The gang’s back. Loads of satin bowerbirds in the garden at the moment. I’ve seen a couple of mature males, with their glossy blue-black feathers and gorgeous indigo eyes, but most of the robotic whistles, clicks, churrs and cracks in the trees seem to be the “greens” – juvenile males and females, hanging out in a pack.
I’ve heard grim stories about the antics of bowerbirds in the veggie garden. Apparently they like to lull the backyard grower into a false sense of security and then swoop in and devastate your greens. But I’m feeling kind of relaxed on that front. After the brush turkeys exhumed my long awaited Hass avocado treelet, and my big girls, the young-bloods, the prodigious egg-layers, started lounging around under the baby banana trees, making eyes at my kale and chomping on every “poisonous” rhubarb leaf the moment it unfurled, I’ve decided to go totally Christo. Every seed, every seedling, every newly planted tuber has its own little blanket of horticultural fleece. Anything growing that’s remotely likely to appeal to the poultry palate is swathed in netting.
The one upside of the chooks’ blithe disregard of the garden fence is the complete and total elimination of trad from the veggie patch. Three months ago our spindly raspberry canes and brave little Nightingale persimmon were drowning in a lush wash of juicy stems and emerald leaves, even as the ground slowly dehydrated around them. But now – nada. A few stems scattered around, waiting to reroot after the rain but not a leaf to be seen. It’s all very satisfying.
So it’s not all bad when your flock take to the greenery. The bowerbirds haven’t got a chance of getting my broadbeans. But with their leaf-picking ways, they are doing sterling work for the environment.
Their latest hang-out is the neighbour’s liquidambar tree – gorgeous and looming, throwing a great long shadow across our ice-box house all autumn. Basking in the sunshine on the other side of the fence, it steadfastly refuses to shed its leaves, months and months after our poor overhung specimen has shivered and shaken off its own. And then, when the last ruby shreds are about to be blown from its branches, and the winter sun finally promises to warm our August days, the bloody thing starts growing leaves again!
But never fear, Super Satin Bowerbird is here! I can’t prove definitively that their main objective was improving our passive solar gain but after closely studying these photographs for insights into bowerbird psychology and culinary habits, it certainly looks like it.