A Son’s Call – a dedication to Kaz
My feathered son’s call
Above them all
Each day, and all day
Reminding me he’ll stay
And no matter what brings
My heart is joyed when he sings
A Son’s Call – a dedication to Kaz
My feathered son’s call
Above them all
Each day, and all day
Reminding me he’ll stay
And no matter what brings
My heart is joyed when he sings
When the Trees Sing a Beautiful Song
It was totally silent. Then, one by one the trees began singing. The birds were up there amongst the pale gum leaves. To me, it sounded like they all sang together, both birds and trees. Up there, where they live, it takes a while to pick out the rainbow and scale-breasted lorikeets. Each of them have a song and while it was too foggy to see them, I could hear them.
Below where the singing came from, the fog laid low and close on the gum branches, trunks and where their roots met land. The fog was like a cool cotton blanket holding warmth around the house surroundings, and yet, sunrise threatened to steal the fog away. It was Thursday morning last week, and just after 6:00am. I had started cooking porridge, the first two cups for the year and from the kitchen window, the two leafless frangipani trees looked like someone had sketched their trunks with a white chalk on the fog. Everything else looked less striking. I already put Boz our scale-breasted pet lorikeet outside to play. He was on top of his cage and singing too.
I stirred the silver pot and waited, enjoying the aroma and warmth escaping in pale dancing lines that matched the fog outside. I enjoyed porridge, its wholesomeness and how it maintained my energy all day. Boz’s happy song echoed across the veranda and into the house. His tunes met with the outside gum tree songs. Boz was only three metres away; I watched him from the kitchen stove, through a fly wire window. Admiring his developed tail and wing feathers I noticed how they had grown longer and stronger since he came to live with us on January 26 this year.
The bird was almost ready to leave home. Lately, he has been flying away from his cage to the ground obviously showing great confidence when landing eight metres away. Sometimes I take him out to the trees where the big birds are so he could get used to it.
I whistled and talked to him while I cooked. The bird’s happy mood made the early rise worthwhile. And a chilly foggy day, especially called for porridge, I thought as I anticipated my work day ahead. I was also curious to see how Boz would like porridge. The bird had already eaten most food; fruit, nuts and vegetables the family enjoyed. He was very happy, sitting on his cage and singing. Then he walked back and forth over the sticks and bells I built – to come closer to the kitchen window and call to me.
I added honey and a little yogurt to the porridge, wishing I had some nuts to add. I scooped a table-spoon into Boz’s plate – a recycled lid from the organic honey bottle. Boz took to the porridge and honey like he had always had it and cheerfully chirped between beak-full. Sun rays stabbed at the veranda where we were; throwing rays against the glass door with blaring reflections. I held the food in my hand as I explained to Boz I had to be away for the day – at work. Boz had a lot to say, but I was not sure if he was complaining about my imminent departure and absence, or just that he enjoyed the porridge and didn’t want me to stop feeding him. I waited till he had eaten enough. I left the remainder in the cage and left the cage door opened because my son Nathan was awake and he would play with Boz. My younger son had left for work at 6am and my mother was asleep. We try to keep a close watch so Boz is guarded at all times against wild attacks. He slept inside the lounge at night. Outside, large birds teased him and while we had not seen a snake in a while, it was important to be cautious about where he played.
After I collected my things, I tickled Boz and gave him his usual head and belly scratches and he wanted to play more, so he pretended to bite me gently again, and again and I tried to leave for work. I put some warm water for his bath and drink. He would have between ten and twelve baths; he just loved playing in the water. Unlike other birds we raised that only bathed once a day, Boz used water bowls as a play pen. He could have easily been a duckling.
Boz’ general manners and personality were very unusual for a bird; cuddly, playful, very happy at all times, sings a song before breakfast and a few before bed and if he hears a family argument in the lounge where he sleeps, he calls out a warning to stop the argument. Kaz our last pet bird and he was moody and often would bite during play. Boz pooped in one place, as if he had made that place his permanent toilet. Kaz tended to poop where he played, which was everywhere. Boz was involved in all family activities; sometimes ate dinner with us and pretended to drink coffee out of my cup if I let him. As I walked out the door, he called out a few times and I laughed as I said goodbye.
