wings and things

How Queenie puts her peachicks to bed

This evening I sat outside from around 5 – 7pm as Queenie began the ritual of taking her kids to bed up in the avocado tree. First, she wandered around with them following her, digging into the ground with her big feet to give the chicks insects, showing them how to drink from a shallow bowl I’d put near the avocado tree, finding the wheat always there for all of the birds. At first I was a bit alarmed to find the little family out of the pen as early as 5pm but I guess they are now a bit beyond the pen and like to wander around the yard and back paddock freely. King (obviously the dad) stayed with them for ages, protectively.

I have maintained a respectful distance but they all come close to me anyway; they trust me and seem to rather like the flash of the camera. The photos I have put here show their long, but enjoyable, journey to bed but this is the first time I have seen the finale. I was amazed to see how the two peachicks can actually fly quite high now from branch to branch, up and up, and until they reach their mother. Queenie clucks until they get to her.

Of course the two peachicks are still extremely vulnerable; they might be taken by crows, they might drown in the pond (now that they are out of the yards), but I am hopeful that wise Queenie will prevent these possible catastrophes and King is right by her side for much of the time.

In watching this beautiful bedtime ritual, I remembered how much the birds helped me cope with the misery of Anthony’s illness, the nursing home process, Ming’s spinal operation and so many other things. Now the birds are helping me to cope with a whole new set of miseries which I blogged about yesterday, then trashed because it was all too sad. In trashing the post, I guess I also trashed the comments and I apologize for this and am grateful for those comments. Now I think the best thing is to get back to these beautiful birds for awhile.


As usual Gutsy9 became really jealous and insisted that I took her photo too.

Tonight, I would love to be one of Queenie’s peachicks, up high in the avocado tree, under her gentle wings.

But I am a bit too big!


Ducklings on day 2 – and Gutsy falls in love

One of the four ducklings is bigger than the others and tends to be a bit remote (well it keeps getting onto the other side of whatever fence is in front of it). I’m assuming it is a male and that the others are females. I hope so because this is not just about heart-twinkling – I want some eggs!

What Mr bigduckling doesn’t seem to realize is that he is inside the yard and the (let’s assume they are) ‘girls’ are outside and free. He is actually in the yard where Queenie looks after her peachicks and he keeps stealing their food.

I have had a few scares already; at dusk last night I couldn’t find the ducklings and assumed the worst (crows, foxes drowning), but then this morning Ming (who didn’t even know I’d got the ducklings) said, sternly, “So I see you got four.” Delighted, I ignored his disapproving frown and raced out to see them. Later in the day Ming himself panicked a bit when he found them unable to get out of the pond. The pond is a long way from the yards for little ducklings so I am amazed they even got there. I have now filled it to the brim and put some branches in so they have ways to get out. Ming had picked them all out of the pond but said he won’t be doing it again – “The birds are your responsibility, Mum,” he said, with a breathtaking smile.


As I was heading back to the house, I was shocked to see Gutsy9 actually flirting with one of the peacocks. G9 is only 13 months old. I told her off after I took the photos, but she doesn’t take much notice of my advice these days.


I told G9 to pull her head in so she did. Then she bit my finger.


New life!

Yesterday afternoon, the four new ducklings settled into their pen, then got straight out again!



As I was trying to herd them back in, Gutsy9 followed, extremely curious, but also jealous as she kept biting the bottom of my jeans as if to say, “hey, what about me?”


The gang welcomed the ducklings with a chorus of gleeful honking, then quieter little sighing sounds. Predictably, Godfrey, the head gander, hissed at me threateningly. He has very strong paternal instincts!



But the happiest of the gang was Zaruma, our only remaining duck. His mate, Tapper (the one who used to actually scale the yard fence and get out), was killed by a fox last year, so he has been very lonely. His joy was amazing; he can’t quack for some reason but he was madly wagging his tail. He’s the one on the right with the red face.




The alpacas, Uluru and Okami, settled protectively on the other side of the fence.


Even Baby Turkey became interested in a pecking sort of way.


Woodroffe and Diamond exchanged raised eyebrows.


The ducklings were very curious about the peachicks.


But they were much more interested in their first swimming lesson.



Thank you, Brian

This morning Ming and I had an appointment with the prison chaplain, a beautiful man who is the Anglican priest who, coincidentally, helped enable Anthony’s admission into the nursing home two years ago, and a good friend of my mother’s.

We met in his home and he did a wonderful job of demystifying prison (just in case Ming has to go there), and allayed many of our fears and concerns about things like violence, drugs, rape (obviously my worst fear). He told us that if the worst scenario (prison) eventuated, when Ming is finally sentenced, he will be in no danger as long as he doesn’t get involved with various unsavoury activities (drugs, alcohol etc.) If a prison sentence happens, Ming would undoubtedly be put in the low security section, and given a job of some sort (kitchen or gardening etc.)

