Lewi loves birds. It's one of his newest passions and I've had so much fun getting interested in birds along with him. There's something pretty cool about grabbing a bird identification book, a log book, pencil, rubber and clipboard and going for a walk in the gorgeous Bega Valley autumn in search of birds.
As a child I wasn't really into birds. We were never allowed to have a pet bird as mum didn't like birds in cages. I never ever remember feeling disappointed about it, though. I've always hated the flappy-bird behaviour when one is loose inside a house and wants to get out. Freaky! My bird experience stems from my childhood days when we lived at The Pinch. We had lots of chooks. I loved getting the eggs but I was always so paranoid about getting lice. I couldn't stay in their pen for any length of time for fear of parasites infesting me. I'd itch for ages after collecting the eggs, just thinking about the lice-possibilities. Oh and there is that other little experience. The cosy little memory that many a hobby-farm girl would have...that of their mother chopping the head off a rooster and seeing the headless animal escape the chopping block and run-til-it-dropped somewhere, way down there, in the paddock.
My nan had birds in cages. Big cages but cages none-the-less. She had budgies and canaries and parroty birds. The one we really loved though was Cocky. He was a very old, sulphur crested cockatoo that my nan's mum used to own. He said some pretty cool things but was also pretty temperamental and would bite at the drop of a hat. I was always extremely wary of Cocky and very rarely had the guts to enter his cage.
When Lewi was really little, about 20 months old, we went to visit nan and grandpa. I remember him loving Cocky and giggling over Cocky's screeching and funny little up-and-down dances as he sang la-la-la-la-la-la-la. Cocky died a few years ago now. I think he was well over 80 years old. A pretty good innings for a highly strung bird.
Lewi and I now know quite alot of bird species. It hasn't always been the case for me. I can't believe how ignorant I've been for most of my life. I hardly knew any bird species. I knew magpie and parrot and cockatoo and kookaburra and those sorts but not really many more. Now, through the eyes of my child, I've learnt most species in our garden and the local lagoon bird life. I'm learning about sea birds of our area and the different types of honey eaters. It's so exciting seeing a new bird that we've not yet identified. We are always so keen to grab a bird book and race it back out to the bird in hopes that it doesn't fly away before we've found its page.
Lew has fallen in love with magpies in a big way. Since moving here we've got to know the local magpie colony. The baby's are always keen to be fed, which we've done many times. I know you're not supposed to feed them but it's so hard not to. They are so demanding. Lewi always says that if he had to be an animal parent he'd never want to be a magpie father because the babies are so full on!
This last magpie breeding season (Spring, 2009) we found two baby magpies that had fallen out of their nests after a huge wind storm. We called WIRES and they came to help and set up a make-shift nest on a branch for the babies to keep safe in. It was so lovely watching the magpie parents so diligently looking after their babies throughout a really long period of time. The babies, as they got bigger, started trying to fly but because it was the 'windy' season they were having a bit of trouble staying up in the air. They kept blowing out of their make-shift nest and we'd have to go and pick them up and put them back in again. Eventually we couldn't contain them anymore and they left the nest but still couldn't fly too well so they'd nest on very low branches and fence wires around our garden. The parents were the most amazing carers. They were always there ready to feed them and meet their irate demands. They protected their babies like nothing else and Poppy soon got the idea that baby magpies were not the most fun animal to investigate with her cockerspaniel-sniffing nose!
This experience added to Lew's desire to join WIRES one day. He always has had a love for nature and now it's so lovely to extend to the feathered variety. I'm looking forward to learning about many, many more types of birds with my 'Little Steve'(as my Grandma often calls Lew). I'm not too proud though, to wear an icecream container hat where necessary!