Monday, February 4, 2013

In our backyard

I never cease to be thankful that we live in a place where nature is literally all around us. In an ordinary home in an outer-suburb, I can see natural life from every window as I go about my day. Even when the windows and doors are not open, the sound of bird life is ever-present.

But even my most wonderful experiences have been superseded this week by a relocation in the back garden. When my husband first said something about a Ring-Tailed Possum nest in the lemon tree, I assumed he meant the tree near the back fence, close to the long-term nesting area of generations of Ring-tails in the garden. I didn't realise he meant the other lemon tree, the one that is right by our back deck, clearly visible from both our living areas which basically wrap around the deck.Or that the nest is just a little above eye-level but clearly visible through the leaves, as are its occupants!!!

Because the possums sleep on the nest, not in it and are nocturnal marsupials, we have the privilege of watching them snooze, except if our activity disturbs them, at which point the gaze back with their big, round eyes. The photographer in me can't leave them alone and I feel like David Attenborough as I observe them through their day!

These are not our only possums. Ring-Tails are the smaller possum common in urban areas, where their Brush-Tailed cousins live in bigger trees ... or roofs ... or possum nesting boxes. We have always had a resident Brush-Tail, female, who we nick-named Matilda when we moved here in 1997. I have no idea the natural life-span of possums, but the regularity they are killed by cars, cats and dogs means we would be unlikely to see it occur. So the current Matilda is several generations down from our original and she would have been descended from possums who lived here when my husband and I were growing up an easy walk in either direction of this house. So we respect her right to live alongside us in harmony and raise her babies in peace. After relocating the original Matilda from her residence in our lounge room wall when we arrived (!) we gave her the first of several nesting boxes constructed by my husband. Over the years we have had to evict a bee swarm, add a second box for another female and allow Matildas to entertain us in many ways - from hand-feeding with fruit to sitting above the festivities at our daughter's engagement party! Sometimes we intrude upon them, sometimes they intrude upon us. Once, an exploring baby accidentally came through the en-suite window and I had to catch it in a towel and return to an angry mother! Other times, they have made it into our roof and tried to burrow through the ceiling! And there have been many signs of possum clumsiness, with falls from the gum tree which looms over the house, slips off the ledge that runs under our eaves and being chased off the roof by swooping magpies!

Matilda pretends she didn't fall off the eaves in her sleep,  as she tries to get back up there in broad daylight!

There are times I cannot sleep due to possums on the roof, lorikeets in the flowering gums or other nature noises. Sweeney Todd, the butcher bird entertains me but he is also a threat to some of the other birds, however the descendants of the magpies we hand-fed one year keep Sweeney in his place and trust us so much they came calling for water on a hot day recently! There are Wattle Birds every day and Eastern Rosellas just one or two days a year, and unexpected red-Tailed Black Cockatoos dropping gum nuts on the roof for just one summer. It is all sorts of things, but never dull!!!

Sweeney Todd - the Butcher Bird!
2005 - our almost-fledged baby Magpies, whose parents left in our care for two weeks of hand-feeding and then collected once they could fly! Our generosity is passed on through the generations and I still get adult birds who tap on my bedroom window!!

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