At 4:30pm, I finished my office work and caught the bus home – arriving just after 5:45pm. It was very quiet and dark outside and our house, and the porch light was off. I could not see the inside light through the windows. I opened the front door and the kitchen light was on and both my mother and son Nathan were staring at me. No words were spoken.
Afraid, I asked: “What happened?”
“Where were you?”, Nathan asked.
“At work,” I said.
“Why didn’t you answer your phone?”, he said.
“I’m sorry son, I was busy at work and the phone died, I could not find a power point at my new desk, so I didn’t bother to re-charge.”
“Sit down,” my mother said.
“Did something bad happen? Is it at home (in PNG)?”, I said.
“No” my mother said, “but something happened.”
I walked to the dining room chair, keeping my eyes on my son and mother who were both still standing in the kitchen. My younger son was not home.
“We needed the snake catcher’s number,” my son said in a strained voice.
“Oh sorry son, here, I will charge my phone,” I said, and walked to the power point and plugged in my phone.
“Is the snake gone… now?”, I asked slowly.
“No, it’s up there”, my mother said pointing to the ceiling on the veranda, and above where I usually have breakfast with Boz.
I walked forward and pushed the glass door opened.
“Keep the door shut,” my mother commanded. I was surprised by her tone. My mother was always terrified of snakes.
I looked at the snake’s head and neck that protruded from a gap in the ceiling where the fibro joints had come apart. The snake was in a fixed position. My movement did not disturb it in any way. Its eyes were on the architect I built for Boz to play. The pair of white Christmas bells suddenly looked so little and vulnerable under the snake’s fixed gaze. Boz loved to hang upside down and bash the bells with his claws and screech in delight. A new and golden bell I added to Boz’s bell collection was there too. Everything looked the same, but there was an eeriness about it. Boz’s cage was empty so I felt a slight relief that my son had moved the bird to safety.
Taking my eyes away from the cage and the snake’s head, I asked my son: “Where did you put Boz?”
“We can’t find him,” Nathan said after he hesitated. Suddenly, I needed to find the bird.
“Give me the torch, I will go outside, he will be hiding,” I said firmly and quickly started looking for the torch.
Both my son and my mother spoke at the same time. I couldn’t really hear them, but they were saying something to the effect that the snake had been there since this morning and Boz was missing after Nathan returned from town, about 11am or so.
Outside the house, I flashed the torch and called Boz for two hours, walking around all his favourite playing spots. He was always quick to respond, but I only heard silence. My thoughts were mixed up and other wild animal noises from the trees and the surroundings sounded like Boz, so I kept calling. Through a crack in the old timber floor, light caught a bundle of fresh green round shapes amongst the palm seedling under the house. I stuck both hands into the darkness to grab the bundle, but they were no feathers – only a wet cluster of clovers.
I felt sure, Boz was there… somewhere. I could smell him and hear his little whimpering sounds he did each night before bed. I knew he would be cold. I couldn’t hear my mother nor my son anymore as I walked aimlessly in the dark.
After a while, I came back into the house, and my son had called a snake catcher. He told me the catcher would be arriving soon. Mark our usual snake catcher was not available. I took another look at the snake and convinced myself that its head was too small to do any damage. I told myself Boz’ body, as large as two adult human fingers stuck together, could NOT fit this snake’s jaws. I told my mother between tears, the snake was not fully grown yet. My mother said she wanted to open the snake to check and my son said “no”.
“It is only a young snake, but maybe he is curious, may be he is waiting, because Boz is hiding, and he has not caught Bos yet”, I said to my mother between tears. My mother looked out the kitchen window. My son went back to his room. I stayed at the dining table and watched the snake through the glass door. Then, I felt sick and walked slowly to my room.
