Dead birds


I see lots of them, and as much as I love birds I rarely react in the way that I do if I see, say, a dead puppy or drowned kitten.


Dead magpies are a dime a dozen, though disembodied ducks are a little more rare.


However, I groaned aloud when I saw this tawny frogmouth. Nooo! I don’t like the idea of these guys dying; I imagine them living a very long and much-loved life then going off the to Great Branch in the Sky to take up that funny posture of theirs and make that curious grunting noise with all their frog-mouthed friends. Not die of some parasite infestation and fall from a fig tree during the night.


Nature’s a tough old bird.

Public service announcements


public_service_announcementPSA 1: Be careful

I had a call from a representative of Jemena the other day. (I get the sense that Jemena is trying to handle this sensitively and didn’t want to be seen as coming down hard on me.) The discussion was around the post-fire photographs of the gasworks buildings, as portrayed in the blog. Jemena was less concerned about the issue of site access than the potential for any person on the site being injured or exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals or fibres.

This is a fair call. The structure of the fire-damaged building is seriously impaired and the there issues with scattered asbestos roof tiles having been broken, thereby exposing fibres. These tiles have been sprayed with a PVA-based suppressant, but it would still be foolhardy to put oneself in danger.

The photos that I use on the blog are sent to me by all kinds of people: there’s a small army of urban explorers out there ducking under fences, jumping gates and hopping over walls. I love getting and using your photos but, in the interests of your personal safety, do take care and please avoid these dangerous sites.

PSA 2: Phoenix

Does anyone remember Jiya, the cockatiel from Hamilton North who could say, among other things, “Show us ya tits!”? That story ended happily, but now Jiya’s little companion, Phoenix, has bolted.

My kids were asking the other day, “What is that weird bird call?” It wasn’t actually a bird, it was Erin tramping the streets calling out “Phoenix! Phoenix!” to every flock of cockatiels in the area. So far, with no luck. I think I saw him looking wet, lonely and bedraggled in a banksia tree on Emerald Street, but since then nothing. I’m starting to have a bad feeling. Pretty well every walk around the creek reveals a scattering of feathers as some wee birdie falls victim to something further up the food chain.


If a feather takes my fancy it might end up in my hatband for a while, though they tend to fall out or get blown away after a few weeks. At the moment there’s a koel tail feather, juvenile magpie, ibis and … er … possibly Phoenix.


The usual black-shouldered kites have been joined around the gasworks by a nankeen kestrel and – for the first time in ages (at least to my observation) –  a peregrine falcon, on Wednesday morning. Obviously springtime means everything’s on the go and there are hungry fledglings in countless nests waiting for dinner.


I haven’t found any dead cockatiels with bands, so perhaps there is hope yet that young Phoenix will live up to his name and spring from the ashes. If you do happen to see him, give Erin a call and put her out of misery.

Go on: pamper yourself


Spring: season of creation and life-giving and fecundity. The time when everything is hatching, metamorphosing or tearing away from the placenta and gulping in their first lungfuls of atmosphere. And then, in the case of the vast majority of them, being killed and eaten by something faster, larger and more powerful.


It feels like I can’t take ten steps down the creek at the moment without happening up on a scattering of feathers in the grass, a carcass, or just the discarded pickings of a raptor kill.


The gasworks is full of life after one of the quietest winters I can remember. The rabbits are back, after disease swept through the place last year, and now Jambo gets to bolt off on his endlessly futile attempts to catch one before it disappears into the lantana. Black-shouldered kites hover in pairs above the bamboo grass and brown falcons occasionally skulk atop the naphtha tower.


We humans are adapted to living with scarcity. Fecundity, plenty and abundance are not natural states for us, and we struggle with them on the rare occasions that we meet them. We go stupid. Our myths and religions have developed in response to scarcity and most religions have an inherent asceticism: periods of self-sacrifice, abstinence and denial. We’ve been doing it for so long that it’s embedded in us.

But our contemporary world has developed  a  focus on overcoming scarcity. Plenty is the new normal. We no longer need to delay our gratification and so we can have whatever we want whenever we want it. And why wouldn’t we? We’re almost programmed to gorge ourselves, not just with food but with everything. Go on: pamper yourself.


Every year I give up the grog during Lent for … what? I don’t know. In the UK at the moment there’s a movement around “Stop-tober” and “Go-vember”. I think we yearn for limits on our otherwise insatiable appetites.


Nature doesn’t make choices like this. So this month I’d better get used to seeing more dead birds, dead rabbits, dead reptiles.

It’s weird. I don’t what or why, but it is.