A little paradise in the Mountains.
FEATHERING MY NEST
Living in what very much resembles a bird hide would not be to everyone’s taste, but it suits me. My mini home is surrounded by trees and shrubs…predominantly Australian natives, but certainly not exclusively. Is is actually a studio apartment, built above a double garage.
Living here was meant to be a temporary situation while we built our new house. That was ……well, some time ago. My partner Rob and I so enjoy our little nest that the impetus to finish the ‘big house’ dissolved until a recent push. The studio is at top left in this aerial photo.
There are windows all round the studio and no curtains or blinds. Yes, sometimes I need to put my sunnies on when the morning sun makes a direct hit, but that’s a small inconvenience in comparison to the joys of nature. As a writer I am inspired by my surroundings.
Here is the view from my bed in summer…..wattle birds adore the nectar in red hot poker blooms. We never artificially feed the birds, but there is always fresh water for them.
I can stand at the front door and photograph those ‘creaky gate’ gang-gangs feeding in the silver wattle tree.
By the way, there is a strange and growing resemblance between Rob and the gang-gang.
Parrots love wattle seeds too.
We live in the bird rich, Blue Mountains of New South Wales, adjoining the National Park. Just below us is Popes Glen Creek. There are plenty of frogs and snakes down there to feed kookaburras, owls, tawny frogmouths…… and butcher birds.
I can be immersed in my work on the computer, but in my peripheral vision I see a flash of colour; yellow, white, bronze, black, blue, red or green. Sometimes it is accompanied by scrabbling on the pitched roof as king parrots land to search for insects in the gutters. Rob welcomes this, as they help clear the leaves and sticks that drop from the gum trees and wattles.
My hearing is now attuned to so many local birds; from the raucous kookaburras, wattle birds, bower birds and parrots to the mysterious whip bird, and the softer chimes of many smaller species; honeyeaters, robins, thornbills and wrens.
Birdbaths have been placed in the shrubbery outside the kitchen window. The variety of feathered visitors is amazing; from tiny thornbills, robins, spinebills and wrens, to white headed pigeons, satin bowerbirds and many varieties of parrot.
If I open the front door, I look onto a bed of grevilleas; native ground covers and other shrubs. The centrepiece is a sun dial, a favourite perch for Toffee the kookaburra.
Here is a visitor arriving before I’ve even had a chance to open the screen door.
And when the baths are full, father king parrot has a quick drink, then feeds his infant.
A HIDE IS VITAL FOR SPYING ON SHY FELLOW RESIDENTS
One of the most elusive birds is the native Wonga Pigeon. I can only ever enjoy his plump proportions from my bedside window. He often comes to sit on a wooden bench just outside. Mind you, his cooing can be heard a mile off.
The insistent calling and the attention to personal appearance eventually paid off. A mate, and a few weeks later, a scruffy nest of sweet chicks.
There is a skylight directly above my bed, and at dusk or in the early morning a bird might trundle across as it feeds on insects. Below is the gentle, white-headed pigeon.
Waking can be a bit of a shock sometimes. This cheeky wretch is probably about to chew the roof of the hide.
We have three bird baths just outside the kitchen. One is positioned under a fuchsia bush. Even the shyest bird in the Mountains, the Eastern Whipbird, will venture here for a bath. What a privilege is is to watch him. Makes a nice break from washing up.
Naturally the male satin bowerbird prefers a blue bowl to match his gorgeous eye.
Our ‘hide’ can sometimes become wreathed in spider webs. It’s a bit of a shame to sweep them away, as the little birds like a spider snack. I was very amused to see this row of ‘terrace houses’ above the garage door.
And so the day draws to a close. I make a final ‘matron’s rounds’ of the garden, refilling the bird baths outside the kitchen window ready for dawn visitors such as the crimson rosella.
DAY IS DONE AT THE ‘HIDE’
Sometimes when I am wandering about I glance towards the studio and notice that Rob has turned the lights on. Oh dear, time to go in. At any moment the tawny frogmouths will start calling.
One day soon we will be moving into the ‘big house’, but I am not in any hurry to leave our cosy bird hide.
My artist friend Evie Hanlon made a collage of some of the birds in our garden. I love it.
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