The wild duck we saved twice, once from the drought (in December last year) and the second time from the python has hatched seven ducklings today in our backyard at Bellbowrie, Queensland. The python had taken one of the two ducks we saved (see story here) last February and the rest of its siblings died from the drought and the cold.
Today, my two sons already saved the seven ducklings from being eaten. As I write this story, I can hear the ducklings quacking in high baby pitches and I am torn between separating them for a safer enclosure or leaving them out in the bush with their mother and father. I have made a warm bed and tried to make their hiding place as safe as it can be but the babies could be eaten before day break. As babies do, they are making too much noise and soon, others will know their hiding place – the swimming pool skimmer box.
One of the blessings of our home is we live amongst the Queensland wildlife. Three months ago I counted three Squatter pigeons in the low branches of the Brazilian Cherry, a hardy evergreen fruit tree outside our house in Bellbowrie. We have several rows of the trees to give shade and provide privacy. The pigeons were a new addition to the varied birdlife on our property. Two of these birds were small parcels of light brown, white and grey feathers. The third bird had black, white and grey feathers. They had dainty little, pale, pink feet which seemed odd for their size. I thought these three may have been a family. I was not sure. The birds were extremely shy, and they took their walks in my garden when they thought no-one was home. I watched them from the large windows of our old semi-modern Queenslander. Most of their time was spent in the thick growth of the Brazilian Cherry trees, in the back part of our property. Occasionally, when returning home from work or the shop, the pigeons were at the front of the property. They would try to run as fast as their little feet carried them, across the driveway, before they lifted into the Wattle trees on the driveway. I preferred to stop metres away to let them cross the driveway gently on foot, but sometimes if I did not see them first, and disturbed them, they would run for a few metres and fly into the low branches. Their feet never seemed to be much use.
Three weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening about 6:45pm, I saw a blue station wagon stopped in the middle of the road with its high beam on. The car was on our street, near my gate, and a middle-aged caucasian woman waved at me. I thought she had car-trouble and I slowed. As I approached, I also noticed ‘him’ crossing the road casually. Using its beautifully patterned full body length in a sleepy manner, the young male python slowly took up a third of the width of the road as its slithering trunk headed towards the nearby catchment.
“Hi!” the woman in the blue car called out and waved.
“Hi”, I said.
“I am letting him pass; he is one of the good guys”, the woman said, smiling. I nodded.
I knew the snake was crossing into the catchment to get to the main river. This pocket of land was full of wild life and un-farmed land. We let a two-metre Eastern Brown off into these woods and it had disappeared in seconds. The place was part of the Brisbane City Council’s declared gateway for wildlife. Sometimes it felt like having a small wild-life sanctuary in our front yard.
The woman in the blue car and I both waited in our cars, engines running, while we let the snake cross. When the snake had passed, I drove to my night class, turning up 15 minutes late. I made a joke about stopping at the ‘Python Crossing”.
After my class, I returned home and warned my family, we had another specie addition to the wild life. I wanted everyone to be extra careful with our chickens. We all had been through and scarred from The Duck War. Every night since the python crossed, the chickens were counted and locked in their pen safely.
This morning I noticed, two chicken eggs had gone missing from the nest I discovered the last week. Click Here. The slithering one that crossed the road three weeks ago, became my Number One suspect. But I did not want to alarm anyone in my family. I made a mental note to do some investigative work later.
After my day in the office, five hours ago, I returned home and parked the car. I walked around my gardens as I usually do after work. Everything looked good. Rain from the storm that wrecked Brisbane City homes a few days ago, had put some life back into my dying garden beds. The flowers and vegetables thrived. The poinciana tree was majestic with her red crown of flowers. All my frangipani trees were blooming in various shades of colour and the lawn started to green again. I crossed our front yard into a small section of the property, under the Brazilian Cherry trees where the pigeons lived. I had a few orchids and ferns in the tree branches and I was slowly creating a sitting place inside the treed spot by planting. I watered the rock orchid. My eyes caught two small, short, beautiful, black and white feathers lying in awkward positions. The feathers stood out amongst the dead ground cover. I took the next step and stopped. More feathers. Alarmed, I looked down and checked every inch of leaves and dead branches around my feet. My eyes went back to the pile of feathers, all shapes and sizes, scattered, yet familiar. In seconds, I recognised them. My heart sank. Most of the delicate light grey down feathers were caught in the small tree branches where moss, and the pale green lichen called Usnea grew. Some grey feathers hung off my golden-yellow orchid stems at the low branches. I felt sick and very teary at the same time. The bird must have put up a good fight to throw its feathers this far.
Tomorrow I hope, I will see two pigeons. The young python won’t be crossing to the river tonight. It knows, there is more food.