Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: Birds

Australia is for the Birds!

Bird, birds birds. Australia has many birds. So many of them are colourful, pretty and loud!
Waking up to an array of bird calls takes some getting used to. In our area we have Sulphur Crested Cockatoo’s who are very pretty, but make such a racket they could wake the dead. I do find them very cool to look at as they love to preen themselves and show off for their audience. Any audience.
The other day I saw some sitting on power lines. I stopped to admire them. That was enough for one guy, he had to start hanging upside down on the line and squawk at me. You can almost hear him saying “look at me, look at what I can do”. Not to be outdone by his buddy, another one decided to show me that he could hang upside down, by one leg, while flapping his wings. I watched the show unfold as each bird tried to outdo the other. Cockatoo’s love to have f
un which was okay by me because I was having fun watching. Of course, I was sans camera!
When it rains the Cockatoo’s tend to converge in trees and ALL of them hang upside down and flap their wings. I am not sure if they do this to bathe or because it is fun. It reminds me of looking at a Christmas tree decorated with angels.
I have even seen the Cockie’s on the ground eating seeds. One will notice you watching him so he will start to do a little dance or nod his head from side to side. He will stand on one leg and then the other. When one starts, often the rest follow. Cockatoos “act” like the clowns of the bird world.

Kookaburras “sound” like the clowns of the bird world. They are not a particularly striking bird, although they are quite large, almost as large as the cockatoo. I say they are not striking because they aren’t brightly coloured, but they are still very pretty. Their bird call is like a long belly laugh, unbelievable until you hear it for yourself. When there are a lot of them about, it sounds like the forest is laughing at you although I am sure they are actually laughing with you.
And, then there is the Galah. In Australian slang you will hear this word used as a derogatory term for “fool” or “idiot”, yet this is one of my favourite birds to look at. It has a grey back and the rest of the bird is pink! Yes, quite pink. The first time I saw a Galah, it stopped me in my tracks, I couldn’t believe a bird could be so pink. I know there are pink flamingo’s, but the Galah is so pretty and vibrant. It is part of the Cockatoo family and also likes to show off it’s talents and yes, it is noisy.
In fact, I am thinking that a prerequisite to being an Australian bird is that you must have the ability to make noise, loud noise, early in the morning preferably.
There are many people who love to wake up to the chirp of birds, these Aussie birds don’t chirp. For the most part their call is more like an out of control 2 year old having a temper tantrum. It is not pleasant to wake up to. That said, I have lived in Australia for 6 months and now have the ability to sleep through this menagerie of bird calls. It isn’t just the birds I have listed above, it is an abundance of birds and they all make noise! I think they are saying “welcome to Australia, you will never sleep again”.

The Sentinel’s Mate!

The Sentinel of Ettalong Beach

My partner and I strolled on the white sands of Ettalong Beach. Droplets plinked on our rain jacket hoods negating conversation. Lights from across Broken Bay shimmered in the subtle gloom of the rainy night. My partner and I were consumed in silent reverie.
Peering across the water a ghostly apparition floated mysteriously. It may have been a buoy marking a mooring, or simply a floating grocery bag. A few minutes observation revealed the apparition was heading on a steady course, moving with some purpose. It came close to shore, revealing the outline of a large bird.

This rather stately pelican roams the sandy inlet, investigating breaches of “bait and catch” security by fisher folk. This large pre-historic looking bird also samples the picnic trappings of naive or distracted swimmers. The pelican is the Sentinel of Ettalong Beach.

Pelicans look like inanimate floating objects as they swim along. You cannot see its web feet churning under the water. As they glide along, they seem wooden, like a floating toy bird. This creates an artificial appearance, like a decoy duck.

The Sentinel lunges forward, proving it is in fact a living organism. The ungainly beak spears into the dark waters. Just as suddenly, its head jerks back, flipping a small fish into its beak to the back of his throat, already looking for its next prey. The Sentinel gazes at us for a moment, a large eye that appears painted on a wooden head, and then continues fishing for dinner.

Pelicans are rarely solitary. Typically they live in small to very large flocks. Pelicans are known to work together, cooperating to “pen” the fish before plunging their beaks into the water to catch their prey.

The Sentinel has not read that book, or so it seems. Recently  Ettalong Beach is being  patrolled by a very odd couple.

The Sentinel’s mate is a diminutive diver duck, dwarfed by the pelican. They spend considerable time together on patrol, sharing “the catch”. The duck seems to dive for fish and share with the Sentinel. It is a charming symbiosis that I would have though rare between different bird species.

Pelicans have been known to eat ducks and seagulls when food supplies are scarce. Perhaps the diver duck is unaware of the risk it takes on days of poor fishing.

The Sentinel patrols its patch in all conditions, as though it is the ghostly incarnation of an old salt, destined to watch over the sea for eternity. This silent sentinel now has a sentient being to while away the hours of the watch.

Let us hope The Sentinel does not decide to have a friend for dinner!!!