Hills Ambivalence

Monday, 3 February 2014

I remember when I first started seeing my partner.  He lived in Belgrave in the Dandenong Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne (still does - and now I do too), and when I came to visit I'd get enraptured about the animal life in abundance out the door.   I still do - the kookaburras, the rosellas, the king parrots (especially the king parrots.  The combination of their beautiful silky eye and the sweet sounds that come from their throats won me over immediately).

And I fell in love with the cockatoos.  Such enormous things.  So smart.  You could see them sussing you out and thinking about stuff.

I fell in love with a cockatoo who I worked with for a day.  Our boss was away and so my co-worker brought in his pet to work.  Now, if I was at school with Mary and she'd brought her lamb, I'd be the kid vomiting from overexcitement, laughing and playing like a mad thing, to see a lamb at school.  It just breaks up the monotony, right?   An adult bringing in their cockatoo to work while the boss was away was altogether too delightful for even my shite memory to forget.  I commandeered Ollie for as much time as I possibly could that day.  I sat, working on a typesetting machine that seems now like it's something out of the 1890's even though it was 1987, while Ollie nibbled occasionally upon my ear.

It was a good day.

And so because cockatoos are so cool, I was a little curious about why my partner was so antagonistic towards them.  What's there to hate, right?

Well, this, for example, done entirely at the hand - or beak, rather - of those gorgeous cockies.

I think cockatoos chew up stuff for pleasure, along with other practical reasons like beak-sharpening and cleaning purposes.

Wouldn't it be nice if cockatoos could be trained to mess only with wood that's not attached to your house.  Like the masses of trees surrounding it, for instance.  If I could become the cockatoo whisperer, I'd be in great demand amongst Australian house owners.  Or if I could build a beaking post that cockatoos were insanely attracted to, that was painted in an environmentally friendly cockatoolian version of catnip, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for that, too.

Nature is amazing in its resourcefulness and reuse and upcycling.  Animals (including people, before Bunnings existed) use what's there in creative ways.  And that's why one bird's pleasurable destruction has become (at least temporarily) another mammal's home.  Take a squiz, a little closer.

See that greyish-lookin' thing?  That's a bit of a possum. 

Perhaps there aren't enough hollowed-out bits of logs to go around, and the last possum in for the night is stuck with the crappy digs, like a shitty, cheap motel with poo stains on the carpet.  This is not the biggest of spaces - I've felt inside.  That possum sleeping in there would be squashed.  And it was hot last night.  It sure can't be all that comfortable rammed in there with fur on top.


  1. Sulphur Cresteds aren't common in W.A. Only a small population has been seen near Perth. So, it was very exciting to have these "famous" big beautiful birds, along with Rosellas and King Parrots, visit us regularly when we moved here. It still is.
    And the Kings are soooo lovely. I also have a wee Rosella that visits and comes to the kitchen window, presses his head on the glass and whistles to me. Awwww.

    I've read that the white cockies are very intelligent, and are sizing you up when they look at you with those blackest of black eyes - although, the females' eyes are a dark red.
    Apparently, they have the mental acuity of a two-three year old human child.

    You're right too. Like cats needing a scratching post or a tree for their claws, cockies need to keep their beaks and claws sharp and at a good length.
    I can personally attest to the sharpness of their beaks.
    Last year, there were seven or eight of them lined up along our wooden retaining wall out back. They all allowed me to get close as they each took seeds from my hand (yeah, I know).
    One cheeky character decided he didn't want a bar of the seeds and used his bolt-cutter beak to pierce my thumb - from the nail right through to the back.
    Holy shit, was it painful! And bled like a mother fucker!
    That'll teach this stupid West Aussie ;)

    They prefer soft woods to tear at. Pine and/or cedar weatherboards and windowsills - like ours :(
    They leave our hardwood retaining wall alone, I've noticed. Had a nibble, and gave up.

    I love your idea of a "cockie beaking post". And, I bet they'd use it too if you placed it where they congregate at your place.
    Cockatoo Catnip - I think you're onto something!! :)

    I've seen quite a few possums living/sleeping in cramped confines, like between walls and weatherboards. Once they've established their home there, they become territorial.
    I've been told I shouldn't, but I do love possums.

    1. Ow and jeez, that nail pierce must have *killed*! It makes me cringe and clench my legs together (huh?) just thinking about it.

      Yeah, interesting about the wood. Maybe all of our houses should be hardwood ... I don't really know the difference between hardwood and softwood uses, though I know Anthony, being a worker of wood, has told me before. But I can't remember much ... :(

      I love possums too. I don't know who told you you shouldn't :) I know they're annoying and get into people's roofs and stuff but they have a right to live here too. Perhaps the problem is with us building houses that allow them to get in in the first place. I put some old strawberries out on the decking the other night and then turned the light on so I could catch one of them eating it. I love watching them eating, the way they hold the food in their paws. But I know I'm scaring them in the process of watching them so I should just leave them be ... or invest in an infrared camera :)

    2. So glad you love possums too :)
      We used to have a possum family live in the roof of our cottage in W.A.
      They would scamper up the beautiful old, old apple tree that was by the back door, and hop into the roof from the top branches.
      Mumma, with babies on her back, became so used to us, that she would come very close, on the lowest branch, and allow us to stroke her back and tail as she nibbled on a piece of fruit or bread.
      My heart warms even now when I think back on that memory.

      After we'd moved from our beautiful country cottage, a friend (who happened to know the new owners) told me that they "chopped the old tree down". Had it removed to extend the carport. WTF!

      I cried for days about that. And even today, my heart is so sad about it.
      The graceful old tree that gave us shade and shelter, and was home to many critters, was almost a hundred years old!
      He (I felt he was a he) had lived through two world wars, and (as the cottage was an old school house) saw many children play under his growing canopy.

      Sigh. I tear up, even now.

      And, this "couple" who did that to my precious, venerable old tree, separated, got divorced and sold two years later.

      We'd spent over sixteen happy years there, nurturing and honouring this tree.

      Humans :(((

    3. Funny how trees become like people in a way, isn't it? A 100 year old tree to make way for a carport. Awesome, not! :(

      Wow, that possum must have had a lot of trust in you to bring her babies along. The ones here scamper if I come near.

      See ya tomorra, missus :)


Newer Older