Thursday, June 4, 2009

An unkindness of ravens

Drawing 486

Drawing 487

Drawing 488

Drawing 489

Drawing 490

Driving to work one recent morning, I looked right to check for oncoming traffic on the highway before making my turn. Ooh, thinks I, those are BIG ravens. I looked again: not ravens, but nine red-tailed (I think I caught a flash of red on the tails) black cockatoos, gliding over the road in groups of three. I've seen red-tailed black cockatoos, which are rare, in the suburbs once before at a friend's place, eating pine cones (or rather, the pine nuts) in the huge tree in the front garden. We had to stand well back to avoid being showered with debris as they tore the pine cones apart with those strong beaks and claws. That was in a very green, treed suburb, though, not (almost) downtown Oakleigh. It gave me a real thrill to see these nine birds, quite made me smile all the way to work :)

There's been a big mob of white sulphur crested cockatoos in the area for a few weeks, foraging, but whatever they were interested in must be about finished because where I was seeing them several times a day - and HEARING them more often, they're loud and raucous! - they don't seem to be around as much. There are corellas, too, seasonally, tearing up the grass in the parks for grubs. I once saw a mob of corellas digging holes in a lawn, so deep that they were head and shoulders down except for the one stationed on lookout duty, who eyed me from barely a dozen feet away before deciding I was no threat. I suspect that the drought and the recent devastating bushfires in Victoria is driving native birds further afield for food and water, plus with winter coming on perhaps food is scarcer, too. The pair of magpies I feed on my front porch are certainly hungry at the moment. One-Leg, the male bird, squawks a loud demand if he's hungry and I'm not forthcoming with the snacks. Mama Bird has been known to tap on the door with her beak if she thinks I'm not paying attention.

I had another rather Hitchcock-ian bird encounter on a foggy morning last week, also on the way to work. The fog kept visibility down to about 100 feet at points on my drive, particularly in the vicinity of the airport where there are open fields (the dam at the flower growers is a particularly favourite spot for ibis, there are often hundreds loitering about, just hanging out - but not the bird encounter of which I spoke). As I braked for a red light, a cacophony of squawking and cawing cut over the sound of the car radio: there were dozens of ravens, perched on every available service about the crossroads, on the overhanging arms of the light poles, the telephone poles, the traffic lights themselves, plus a few circling about unable to find a seat. It was shoulder to shoulder raven central, an eerie sight in the fog, and loud! It was as if they were gathered for meeting, shouting to be heard. I wonder what they were plotting. I hope they've never seen The Birds.

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