While the three of us talked about the improbable possibility of a prison sentence, the prison chaplain must have wondered a bit about the difference between Ming’s reaction to this information (curious) and mine (tears – just a few; I got hold of myself), but he took it all in his stride and spoke calmly and wisely to us.

It was a bit terrifying for me to hear about the prison situation, but now I am no longer so afraid, thanks to this wonderful, wonderful man/priest. Ming’s reaction to our meeting took hours to happen. He was calm when he handed in his resume for a job at a restaurant, calm having lunch with me, calm during a Centrelink appointment, calm during a visit to Anthony while I did some errands.

But then, on the way home, we had one of those horrible yelling-at-each-other arguments (been having a few lately) but, once home, we decided to talk it through and we did this for over an hour until we sorted it out:

Me: So what is your main problem with me at the moment?
Ming: Your geese poop on my shed doorstep and your peacocks poop on the car!
Me: So you are more upset about the birds than the possibility of prison?
Ming: No, yes, no!

We are both fine again now, having sorted a lot of things out and I am so thankful for the fact that he and I can be honest with each other and get over/through these wrangles but it is so exhausting!

I think I might need to visit that wonderful priest again – soon. His name is Brian and he is a legend!



Ever since the peachicks entered our lives, over a week ago, everybird has become very attentive at sundown, including this young couple (the peahen is the second one to finally return although without chicks).
Prince is also quite interested in how Queenie gets the chicks to bed (notice how he has lost all of his long tail feathers – all the peacocks have now).
Gutsy9 is a bit jealous and is always right next to me. If I crouch down, she offers her neck to be stroked.
While Queenie is stirring the chicks up, preparing them for their bedtime transition to the avocado tree, I put the geese, duck and turkey into their yard for the night. I have been trying to flood their pen in order to create a kind of pond for them and it is working.
Queenie and the peachicks take ages to get ready for bed.
So I take a photo of the fig tree while I wait.
The younger peahen flies into the yard to encourage Queenie.
King (undoubtedly the father) also flies into the yard and takes a protective stance.
And then the magic begins. The bigger chick actually leads the way!
Queenie has to help the smaller chick.
But it comes back down again to say goodnight to me.

This is around the same time (7.30-8pm) that Anthony often suffers ‘Sundowner syndrome’ so, once I leave the birds and go into the house, I always ring the nursing home to say goodnight to him. As he almost never answers the phone himself I usually have to get the nurse-in-charge to enable a conversation. Lately Ants has been okay, delusional but not upset. He often thinks he is either at boarding school, a hospital, a party, or a pub.

I tell him about the birds, and say goodnight, with a sense of tentative peace, which is probably how Queenie feels at the top of that avocado tree (can you spot her?)


The magic of nature!

Okay so here is how the Queenie, the peahen, and her two chicks go to bed every night.

Firstly, she looks around anxiously from the pen (in these photos both peachicks are underneath her).

Then she starts to sort of purr at the chicks, almost as if she is saying ‘follow me’. She begins this restless ritual at 6pm.

She stirs the chicks up a bit and they begin cheeping loudly. At 6.30pm she flies over the fence into the adjacent yard. This photo is just before she launches herself over and away from the chicks.

The two peachicks go into panic mode and try repeatedly to fly after her while, from the other side of the fence, Queenie purrs encouragement. Eventually, one by one, they fly/climb the fence until they reach an opening they can fit through and plop onto the ground on the other side. The smaller peachick takes at least fifteen minutes longer than the other one but once it’s through the fence, they all have a bit of a hug. By this time it is 7pm.

Queenie then flies out of the second pen straight into the avocado tree, then down to the ground to once again beckon the chicks through the second fence. This photo is an old one but it shows the two pens with the avocado tree on the left. It is a long journey for the chicks.

Eventually the chicks get through and arrive at the base of the avocado tree. These two photos don’t include the chicks themselves because they were quickly climbing the trunk to reach their mother. But as you can see it is a well-chosen tree and easier to climb than any of the others.


Queenie then flies up to perch in the avocado tree and purrs at the chicks to follow.

By this time the chicks are cheeping so loudly that it is almost deafening. They try repeatedly to fly/climb the tree only to plop down to the ground again and again. Queenie remains in the tree, purring encouragement, until finally they succeed. It is difficult to spot the chick in the first photo!

Finally, all is quiet. Here is Queenie curled up on her branch with the chicks underneath her wings. It’s 8pm.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that each morning they are all back in the safety of the yard again!


‘Cheep cheep’

A bit over a week ago I began to hear cheeping every time I went out in the evening to feed, water and put the gang (geese and duck and turkey) into their pens. None of the peafowl have ever been penned because our dogs don’t attack them and they fly up into the trees at night to sleep.

