Tag Archives: rainbow lorikeets

Rainbows On An Overcast Day…

Often, it’s all too easy to miss the rainbows on an overcast day. All we see is grey clouds. Complain about the rain. Swear the sun will never come out again. Indeed, we might even forget that the sun exists at all, and has only been covered up by the clouds. It hasn’t been smothered to death.

Well, it’s still raining and overcast here after more days and nights than Noah ever spent in the ark, and this terrible dreariness is seemingly never-ending. Yet, about an hour ago, Geoff called out and asked if I’d seen the Rainbow Lorikeets perched just outside our kitchen window. Of course, I hadn’t. I was sitting at the table reading, and hadn’t even glanced outside. Why would I? The weather’s bad. None of the trees are flowering, and to be honest, it all just looks wet and dreary. What I was reading was much more interesting.

However, I did get up to have a look, and went to fetch my camera. Not so much for myself though. While Rainbow Lorikeets are commonplace here, I know many of you haven’t seen them, and I took these photos for you. Indeed, I was simply trying to be a vessel, so you could see through me.

Inevitably, I was also drawn under their spell. I have always adored these birds. When I was a child and we didn’t know any better, we’d put out bread and honey soaking in water to attract them. They love it. However, they don’t recommend that for their health anymore. Besides, we’re lucky they’re often living in our backyard, and have taken up residence.

Meanwhile, on sunset seemingly thousands of Rainbow Lorrikeets return to their roosting trees by the beach for the night. The entire tree is literally exploding with rainbow feathers and noise. I can’t quite call it “music”, although it’s far more melodious than the raucous screeching of the cockatoos as they fly overhead heading off wherever it is they call “bed”.

“Look at me!”

Anyway, once I’d ventured outside with my camera, I was absolutely captivated myself, and almost as enthusiastic as when I first saw them over 40 years ago. Moreover, with their cheeky little faces, the little show offs were sitting with their perfect supermodel poses just waiting for me to take their portrait from their best angle.

Straight off an artist’s palette, I ask how can all that feathered colour not bring you joy even on the darkest of days, even if only for the briefest of moments?

Well, that is easy for me to say. I am safe and comfortable. I have a roof over my head, and even the air-conditioner is running. I’m not destitute or struggling to survive after the devastating flood waters which had decimated Lismore on the NSW North Coast. I’m definitely not in the Ukraine.

However, I watch the news and think of the people of Ukraine. I imagine that for them personally enduring what we only see on TV, that it must be hard to remember beauty, goodness and kindness still exist. Immersed in such brutal destruction at the hands of Putin’s forces, it must also be hard to believe in a good, loving and gracious God. or that he is reflected in the world and in our humanity. Yet, I also know that such brutal times can also bring out the best in people too and we can ironically feel closer to God than ever.

Gosh! How I wish I could do more and offer all these struggling souls a cup of tea, a warmed blanket, a hug, a smile, anything to remind them of the goodness of humanity. Yet, here I am tapping away on my keyboard snuggled up inside with my dog, the whole family is home today with one sick but it’s not covid so it’s all good. However, life here isn’t always this good, and there have been many times where I too have felt cursed, and particularly singled out by the adversities of life. I, too, have fallen on the ground and asked why? Why me?

So, even I still need to keep looking out for the good in this world, like these stunning Rainbow Lorikeets. I need to resist being swallowed up by what’s going on in my world, and by all the things which seem to be so precariously balanced and could so easily be destroyed by a puff of wind or that great enemy of joy – covid. “Rowena, do not let yourself go under.” I hear the words loud and clear. It has been a battle at times lately, and it’s funny how doing something as simple as getting out my camera and really focusing on the minute details of those feathers and their bright colours, has helped turn things around. Indeed, perhaps the same might work for you!

That is my hope, and my prayer for you wherever you are, and what ever your personal or community circumstances might be. As George Bernard Shaw wrote:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.“

We need to hold onto this!

Love and blessings,

Rowena

Snapshots of Australian Birds.

Perhaps, I should’ve tossed my research hat out the window, when we arrived in Byron Bay. That way, I could appreciate a pretty photo for what it is without having to research everything I see to the nth degree. Clearly, I ask too many questions and if I were a less complicated soul, I could’ve simply posted these bird photos without any explanation at all. Not even a name.

