I have a great fascination for social history, and for our native, satin bowerbirds. Yes, there is a strong link between the two. When the adult blue/black male bowerbirds or the green juvenile ‘apprentices’ build their bowers they decorate them with anything blue they can find. For this reason the collections of treasures provide a pretty accurate reflection of our society. It’s sobering to realize that ever since plastic became such a presence in our lives the birds have collected it too…. non-biodegradable, domestic rubbish. They gather broken clothes pegs, lids, plastic straws, ballpoint pens and caps etc etc.
Right now the birds in the Blue Mountains concentrate on milk bottle caps. I can’t resist teasing them sometimes. It takes a lot of work for them to remove the ones I occasionally attach outside my kitchen window. It’s very important to remove the rings from the caps first. Probably best not to put them out at all really.
Our village of Blackheath is a tourist destination and as such we have more than our share of cafés. Plastic straws were once the favourite adornment of bowers here.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
In November 2016 Blackheath became what is believed to have been the first town in the world to ban plastic straws.
I’m sure it’s possible to use only cardboard cartons instead of plastic milk bottles. Yes, I should be doing it already myself. If we did this the birds may revert to gathering more natural materials; the blue tail feathers of crimson rosellas and blue wrens….. flowers and berries in all hues of blue.
I recently found the feathers of a Sulphur crested cockatoo in our nearest bower. I couldn’t help hoping they were trophies after a David and Goliath aerial battle.
Among the many suitable native plants in the Blue Mountains there is Dianella for those gorgeous berries, and Patersonia.
Of course there are many exotic blue flowers. The birds here are a bit picky though. Their favourite is definitely the tiny blue Lithodora blooms. There is dark blue variety and a paler, white striped one. They are welcome to all they can stuff in their beaks as far as I’m concerned.
The only problem the bowerbirds might face is that berries and flowers have a very short ‘shelf life’. Hmm, courtship rituals might have to be a bit quicker!
Apart from blue they do find pale yellow acceptable. Note the shells in the old print below. In my garden they use dry banksia serrata leaves. By the way, if you really want to upset a bowerbird, sneak something red into their bower. They can’t stand it and will hurl it out immediately.
I’ll be watching this year’s breeding season with great interest. Watch out for your tails while you are nibbling my spring bulbs dear rosellas!