Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Butcherbirds

Well, our hydroponic experiment from last month sputtered to an end pretty quickly. We had problems with the pumping system after a few days and soon after that, the lettuce died. So much for our foray into futuristic home gardening.

After a few weeks of seeing the garden rig gathering dust and growing algae in a corner of our kitchen, I decided today to finally tear the sucker down. But since we might try growing herbs or something else again, I thought I would let the gravel pots sit outside on our patio and dry out before putting them into storage. To our surprise, a few large, black and white birds from the neighborhood came swooping in immediately, thinking the rocks were food. They seemed pretty bold, coming right up to our door and window, so I started taking some pictures of them up close. I even caught one eating a piece of gravel, to our dismay, on tape.

Turns out these are pied butcherbirds, which are native to Australia. I've seen them around the neighborhood quite a bit but didn't know their name until now. Apparently they are also known as the "most accomplished songbird in Australia", with one writer referring to them as the "magic flute". They do have a really unique and complex call; it's pretty rich and resonant. I'll try to get it on tape soon. Right now I'm just a little concerned about the "swooping" that is mentioned on this website, which also says you should "maintain eye contact" with the birds in order to prevent them from swooping you. What does that even mean? I hope it's not like that Hitchcock movie. The fact they are called "butcherbirds" is not very reassuring.