Consequently, what started out as brief snapshots of some of the birds we encountered around Byron Bay, has expanded into something much more complex and I must admit I’ve learned quite a lot myself along the way. After all, I take my role at Beyond the Flow as Australian tour guide seriously. I not only want you to see what I saw. I also wanted to share some local, lived insights which you won’t find in a more scientific account of my stunning feathered friends.   These photos were taken in my in-laws’ backyard and at the Macadamia Castle, which has a bird aviary. It’s not quite the same as seeing them in the wild, but it does make it easier to get a good photograph. Yet, as much as I love photography, I’d naturally prefer all birds to fly free.

So welcome to the cast:

Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo

Although this guy lives at the Macadamia Castle, sulfur-crested cockatoos are very common in the wild where we live on the NSW Central Coast and in Sydney. You can’t appreciate these crazy characters from a simple photograph. They’ll perch up in the trees or telegraph wires and swoop down kamikaze style across car windscreens and only narrowly escape being hit. They’re absolutely cheeky, and don’t let that gorgeous feathered-face deceive you. They’re very destructive and are renowned for chewing through wood-trim on your house, your balcony, and stripping fruit trees bare. Moreover, behind that beautiful smile, lies an ear-piercing screech. Yet, despite their shenanigans, they still want to be your best friend and crave attention. They seem to love posing for the camera with a huge cheeky grin and you might even get a “Hello”.

Jacko

Jacko with family cropped out.

When I was a young child about 8 years old, my Dad bought a baby sulfur-crested cockatoo, called Jacko. He initially lived in a cage in the laundry inside where he had the joy of listening to my father’s voice on an old tape recorder. Indeed, it was an old tape recorder then, although I think cassettes were somewhat new at the time. It was 1977. I still remember that old recording and will take it to my grave…”Hello Jacko! Hello Jacko!” Jacko made it outside into the aviary but didn’t stay with us for very long. We were moving house and there seemed to be some kind of “discussion” between my parents. Although we were moving onto five acres, it seems there was no room for Dad’s birds and Jacko went to live with friends. So, not unsurprisingly,  sulfur-crested cockatoos have a special place in my heart.

Rainbow Lorikeets

Rainbow Lorrikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets are the happiest little birds on earth and on sunset you can here them chirping away drunk on nectar in the trees if you’re lucky…or not depended on your perspective. My friend’s mum planted a red bottlebrush outside his bedroom window and he was woken up by a swarm of rainbow lorikeets at the crack of dawn whenever it was in flower. He was not amused.

Amelia Rainbow Lorrikeet

Our daughter feeding seed to the Rainbow Lorikeet  at the Macadamia Castle last week. 

The Rainbow Lorikeet isn’t as outgoing or interactive as the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo and seem reasonably gentle. Back in the day when we mere mortals weren’t as educated about looking after wildlife, we’d coat a slice of bread in honey and soak it in water on a plate and put it out in the backyard. The Australian museum refers to such backyard feeding as “artificial feeding stations”, but the birds didn’t mind. That bread and honey was a sure-fire magnet. They loved it.

The Galah

Galahs

Galahs feeding in the backyard.

These galahs were photographed in my in-laws’ backyard, where they had quite a large flock of galahs. Apparently, numbers there have increased lately due to the drought and possibly also the fires. The in-laws have planted bird-attracting plants, but given the drought, have also been putting seed and water out for the birds. It’s been interesting watching the changing cast of characters out at the seed bowl. The galah’s are at the top of the pecking order, and shoo away the doves who sit perched up on the wire above waiting for the galahs to buzz off. There are also some pretty red-breasted finches who have their own seed bowl in the thicket.

Galahs were originally located in arid, inland Australia, and only expanded into their present, vast range in the early- to mid-20th century. The galah’s scientific name is Eolophus roseicapilla. Its holotype was collected in Australia in 1801 by biologists on the Expedition led by France’s Nicolas Baudin and is held in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.

The word galah comes from Yuwaalaraay and related Aboriginal languages of northern New South Wales. In early records it is variously spelt as galargillargulah, etc. The word is first recorded in the 1850s. The bird referred to is the grey-backed, pink-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus, occurring in all parts of Australia except the extreme north-east and south-west. It is also known as the red-breasted cockatoo and rose-breasted cockatoo.