Outside my window, it was the full moon. The garden started to form shape from the darkness. There was no bird cry nor songs. I heard a woman yell out about a snake and I came out of my room and called Nathan. The woman snake catcher came up to the veranda and looked at the snake. The reptile, a carpet snake was still frozen in the same position.
The woman approached the snake from the front, stepping onto the old wooden chair we used to sit Boz’s cage on in the evenings. She held a cloth and reached for the snake and it turned and curled back into the roof and then tried to get away. My mother told me to close the glass door. I was annoyed at the lack of skill this woman had and thought; why didn’t she use a snake catching stick (with the hook) and approach the snake from the back?
I closed the door and the snake catcher ripped the ceiling down, bringing rubbish and half an adult snake body to the floor. I went out again.
“You have termites,” the snake catcher announced in a not so confident voice, ignoring the fact she had just broken two ceiling fibros.
“Yes, the timber rafters, it has been treated – years ago,” I said, disinterested.
The woman began to chat away about what she did and what else she knew. She lectured on what to do and what not to do for wild birds. She held the snake by the tail as the snake tried to get away. Eventually, she pulled the snake down, bringing the second fibro down to the timber floor with the snake.
“That”, she said ignoring the damage she caused and pointing to the middle thickness of the snake, “is your bird.” She seemed impressed with her own efforts.
My son and I stared in horror at the snake’s middle. There was a small swelling, the size of a child’s fist sitting in the middle of the thick 1.5 metre-long adult python.
I swallowed and stepped back, hearing the woman saying as I turned my back to her, “don’t worry, the bird would have not felt anything. All up, it would have taken 15 seconds.”
I closed the door and let my son pay and finish the job with the snake catcher. I did not want to see her nor the snake again.
I sat at the dining table and closed my eyes. I thought about breakfast that morning and wondered if I could have avoided this. I wondered if the snake was already there, waiting in the veranda ceiling. I felt like screaming, but I could only cry.
The six months of happiness, songs, conversations, playtime and sheer delight of watching Boz has his ten or twelve baths each day – all vanished into that thick, intricate slithering body? I could not believe it.
Today as I sit and stare into the trees, I hear Boz singing in the gum trees. Sometimes, in the mornings, he is singing outside my bedroom like Kaz does. I think of how this tiny bird was a true bundle of joy and how he touched many people.
My son said; “Mum, Kaz was a bird. Boz was not a bird.” That makes sense to me. This little bird was more like a human trapped in feathers. Everyone in the family cannot help but think of Boz when we hear the birds sing in the trees. Sometimes, when I close my eyes and sit still, I can hear the gum trees sing his beautiful song.
Kaz the rainbow lorikeet checks the coastline before he breaks into the bird-cage to steal food and hang out.
Kaz plays a thief, checking all around him before he checks into the cage to eat Boz’s food. This pet lorikeet grew up in this cage and while our house is still his home, he lives in the palm trees in the wild. He knows he is welcome anytime at the Bellbowrie house. The rainbow lorikeet gets his own food, but he prefers to bully his younger rivalry Boz who is waiting to grow flying feathers while living in Kaz’s old cage. The funny thing is, Boz, the scale-breasted baby lorikeet is not afraid of Kaz at all. Sometimes, he would climb out and let’s Kaz play in the cage.
I went to watch my son play rugby with my mother this morning and this pair of young rainbow lorikeets got my attention. The game had not started yet, but I could hear them quietly chatting in the trees while honey-hunting. The pair was after the honey more than 20 feet high in the hollow of this large gum tree at University of Queensland rugby field, Brisbane.
Kaz, our pet lorikeet is a father, and he has been for about a month. I only just found out a week ago. I guess I am a grandmother again, having already had several ducklings being born to ducks my sons and I have raised in Bellbowrie, Queensland.
