Frogmouth

Is there a more haiku-worthy Australian bird than the tawny frogmouth? They look like bits of broken branch on trees, or stone gargoyles on a church, or maybe a very grizzly looking great uncle who has fallen asleep while sitting on the couch.

One of these amazingly grumpy-looking birds has recently made a nest, and has a baby frogmouth, in a tree near the dog park in Travancore just near the Moonee Ponds Creek.

Any time of the day you walk along Mooltan Street in Travancore you’ll see a little group of people, hovering quietly around the base of one tree in particular, hoping to catch a glimpse of the baby frogmouth.

Traditional haiku poets in Japan went moon-viewing or to see the cherry trees in bloom. Here we gather to look at tawny frogmouths.

When I was down in Travancore the other day there was a photographer with a telephoto lens. We got into a (quiet) conversation and he told me that he’s set up a website called “Travancore Tawnies”. So, go, check them out.

If you’ve lived in Melbourne for a while you’ve probably noticed how many different sorts of native birds there are around these days.

Up until about 8 or 10 years ago the only birds I remember seeing in the inner suburbs were blackbirds, Indian mynahs (mynas), sparrows, pigeons, ravens, and the occasional lost seagull.

But back then, when I was growing up, most streets had no street trees; parks were mostly dead grass and dust, with one or two scraggly trees if you were lucky; and planting native trees in gardens was only just starting to be trendy. Lots of people had pet cats that they let live outdoors, no bells on collars.

The increased number of native birds in the city that we’re seeing now is not just because there are better habitat trees (and less stray cats). Other factors push birds towards the city like drought, and climate change, and loss of natural habitat in bushfires.

I can remember when I’d only heard a currawong a few times in my life, and then only on hikes or bush walks, far away from town. Then, ten or twelve years ago, when I was a grad nurse at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, there was a currawong that used to sit on the top of one of the shorter (4-5 stories high) sections of the hospital giving its haunting, abbreviated, early evening call. Now you can hear currawong all through the inner northern and western suburbs of Melbourne.

Australian Magpies used to be the sound of the morning when we went on holidays to the country. Now I hear them almost every day. These days magpies are the sound of work-days in the city too.

Wattlebirds are everywhere. Noisy miners. Rainbow lorikeets. Crested pigeons. The occasional sulphur-crested cockatoo. I even saw blue wrens when walking up beside the Maribynong the other day.

     Tawny Frogmouth –
I will be here
Long after you are gone. 🌵

Read my other posts and haiku, here.

References:

Rare visitor excites Melbournians, yet it’s presence is a sad sign, Miki Perkins, The Age, 30 May 2020, https://www.theage.com.au/environment/climate-change/rare-visitor-excites-melburnians-yet-its-presence-is-a-sad-sign-20200530-p54xxp.html.

Travancore Tawnies, https://travancoretawnies.com.