The term “galah” has also entered the Australian vernacular, and is a derogatory term meaning a “loud-mouthed idiot”, “fool”, “clown” and is also use to describe gaudy dress. It  has also inspired a number of colloquial idioms: To be “mad as a gumtree full of galahs is to be completely crazy. “To make a proper galah of yourself” is to make a complete fool of yourself. A “pack of galahs” is a group of contemptibly idiotic people. If you’re a fan of that great Aussie TV export Home and Away, you might’ve heard Alf Stewart complain: “Ya flamin’ galah”, which means you’re a complete idiots.

The Laughing Kookaburra

kookaburra2

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. They might look cute and sound hilarious but they have the last laugh once they’ve snatched the snags off your BBQ!

Of course, even these brief snapshots of Australian birds, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the kookaburra, even though it didn’t feature central stage. Indeed, the photo I’ve included here was taken at Pearl Beach round the corner from home where they’re rather partial to stealing sausages (Or snags in the Aussie vernacular) straight off the BBQ without any concern about burning their beaks!! We spotted a few kookaburras while we were on holidays around Byron Bay, but what I remember most was hearing the kookaburras laugh while I was floating on my back at Brunswick Heads watching fluffy white clouds scud across the deep blue sky. There was absolutely no doubt I was in Australia. Indeed, over the years, the sound of kookaburras laughing has been used to create a sense of Australia in movies over the years.

Aunty Rose & Kookaburra

My Great Great Aunt Rose Bruhn with her pet kookaburra who appeared on Brisbane radio.

Australian King Parrot

Male King Parrot

Male Australian King Parrot

This parrot is living at the Macadamia Castle. Although I’ve occasionally seen them in the wild i.e. my backyard, they’re quite shy and not all that common. Indeed, it’s a real treat to spot one.

Male Australian King-Parrots are the only Australian parrots with a completely red head. Females are similar to males except that they have a completely green head and breast. Both sexes have a red belly and a green back, with green wings and a long green tail. King parrots are normally encountered in pairs or family groups.

The Emu

Emu

We also saw the emus at the Macadamia Castle. I had no idea how the emu originally got it’s name. However, it turns out that ’emu’ isn’t an Aboriginal word. Rather, it might have been derived from an Arabic word for large bird and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers and applied to cassowaries in eastern Indonesia. The term was then transferred to the Emu by early European explorers to Australia.

Emu2

Emus are a funny-looking flightless bird, which also makes quite a peculiar sound. Not that I’m being judgemental. I haven’t spent a lot of time with emus, although they used to have a few at the Australian Reptile Park up the road from home, and they were savage food thieves. In the wild, packs of emus have been known to decimate farms. I think my grandfather used emu oil to treat his arthritis.

Emu feet

Emu feet. 

My childhood memories of emus, include a show called: Marty and Emu. It took a bit of detective work to dig that one out of the memory bank. They appeared on a kids’ show called: The Super Flying Fun Show, which was hosted by “Miss Marilyn” Mayo. Of interest to Australians, Darryl Somers appeared later on in the history of the show, and you can see how Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Darryl and Ossie Ostrich evolved from there. It turns out that Rod Hull had appeared with emu on the show before my time  and a duplicate emu was made when Hull returned to the UK and continued his performances over there.

Marty & emu

Marty Morton & Emu (I was so excited to see them again!)

Of course, when we’re talking about cultural representations of the emu, you can’t go past John Williamson’s classic: Old Man Emu:

These are only some of the birds we saw on our travels. The ones we photographed or found most interesting. We also saw a large flock of black cockatoos on the drive North, which we had no chance of photographing, but they were good to see. There were also crows and magpies.
I’ll sign off with this photo of a duck in plastic kiddies wading pool at the Macadamia Castle. Usually, this pond is full. However, there’s been such low rainfall that the pond’s dried up for the first time in the 15 years we’ve been going there. These are clearly hard times for our wildlife (and domestic ducks).
duck
What is your favourite Australian bird? Please share in the comments below.
Best wishes,
Rowena

References