Weeks before the baby was born, Kaz the lorikeet came for chats in the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) while I was hanging the washing. He normally visited us on the verandah where he grew up, at the front of the house. I thought at the clothesline was an odd place for him to be. A three metre drop just under where he sat was a typical place for snakes, and even the snake catcher reminded me a few times. “Dry leaves under shady dry quiet place with both sunny and dark nooks – a snake haven” he said with a grin. I suppose one day, I would cut everything down, but I didn’t have the heart to damage the place. Both the pythons and brown snakes were removed by snake catchers from this spot and taken to the park. Currently, a baby green tree snake lives there – he is only 50cm long and suns itself on the back verandah often.
Near the umbrella tree where rainbow lorikeets gathered, Kaz would fly low onto the mango tree branches and tell me long-winded tales while I hung the washing or tended to my garden. I wished I understood him. The changes in the pitch and his excitement showed there was some important things happening in his life, but all I could do was respond in whistles, PNG pidgin and make my own sounds so he knew I was listening. He always responded cheerfully. Often he would hop onto the clothesline for a few minutes before he flew away.
One day, two weeks ago I heard a baby bird cry and a soothing motherly response just above the clothes line. I heard these cries start a month ago. It was louder and closer. It sounded like a baby parrot in the umbrella tree, but I could not see it. The giant leaves hid the birds. I also did not know what type of parrot it was, but I suspected a rainbow lorikeet because these birds loved the spiky flower of the umbrella tree which turns into fruit.
A week went by and I noticed my feathered son Kaz coming out of the same tree. He usually slept in the palm and the gum trees in front of the house. At the house, he came alone and stayed longer than five minutes which was his usual visiting time. He also chased baby parrot Boz out of its cage and ate the crumbs. Katz often stayed in the cage for a while longer. He was unaccompanied. His female partner was nowhere to be seen. Since he had left home, Kaz always flew with her. I wondered if she ditched him which wouldn’t have surprised me because Kaz could get rowdy and demanding at times. Last week, he flew down to me when I arrived home and flew straight back into the umbrella tree and made so much noise. He called loudly and whistled. I followed him and could hear the baby bird as well.
Under the clothesline I listened. I saw Kaz on the branch, his partner and a baby bird. I was so surprised, but my thoughts went back to how little he was and how he just fitted in my hand when he first came to us. Kaz could not stop talking and shouting. I stared at him realising I had become a grandmother. That was what all the clothesline storytelling was about a week ago. At that moment, my excitement and sense of pride felt like I could easily fly up to the umbrella tree. I could not tell anyone about Kaz’s news as I was alone. I felt strangely moved and wanted to hug Kaz and tell him I was proud. But he is the wild thing he is supposed to be, and I just hope he can see how happy I am for him.
Over the week, I watched Kaz’s family and how attentive the parents were; keeping their little one safely in the large leaves of the umbrella tree. They protected the baby from crows, kookaburra and other large birds. Kaz visited the house daily to bring ‘take-aways’ of honey, bread, fruit and seeds back to the nest.
Today, almost a month after I heard that baby bird, a rare moment presented itself when the whole family flew to another umbrella tree 20 metres away. It happened while I was walking in the back. I quickly ran back into the house to fetch my camera. The lighting was terrible and the shots were fleeting, but I am happy to share some rare images of my feathered family. Life can give you joy in the most interesting ways.
Newest addition to the birds in our care, Bos aka Chief, takes a few minutes in a real tree for a snack. He usually lives in a cage in our lounge. Bos was also learning to climb and eat the bark and leaves from this tender Jacaranda tree. It would be a few more months before he grows those wings to fly away. He was found at the back of our house, searching for its mother three weeks ago. He turned out to be the most well-behave bird we have ever had. And so, he rules the house-hold. His every demand is our command.
We think it is a male bird because he has more ‘scales’ or the yellow speckles on his breast, but generally, scale-breasted lorikeets, males or females, look almost the same. Since his pictures had the perfect colour for St Patrick’s Day, I wanted to post them today. There is some Irish in every one of us. For the Irish that is in me, I celebrated my ancestry with family, close friends and a Guinness or two today.
