is a juvenile because of the heavier brown splashes on the breast feathers. Adults have finer barring on the feathers there. I’m not at all sure I’d want to mess with one myself, so it’s particularly impressive that the Peewees got rid of him.

Routed. And by a pair of noisy clowns!

Prehistoric creatures

No, not dinosaurs, but a distant relative.

I’m talking about Helmeted Friarbirds (Philemon buceroides). They’re strange, gaunt-looking creatures that give the impression they’d be quite happy flying about on webbed membranes instead of feathered wings. They have large, bony skulls which are strongly reminiscent of pterodactyl heads and are very bold, at times flying up to the screen door at the back of the house and hanging from the mesh while they eye the inhabitants of the room.

There’s a pair which is currently making a point of adorning the car with white splotches while they strut across the windscreen or admire themselves in the wing mirrors. While they’re at this artistic endeavour, we’re treated to their raucous, uninhibited song. I don’t quite know why this is suddenly happening after 3 years in this house, but we appear to be greatly favoured! They’re weird, but I like them 🙂

I just wish they’d keep their, um, offerings to themselves…

Flitting (and riding)

I love that word.

It so beautifully describes the butterfly motion of darting from one thing to another. Which is what I’ve been doing the last week or so, only less beautifully and gracefully 🙂

We’ve been spending some fun time with ST motorbike-owners-club friends from south east Queensland, who are passing through Mackay with their caravan and their Honda ST1300 on the back of the ute. Now that’s a sweet setup! Deep envy, to have both their big motorbike and their caravan along! We’ve done a couple of half day rides with them around the local sights, which has reassured me that I can cope and my back won’t fall apart under the strain when our own time comes to do the big ride south for the bike rally later this year in October. No lavish Miz Lizzie caravan comfort on this trip, it’ll be Rolling Thunder towed behind the Scarlett Thunderbolt, and a tent for a few nights.

We had part of the back yard landscaped and a hard surface put down. We can now get Miz Lizzie under cover without the need for 25-point reversing to get her between the posts of the patio roof. Straight in, bish-bosh, no messing about. Bliss! We can use our new turning circle to get the car in and out in similar style. I have a hard, dry surface to stand on when I hang out the laundry instead of being ankle deep in wet grass and green ants. It will not turn back into a swamp the next time we get a serious amount of rain. Oh my word yes, I love that new surface! And the Husband, let’s face it, is not heartbroken about having less grass to cut…

A few days before the work commenced, Sir Horace and Lady Laetitia Bush Stone-Curlew went off somewhere for several days. We rejoiced in a slightly guilty fashion, but it was very pleasant to have quiet nights, unbroken by their harsh screams. We thought they’d moved on, finding the modest bustle of our back yard insufficiently tranquil for raising this year’s family. Regrettably, they have now returned from their vacation and are back in their original spot, glaring at me every time I set foot outside the back door, and in full song at night. Oh well. At least we didn’t drive them off with the landscaping work…

I’ve been doing some secret sewing for a friend who is visiting from the States. As it’s a secret, I won’t be posting photos till she has it, around the end of the month, but it’s fun, pretty and useful, so I hope she likes it. I’m sure if she doesn’t, she won’t feel compelled to tell me so!

And finally, I’ve got the Blue Hour quilt two thirds assembled, just one big seam and the binding to go, so I’ll be able to do my ‘tah-dah’ post for that soon. And yes, start thinking about my own! I haven’t forgotten that I also have the Sea Glass quilt to sandwich and start quilting, but it’s a big job and as usual, I’m procrastinating furiously…

So while there’s been scant news from Chiconia recently, as you can see, I have not been idle!

Blue, and Birds

I’ve completed the quilting on the Blue Hour quilt 🙂

They’re all the same, nice simple 3 inch square cross hatching. And I’ve decided, after extensive auditioning, that the sashing will be cream, same as the backing. Yes, it’ll show the dirt more, which isn’t such a great thing on caravan trips, but the quilt can easily be washed and I much prefer the way it looks. I also LOVE how it works with the fabric I’ve bought for Miz Lizzie’s curtains, and the blue and white ticking for the seats.

… In other news, Sir Horace and Lady Laetitia Bush Stone-Curlew are still gamely guarding their estates, and only this afternoon saw off a vulgar gaggle of sacred ibis, who were sunbathing and honking in the spot selected by Lady Laetitia for the nursery. Despite this unseemly conduct, both maintained a stiff upper lip beak, and stared down the interlopers, who retired further down the garden, ruffled and agitated. No sign of an egg a prospective heir yet, but we live in hope.

The noisy neighbours are back

If you’ve been visiting Chiconia for a while, you’ll recall Mr & Mrs Bush Stone-Curlew.

I find them a little creepy to look at with their huge staring eyes and their fixed immobility for long periods of time. Other people find them quirky and interesting. Which is fine, but they don’t need to live right next door to the creatures. Last year, they moved in a couple of metres from my clothesline, laid a couple of eggs, glared at us when we came too close and made our nights hideous with their screaming cries. Once the solitary chick had hatched, they moved further down the back yard and we got a little peace.

For a couple of days now, Mr & Mrs have been inspecting the same piece of real estate, giving us the same glares and show every sign of repeating their performance. I suppose we should be pleased they feel safe and comfortable enough to come back.

I’ll leave you with a video link which I feel explains very clearly why I’m not totally thrilled to bits!

A twitter of sunbirds

A sudden fountain of birdsong from outside drew us onto the patio.

These two little fellows (both male) were duelling by song for the territorial right to the patio flowers and their nectar. They are the same Olive-Backed or Yellow Bellied Sunbirds who built a nest beside my front door. OK, maybe not the identical birds, but the same species… They’re sitting on a fallen Queen palm seed-branch, detached from the tree by the cyclone and sent crashing through one of my young frangipani trees. It’s about 120cm or 48 inches long, so quite a substantial bit of real estate for such small birds. Their song is very high-pitched melodic twittering, a lovely sound. The bird on the right won, but sadly, even our very minimal movements and hushed talk was too scary, and he zipped away after a tiny snack on the bright pink Petris blossoms.

Click on the photo to enlarge and zoom in for a really good look. Aren’t they handsomely dressed?