Cheeky 01

Familiar Faces: Wildlife, Home, and Making Contact

The first thing I do when I get out of bed each day is look out the window to see ‘who’ is there.  We recognise individual birds and animals within a species because they  seem to have made their regular patch of turf the land outside our windows.  It is their home as much as it is our home.

We enjoy watching the pair of Australian Wood Ducks bringing their family of ducklings to the dam each day. Their habits are familiar to us,  and it seems obvious when other ducks arrive – they simply behave differently. Another resident is the kookaburra without a tail, who has now found a mate – with tail intact.  The pair is often seen sitting on a tree stump or the bird feeder, waiting for an insect, frog or lizard to move in the grass – they swoop down, grab the prize and take it into a tree to eat.   The lack of a tail does not seem to hinder the Kookaburra in any way. We often wonder how the tail was lost, or if it is a genetic thing.

Recently a pair of Spur-Winged Plovers began walking their flightless chicks to the dam late each afternoon.  The noise they make to distract attention from the chicks merely alerts us to their presence.  The four chicks can now fly, but they are just as noisy on arrival, and for most of the time they spend here.

The self-nominated owners of the grassy patch between the house and the dam are the magpies.  They seem to make random choices about which other species of birds are allowed to share this patch, and which are trespassing.  For some reason, ducks and Galahs are not welcome, but Crimson Rosellas, and Cockatoos are OK.  I wish they would soften their attitude toward the one pair of Galahs which visit the bird feeder, but alas, they only get about five minutes grace before they are herded away. It became so bad this Spring that the Galahs abandoned their nest in the tree by the house.  I’m not sure where they chose to nest, but recently they have been arriving with a third Galah – presumably their chick.

In addition to those who live here permanently, regular visitors such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroos establish an identify pretty quickly, especially when a joey is involved. Through the Winter we had the same three females visit often, sometimes with company, sometimes just the three of them. Now one of these females still comes, with her joey.  We wonder where the other two went. Perhaps they will return next Winter.

Sometimes we know there are resident birds, but we can’t distinguish individuals.  Fairy wrens, Crimson Rosellas and Cockatoos are all cases in point.  There are many of each species, and it is difficult to find any particular characteristic to distinguish one bird from another.  The only real measure is tolerance to our presence. We presume the ones who live near the house are the ones which don’t fly away when we walk out the door, but when they are all sitting in the tree together, there is no way to tell one from the other.

Until the last two weeks, it has all been very one-sided – both of us observing and getting to know the wildlife.  Now one bird has taken an interest in us.  My ‘Cheeky Cockatoo‘ post showed a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo peeking over the gutter to peer into the window.  I thought this was funny, and more than a little bit cute.  This bird has intensified its interest in us to the extent where we now refer to it as ‘Cheeky’.   I’ve started to talk to  Cheeky when I am outside and he/she likes to listen – actually moving closer to where I am and leaning forward to make eye contact.

I still feed the birds only once a day, but Cheeky has recognised that I control the food. As a consequence, I am being charmed with funny antics, calls, dances, roof prancing, window peering, and outright loud raucous demands with wings outspread and crest raised.  This morning Cheeky brought a friend with him, and I had two faces peering in the window.  I love the idea of one Cheeky, but twenty or more is a bit of a worry.  So I will try to resist the charm, even though it would be so easy to coax it to eat out of my hand.  Even with all of this contact, I can’t tell if it is Cheeky or another bird unless I’m talking to him (I have nominated the bird him, although I don’t know what sex it is). All of the other birds are too scared to come that close.

One benefit of being charmed by Cheeky  is that I was able to take some excellent photographs!  Here are two to begin with.  My guess is that you will hear more about Cheeky in due course.

Cheeky 01
Cheeky demanding food with a full, wings out, crest up screech!
Cheeky 02
When I talk, Cheeky seems to listen, putting the head to the side, leaning forward and making eye contact. If I move away, Cheeky flies to a closer vantage point.

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