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
Kaz the rainbow lorikeet visited last week. It may be something to do with a new scale-breasted lorikeet that has moved in a week ago. Initially Kaz and friend came to check out the new bird and then returned almost every day. Each time, Kaz’s conversations are getting longer.
Some of you know Kaz, who was abandoned and we raised him. He has returned to the wild and found the partner (pictured) and has lived away for two years, but often comes for a family visit. It was nice to see Kaz and listen to his long conversations in between his treat of honey and bread. How I wish I could understand his stories because often he gets excited while talking and dances around in a circle and flaps his wings.
A few days ago, the temperature in Brisbane was a blistering 44 degrees. Our average is about 27 degrees but summer averages are about 35.
Seeing my sons had gone down south to see their father, and boyfriend gone to Papua New Guinea, I was on my own with our pet lorikeets, Kaz and Nisha and in the backyard were our six chickens and a rooster.
We have a tin roof so imagine how hot the house was. Fortunately the house is two stories and brick in lower level kept the bottom half of the house cool. I moved quickly downstairs with the lorikeets. Not one to watch TV and being in the middle of the morning, I switched the TV on to see what was happening around Brisbane and Queensland with the very high temperature. I was also concerned about bushfire.
Within hours that morning, the heat was cruel. The ever so proud looking greenery and tropical plants and flowers in our surroundings slowly weakened and started browning and shrivelling right before my eyes. I made sure the chickens had a lot of water and the lorikeets and I settled into the cool comfort of downstairs and before I knew it, I felt drowsy and then had fallen asleep. The heat had taken its toll.
It must have been at least an hour before I heard loud shrieking and flapping of wings and woke up to the two piercing bird cries. I had thought the two lorikeets were fighting initially. Then I left the couch and moved to the window and there was the head of a metre long green tree snake trying to squeeze through the closed door. It must have been desperate to get off the burning concrete floor it was on. Its long green back and yellow belly slithered very quickly as it glided over the glass door and falling off at all attempt. I felt sad but afraid at the same time. They were harmless, but what about the birds? There was a small gap which only the snake’s head could fit. It tried a few times to enter. I guess in this heat, all living things feel the temperature.
Quickly and out of my sleep, I jumped up and down and made a lot of banging noise against the glass door, my turn as by this time, the lorikeets were quiet and starring at me. The snake turned and quickly slithered away. I praised the two birds and returned to the couch and drifted off again. Half an hour later, the same thing happened. The snake had come back. This time, I closed the gap with tape and went outside and with a stick, chased the snake into the bush. I was running as the ground and grass was so hot, it burnt my feet. The interesting thing about the situation was, while I was outside; I spotted another scale-breasted male lorikeet bopping up and down in our swimming pool, almost on its last breath.
I ran across the yard to the pool and gave the drowning bird a stick to climb on. Not far from him were six dead ducklings floating in a small group in the pool. I felt sad. By the look on the lorikeet’s face, the wild bird seemed so relieved and did not make a single sound. I took him with me downstairs and fed him some food and water. Within minutes, the new bird met and became acquainted with Kaz and Nisha (our two lorikeets) and we stayed in the cool room for nearly three hours. The three lorikeets shared the food and water. With its beak, Kaz tried to comb and groom the new lorikeet’s feathers but he did not like that. Nisha being the scale breasted lorikeet and still a baby was excited and became very chirpy with the ‘visitor’. By the end of the day, the ‘visitor’ started getting restless so I opened the taped door and the “visitor” flew away. I re-taped the door and went outside to inspect the sun’s damage and bury the ducklings.
Pictured above Kaz and Nisha and later with the “Visitor”. A similar Green Tree snake tried to get into my art gallery last year and when I disturbed it, it tried to hide in the bricks. As in the Google Image photo, they are very common in our area, Bellbowrie, Western Suburbs and Queensland.