Monthly Archives: September 2009

Love thy neighbour


Even in our modern isolationist society, neighbours have to help each other.  Even the most difficult of neighbours.

Our house faces parkland where many native species make their living.  With most of them we are on good terms.  The sulphur crested cockatoo can be loud but they are a good natured family and if you don’t mind them snacking on your sunflowers very easy to live with.  The native black ducks and geese keep to the creek and the rainbow lorikeets to the trees.  I’m trying t invite frogs and lizard to our place, but they are shy and very much like the human residence of our street, only interested in their own lives.

And then there is the Spur-wing family.

The couple, Mr and Mrs Spur-wing are permanent residence of the park.  When there’s not chicks the couple are pretty quiet but as soon as there are eggs in their ground level nest somewhere in the scrub the parents get nasty.  They yell at anyone that comes near, anyone who looks like coming near or anyone that even looks at them.  And it’s not just the alarm call that can go off at any time day or night, if they think you’re particularly threatening they will dive bomb you, particularly if you’re a white fluffy dog…or with one.

So they’re not the best of neighbours.

Just recently they had started their swooping and yelling again so we all knew there was a new clutch.

Friday evening as I drove up after work I noticed with mounting dread that either Mr or Mrs Spur wing was hunched over peering down a storm water drain.

Sure enough when I looked down the grill, both parents dive bombing and screaming murder, there were two fluffy speckled chicks down too far to reach.

So I found two sticks we had lying around and taped an old pot that we use around the garden to one.  With my tools in hand I was determined to get those tiny mites out of the drain.

The first one was easy.  They were small, very young and pretty shook up from falling maybe a metre from road level to bottom of the drain.  There was no resistance on its part and I pretty quickly dumped it out onto the grass.  The second chick took longer.  By this time my neighbour of the human sort had come over to see what I was doing in the gutter, soon followed by his wife.  She informs us both that when she came home there were two chicks out on the road and the ‘mother’ spur-wing was looking down the gutter.  With that same sick dread as beforeI realised there was another chick …somewhere.

Sure enough, after prodding around the in leaf litter at the bottom of the storm water drain we found a third chick, weak and barely moving.  We put the third chick with its two siblings and stepped away.  Without a swoop or a cry mother bird ran to her babies and covered them with her wings.  We left them with the knowledge that no matter what happened next we’d done our best.

Real life stories don’t have happy endings I’m afraid.  The next morning the weak chick was dead, left where we had put it the evening before.  The other two were looked after by the parents for a few days later but on the weekend I heard both parents give their warning cries and fly away.  This clutch of tiny fluffies may have been lost but I was glad I had helped anyway. 

The feeling of being part of nature not just for or against it is powerful.  We have to remember that when it comes to nature we are not in control and we need to let nature take it’s course.  Not in that cheap wildlife documentary way, where the chick is left to die of starvation while the cameras roll, but knowing that in the end, when it comes to the whole of nature, our actions really don’t matter a great deal.

Good fences may make good neighbour, but knowing when to cross them makes us good citizens of the earth.