8 Oct 2005, Comments (0)


Author: Helen

It’s Spring again.

You can see why Australia’s early settlers were freaked out sometimes. Every morning at six or so, when I take the dog for a run in the park next door, I come out to a cacophony of birds making noises which are the antithesis of twittering, chirping, or god forbid, singing.

There’s a couple of honeyeaters which make a sound like those rattles which British soccer fans carry and another one which has a harsh cry like someone who is trying to call for help, while being slowly strangled. Others sound like badly oiled machinery. And then there are the blackbirds.

Of course, these wouldn’t have been so much in evidence in the olden days – the settlers hadn’t been there long enough for the feral imports to take hold. Why in hell did someone import blackbirds, anyway? it’s not as if you can eat them or shoot them (which would have made them attractive to the nineteenth century citizen). The only explanation I can think of was to mitigate the above racket with some English birds who would make twittering noises more conducive to the Lake Poets idea of Nature. But these guys just go chuck chuck chuck or for variety, chuck dee chuck chuck chuck. According to Gummo Trotsky, they’re not expressing very romantic, Springtime sentiments either:

…listening to a blackbird, perched on the highest part of the house, proclaiming to the world that this was his TV antenna. In the distance another bird warbled back to let him know that he didn’t want the TV antenna, he had a perfectly good one of his own and if you come over here mate, I’ll give you a good kicking.

Not really Wordsworth, is it?

Sometimes I hear ‘Bong!’ which is not one of the locals, as you might think, but a little frog which likes to burrow under the earth and just sit there – what a life – and if I’m really lucky I’ll hear them in the creek, the poor, abused Stony Creek. We are killing off our frogs at an amazing rate all over the world, and I worry about them.

Pounding around the park after the delighted dog- who is a classic Australian mongrel type, black and tan with a permanently guilty look – I really know it’s spring because of two things. One is the smells. Once the Victorian landscape heats up over a certain amount, the smells change. the Eucalypts, Melaleucas and wattles start to give up their volatile oils and the exotic species in the surrounding suburban gardens do likewise. If I had some kind of disease which made me unable to feel heat, cold and wind, I’d know summer was coming because of the smells.

The other is the feral undies.

Every year it’s the same. I’ll be walking with the dog round the park in the half light and there they’ll be, a smallish pair of women’s undies lying in the park in the dewy grass. I can just imagine Michael Leunig doing a cartoon about it.*

The feral undies are real proof that the joy and fecundity of spring is stirring in the loins of our usually sedate citizens. Even more than cricketers emerging from hibernation in the parks, Boynton. Or… do you think Warney’s been this way lately?
*Update: Now I remember where I got that from… He awoke to find that his underpants were missing. He went searching and met the milkman, who told him that he had seen a pair of underpants moving like a ghost along the foggy street in the direction of the paddock Ö
Michael Leunig, Why dogs sniff each others Tails.

Comments (0)

  • R.H. says:

    Feral undies. Oh golly. Wild thing!

  • Chris says:

    Hi Helen

    Come on! A little leeway for the blackbirds. Its not their fault some corpulent Englishman (I’m almost certain it was a man) decided that the sweet calls of the blackbird in the morning and evening would liven up this otherwise drab land. And as for eating, what about Four n’ Twenty Blackbirds baked in a pie? And when did size prohibit the Europeans from consuming anything? I can remember a description, from Dicken’s I believe, of a blackbird pie with the birds heads neatly poking out of the pastry in a ring around the crust. And spare a thought for its scientific name, Turdus merula (Order: Passeriformes, Family: Muscicapidae, Genus: Turdus, Species: merula). What a moniker to be lumped with, again, with no say in the matter at all. And its either turdus or ‘the common blackbird’. How would you like to be named ‘the common helen’? Or the unfortunate links between blackbirds, marxism and birdwatching (at anu.edu.au/polsci/birds/marxbird.htm). Again, dragged into unsavoury and unwelcome associations.

    I myself have some sympathy for the blackbird. I know they spend their days digging out those precious vegetable seedlings barely established in the garden, dilligently turning over the mulch to dig down to a succulent grub or two, and that they steal Mary’s air plant to line their nests (but how soft must it be for the little ones?). But when they pearch themselves on the highest point around, just as the sun breaks through and strikes the housetops in the morning, and sing, I can forgive them everything.

  • Brownie says:

    I love the blackbird’s song.

  • Brownie says:

    ha! I think I figured it out dot com ow addresses poison the comment

    thanks to a magpie commentor below I got on by using his email above

  • Helen says:

    OK I’ll pay that one, a true blackbird aficionado might have brought some over. And you are right, the 4 & Twenty brand is an icon, so it is not all bad.

  • Crystal Ballroom says:

    looking for somebody who can give sleeping space on Wednesday and Thursday to a band from New Zealand D4 arriving to play a SOLD OUT show at the Forum with Swedish band The Hives and even though the tickets for the sold out show are $70 The Hives are not paying D4 very much at all.

    anybody feeling ANZACy?

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