We have five peacocks (one white and the rest blue) – and seven peahens (two white, four green and Gutsy9), but during mating season all except one peahen and G9 disappeared. I assumed they were all nesting somewhere, or trying to, and I hoped for the best that none of them had been killed by wild foxes. But as the weeks went by I began to lose hope and the peacocks’ cries became more mournful.

I didn’t even let myself hope for chicks because, with the crows and foxes, I knew they had little chance of surviving, so I put the cheeping sound down to my imagination and/or the sound of wild bird chicks somewhere. I did a bit of a search every afternoon/evening, but nothing.

Then one evening, I saw them! Two chicks with Queenie (our oldest peahen) foraging under a shrub. I was delighted, but decided not to intervene because I could see they were a great little unit, so different from when I found G9 a year ago, obviously abandoned.

I didn’t hold much hope for them but for the next couple of evenings they were still around! Our dogs hadn’t detected them, they hadn’t drowned in the pond, and they were surviving without human intervention. Nevertheless, I knew these tiny creatures were in great danger from predators so a week ago Ming herded Queenie and the chicks into our smallest pen. I put a shallow water bowl in the yard and lots of wheat grain, which is what I feed all of the birds, and, when they were all still there the next morning I breathed a sigh of relief. The bottom of our three animal yards is meshed to prevent foxes getting in so I assumed Queenie and her kids were sleeping there.

And maybe they were! But then, the other evening, they weren’t; they were gone! I assumed the worst until they were back in that same pen the next morning. This has been going on now for a few days: Queenie and chicks in pen during daylight; Queenie and chicks gone from pen by 7pm.

How do they do this magic trick? I will tell you tomorrow. In the meantime:



Another little blog break

One of the unexpected bonuses of blogging for me has been the very real friendships formed, the mutual support, the shared humour, the shared grief. The lessons of life that I have learned through other people’s stories, and interactions, have taught me how to better do empathy and sympathy, and forced me to feel the difference.

Thanks so much for those of you who have commented, ‘liked’, and given me your friendships. For those of you who are bloggers, I am struggling at the moment to keep up with your writings, so please forgive me for that. For Facebook friends, same thing really!

Ming goes to court in three days. Apparently he and I simply appear, his charges will be read out, and the case will be adjourned by our lawyer until the end of February. So I really need to concentrate on all of this at least until the beginning of February, and blogging will go on the back burner for the time being.

Hard to believe now that when I began blogging it was all about the birds.



Itchy hands

For a couple of days now my hands have been painfully itchy (apparently there is a myth that this means I am coming into some unexpected money – ha!)

I noticed that on the sides of each of my fingers there are several miniature blisters so I thought I’d google the condition and here is what I found:

Yes, it would seem that I have pompholyx which of course I have never heard of before. It’s a form of eczema apparently, and the causes include everything from humidity to stress (both of which fit my situation). I’m a little alarmed to find that it may get worse but I’m also relieved that it may simply go away of its own accord. As diseases go, it certainly isn’t serious, but the itchiness is driving me slightly crazy because I want to scratch my hands to bits.

Changing the subject: I wrote a post about Ming yesterday but I trashed it soon after because it seemed a bit disloyal to a son who is, after all, only 10% evil haha! But I realize it will already have been seen by some so, just to reassure you, he and I are once again on the same page, and my new nickname for him is “90%”.

Another update: even though I briefly sighted a couple of the peahens the other day, I haven’t seen them again and five are still missing. Nesting season is well and truly over so I think I will have to assume that they have either flown away (to get away from the peacocks’ attention), or have been killed by foxes. I am hoping it’s the former but I will never know. My peacock-knowledgeable friend, Mike, came over to see us yesterday because Anthony was home for the day and I asked him if the males would be okay without their ‘wives’ and he reassured me that they would, but it is still sad to have lost the girls. I guess, you never know, they might come back. That’s the risk with free-range but I never wanted to pen them in.

I’m off soon to go into the nursing home for the afternoon. It is only one street away from the beach so much cooler than here on the farm. Pompholyx is not contagious so that’s okay; I just hope he doesn’t notice that I have taken my wedding and engagement rings off because there were a couple of blisters underneath them. My ring finger feels really naked as, except to clean the rings, I have never taken them off.

Here are some photos of the peahens (much more pleasant than a photo of my blistered hands):



Good news!

Yesterday, after wearing a head-to-hip spinal brace for three months, my niece was allowed to take it off for good. When I heard the news I couldn’t stop laughing and leaping crazily around the house! She was the last of the five children to be given the green light, so things are definitely looking up.

Here is a photo of her next to her brother last year. And yes that is Gutsy9 (as a baby) on her shoulder. Bravo, my lovely niece!




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