WORDS ON BIRDS…… AND CUSTARD!

I once made a somewhat provocative statement on social media declaring Australia’s Foster Clarks custard powder to be superior to the UK  Bird’s brand.   It was absolutely true, but see that flag on the British product?  I should have known I was stirring up a cauldron of national pride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the banter that followed,  the thread shifted to birds of the feathered  kind. Cheeky  comments were made about our raucous cockatoos and kookaburras.  Unfortunately,  a misguided  Aussie friend  tried to help by mentioning  the lyre bird’s ability to mimic a chainsaw or a car alarm. It was virtually game, set and match to the Poms!     A chainsaw??  Unflattering comparisons were made  with  the  gentle   dawn chorus of British birds.  I was effectively silenced, as here in Blue Mountains I often wake to the sound of hungry young  king parrots  squawking for their  breakfast . They are relentless!  The only two seconds of respite comes as they swallow a  regurgitated  glob of parrotty  porridge. Then there are the big black currawong chicks. Oh good grief!

 

Adult King Parrot feeding it's young

Adult King Parrot (right) feeding a hungry  and very noisy youngster.

 

Currawong twins begging food .

The terrible  currawong twins! Even the parent looks anxious.

Fortunately,  young birds  become independent very quickly.  The normal,  sweet  chorus  of tiny birds resumes; half a dozen varieties of native  honey eaters, fairy wrens, golden whistlers, thornbills,  finches and tree creepers. The  gorgeous yellow robin is known as the dawn harpist. But our a larger, more iconic Australian birds receive far more press than these small songsters.

Eastern Robin

The Eastern Robin sings up the sun.

I recently made an early morning  visit to  Perry’s Lookout, near my home  village of Blackheath. It overlooks the majestic  eucalypt forest of the Grosse Valley.

BlackheathAugust25HatHill 012

 

In the stillness  I became aware of the purest, sweetest sound; perfectly  expressed by the  Australian born poet Henry Kendall (1839-1882);

And softer than slumber, and sweeter than singing,

The notes of the bell-birds are running and ringing.

The silver-voiced bell-birds, the darlings of day-time,

They sing in September their songs of the may-time.

Appropriately, these  birds feed on honeydew, produced from  eucalypt sap  by tiny  insects  called lerps.

A bell-miner feeding in eucalypt

Bellbirds are also mentioned in my favourite Australian Christmas carol; The Carol of the Birds, written by John Wheeler;

Down where the tree ferns grow by the river

There where the waters sparkle and quiver

Deep in the gullies bell-birds are chiming

Softly and sweetly their voices are rhyming

Orana! Orana! Orana to Christmas Day.

{Orana is an Aboriginal word meaning  ‘welcome’}

Reflecting on the eternal  UK-Australian  rivalry reminds me of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem My Country, published in London in 1908 under the title Core of My Heart. Here is a page from her notebook on which the first two verses are written;

640px-My_Country_part_1

Dorothea Mackeller

I have to agree with Miss Mackellar’s sentiments.  Much as I  appreciate the  beauty of the English countryside, the Australian bush  will always hold a special place in my heart.  I love the way it regenerates so quickly, even after the most disastrous fires.


BlackheathAugust25HatHill 008

Perhaps it is mere  fancy, but it seems to me there is a hint of the human form in the above photo. The picture was taken here at Blackheath, in the wake of our  most recent fires.  It symbolizes  hope, and it is why I relate so strongly to  lines from the final verse of Mackellar’s poem.

An opal-hearted country,

A wilful, lavish land

All you who have not loved her,

You will not understand.

POSTSCRIPT

Many  years ago there was a  poetry competition in New South Wales  called Shrink Lit.  The object was to  drastically reduce a well known Australian piece of  Australian literature.  I spent days ‘shrinking’  Norman Lindsay’s  book The Magic Pudding to about 15 lines of verse.   I was reasonably  pleased with the result …..  until  the winning entry was published   The writer’s name now escapes me, but her brilliance   almost made me give up writing  forever. She had wittily  reduced  My Country to;

Hedgerows are tops, you say.

I like dead cows, OK?

Mind you, in the midst of this terrible drought It’s hard to smile at the clever irony.

In conclusion may I say;

 

I LOVE TO HEAR FROM READERS. YOU CAN LEAVE A COMMENT IN THE BOX BELOW. COMPLETE THE ANTI-SPAM SUM THEN PRESS ‘SUBMIT’.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments
  1. I loved this from beginning to end.
    I remember the first time I heard Bellbirds, driving through Cunninghams Gap.
    I had to stop and just listen.
    Thank you for sharing this Pauline.

    • Pauline

      I really appreciate you taking the trouble to leave a message here, Meredith. Many thanks.

  2. Lovely article, Pauline. I envy you your beautiful and colourful birds, but love our own. They can be irritating too. The blackbird scolded Oscar the cat interminably when all he wanted was to doze in the shade. East, West, home’s best.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Mike. I was just as passionate about birds when we were living in England. I even had a meal worm farm to feed the robins and bluetits etc. We lived near the Chiltern Hills, where the red kites were re-introduced. I so loved watching them.

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