When we first moved to Marrickville just over two decades ago, there were only Currawongs & Indian mynas in our street. The Currawongs would leave in the morning & return at dusk. The Currawongs would move somewhere else for spring & summer leaving the Indian mynas to rule. What we heard most of the time was traffic & plane noise. There were very few natural sounds.
New people started to move into the neighbourhood & we all started gardening. Some of our neighbours planted cottage garden type plants, while others like ourselves went totally native & included some natives indigenous to this area.
We had a rule – unless it was spectacular, what we planted had to be able to provide food for birds or bats & at the very least, bees & other insects.
And then it happened….. the noise of our street changed. All kinds of birds started to visit.
It was slow at first. We started to identify different bird calls. Sometimes small groups of around 10-20 birds would visit. The birdbath was used every day. Evidence of their splashing was noticed & the water had to be replenished. We would walk out the front door only to cause a mad fluttering of wings as bathing birds got interrupted.
Every year the sounds of birds were built upon. A common question was, “What is that bird?” The Birds in Backyards website was used often trying to identify the latest visitor.
A nest was spotted. It turned out to be a pair Red Wattle birds. Having been woken up by these flying alarm clocks for many years, I don’t feel like home is quite right unless there are Red Wattle birds around, so I was very happy about this. Unfortunately, Ausgrid pruned off the branch that held their nest (in spring when they were breeding no less) & we feared we had lost them. It was with much joy that we saw they had rebuilt in a branch of another street tree, closer to our house. The branch is still at risk, but hopefully we will be able to convince Ausgrid to leave it be whenever they visit.
The Red Wattle bird pair have had three successful breeding seasons now. They must like gardeners because they fly low over our heads when we are outside & even when they see our car. We get greeted with a “Kuk Kuk!” most times we venture outside.
Little White eyes visit every day chattering at a million miles an hour when the right flowers are out. They sound like a party. For the last two years Rainbow lorikeets have visited the verge garden & their idea of party noise is much louder. This season they come every 3-4 hours. I imagine they circle the neighbourhood visiting known food sources returning after they have given the flowers time to replenish their nectar. It is so much nicer than listening to traffic.
Someone else’s tree planting has attracted an Eastern Koel. These birds migrate all the way from Papua New Guinea every summer. Many people find these birds irritating, but I like the sound of his plaintive call calling for a mate. I don’t find it too hard to go back to sleep after waking at 3am To “Kooel! Kooel!” The only time I had difficulty was when he sat in the street tree that was maybe 8-metres from our bedroom window. I did mutter a bit that night.
One of the lovely things about living in Marrickville is the nightly wave of flying foxes that travel overhead at dusk. I think they are beautiful to watch & especially like watching them from Turrella or from the Cooks River. It’s a peaceful thing to do on a warm evening.
A pair of flying foxes have started to spend time eating from our street – the street trees & the trees in private gardens. Their chattering sounds are quite lovely to hear in the background. Flying foxes are experiencing a food shortage at present resulting in the death of many of their pups, so it is excellent to know that our effort is helping provide food for them.
There are bee hives in the area, which is great for our garden. Bees are in trouble worldwide, so again, it is wonderful to know that we are doing our bit to help them survive just by making choices with what we plant.
We have a huge Salvia, which is totally inappropriate for our small garden, but we keep it because native Blue Banded bees come to feed from the flowers most days in the warmer months. There are other native bees that hover & feed in this plant too.
There are lots of other species of bird that visit now & some are seasonal. I can’t express how much better it is to live with a range of bird song & not just Indian mynas. As an aside, I often read that Indian mynas chase away the native birds. This has not been our experience. The Indian mynas are still here of course, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of native birds that come here & that have moved into trees in people’s gardens. The mynas no longer own this territory & they know it, so they quietly go about their own business.
If you want Indian mynas, lay a huge concrete slab driveway or concrete your back yard because they love concrete & bitumen.
If you don’t want Indian mynas, plant a variety of food-producing native plants & trees & before long, the Indian mynas will be overrun by the new kids on the block. You will be too busy noticing the native birds that you won’t see the Indian mynas.
In Part 2 I will write about ideas on improving biodiversity in small gardens & even balconies.