wings and things


It has been fascinating to watch Queenie and the peachicks out and about. They roam freely now everywhere and are quite used to my presence. Sometimes they forage on the lawn just outside my office door where I can watch them and talk to them through the fly screen. It’s almost as if they have come over to say hello.




I still haven’t found a mate for Baby Turkey, but I promised him I would by next week and he perked up a little bit.


Godfrey and Zaruma, despite being male, continue to guard the ducklings. They are out and about for much of the day now too, always with the two male mothers guarding them – Godfrey with hisses and Zaruma with a little smile on his funny face.



This morning my mother came over and we cried together and it was like a gift of rain on a rose bush thought dead, but now budding again; it was like a single dewdrop until you see there are hundreds of them; it was like a hidden stream, full of pebbles and tadpoles and lilies and, well (I can’t help myself here!) ducklings.

Motherhood is a powerful thing.


A disco duckling, a haughty gander, and a very depressed turkey

The little duckling in the centre of this photo is distinct from the other two because s/he is smaller and paler. But, after what I witnessed the other evening, I have decided to call this duckling Michael Jackson.


I had put the gang, including ducklings, into their yard for the night, then turned the hose on the avocado tree which is right behind Ming’s shed where he now lives. As soon as I turned the hose on, Michael Jackson squeezed through the fence and began swimming in the growing puddle. The other two ducklings (the ‘Twins’ because they are identical) followed Michael Jackson to the puddle, so I had to let Godfrey out again in order to herd them back in. He gave me his usual ‘look’ – a combination of ferocity and disdain.


At that very moment, Ming began to play his guitar very loudly and the birds and I got a bit of a fright. Well, little Michael Jackson went crazy and I nearly ran to Ming’s shed to tell him to stop the noise until I realized that the duckling was actually dancing! It ran around in circles, twirled around in the puddle of water, threw itself at the twins and frolicked madly. When Ming stopped playing his guitar for a few moments, the duckling just stood still, as if waiting, then, when Ming resumed, the whole happy dance thing happened again. It’s one of the funniest things I have ever seen and I wish I had it on video.

Godfrey watched fondly, as I did, then I turned the hose off and he herded Michael Jackson and the twins back into the yard.


The only lonely one now is Baby Turkey because we lost Bubble, his main companion months ago. Baby Turkey now prefers to be in his own yard, away from the happiness of the geese and ducks. He sleeps a lot but when he gets up he still looks so sad. I have decided to try and find him a mate, a female turkey, so that he will be happy again and am hoping that the place where I got the ducklings will have one to spare. They have turkey chicks so maybe they will sell me one of the mothers.


Baby Turkey’s loneliness is a constant reminder of Anthony’s. I have not been allowed into the nursing home for a few days because I have a chest infection, so Ming and my mother have been in several times and I am relying on phone chats with Ants. He doesn’t understand that I am sick; he just seems to think I am neglecting him and I got a phone-call the other morning from one of the nurses, to say he didn’t want to get out of bed. I ended up speaking to him but he was quite incoherent. This is the first time I have known him to be like this in the morning because this usually happens in the evening.

I don’t know why the quote ‘This is how it is’ resonates so powerfully for me; after all, it is a statement of the obvious. I like it though because it beckons some sort of response, it curls around a sort of question, and it invites a sort of acceptance.

Sort of!

Godfrey and I have agreed to disagree, and I still love him.


Duckling update – some sad and happy news


The four ducklings are, unfortunately, now three because the biggest little one kept adventuring off by himself, including getting out of the pen when our dogs were out. (To explain, we let the dogs, Jack and Blaze, out every morning for their run, then put them back in their yard at 1pm which is when we let the geese, duck, ducklings and turkey out. In the evening, once the birds are in their pens and Queenie and chicks in the tree, we let the dogs out again.)

Two days ago we found the little duckling’s corpse on the driveway. He had obviously gotten out of the pen when the dogs were out. Or it may have been a fox or crow. It would have been very quick but that’s not much comfort. He was a nonconformist from the start and didn’t hang with the gang very well. Here he is a few days ago, always on the other side of the fence or turning in the opposite direction to the others. He was a wanderer.


One of the hardest things about free-ranging birds of any sort is that casualties are inevitable. Ever since we began to accumulate various birds, I have learned this the hard way and I guess that’s why I got four ducklings instead of two. And I didn’t name them for the same reason although, if this little one had survived, I would have called him ‘Peppy”.

Since Peppy’s demise, Godfrey (head gander) and Zaruma (head drake) and all of the other geese have been much more vigilant in protecting and surrounding the remaining three ducklings. Godfrey is particularly attentive – he is like a male mother! He has now bitten me twice when I have come too close. Zaruma, on the other hand, just follows the ducklings constantly, wagging his tail madly. I haven’t seen him so happy since we lost his mate, Tapper. The rest of the ‘gang’ are also heavily involved in the care of the ducklings and hate losing sight of them for even a second. Godfrey and Zaruma are pictured above leading the ducklings (out of the frame, but just behind them) to the yard.

Here is a picture of Woodroffe, Seli and Pearl beckoning the ducklings out from under a shed.


Once the ducklings are a bit bigger – and they are growing fast – they will no longer be able to squeeze through the fence of the yard they go to bed in. In the meantime Ming and I will have to be much more watchful when it comes to the dogs.

Nature can be beautiful but it can also be cruel.


The ducklings are thriving!

Here they are off to bed.



Can anyone see the resemblance here, or is it just me?

This is Godfrey:


This is Ming:

Ming glaring

(Photos courtesy of Jane Terren).


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?)


‘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:



Mother goose


After weeks of feeding Ola special grain and replenishing her water, and looking forward to her two goslings hatching, I went out this afternoon to find that she had abandoned the nest and there was only one egg there. So I brought the warm egg into the house and put it in my shirt pocket and googled goose hatching whilst stroking the egg and saying little mothery things to the gosling inside it. I found enough information to warrant going outside again and slightly cracking the egg so it could get out.

Well, guess what? There was no gosling; it was just an unfertilized and beautiful egg with a massive yoke – not a chick. And to think I was stroking this stupid egg for two hours when I could have used it to bake a cake! Argh!

Ola is frolicking without those eggs and I am feeling like a goose!