wings and things

Pool party

Late yesterday afternoon, I sat outside to watch, feed and water the birds. As usual, Gutsy9 joined me at the picnic table and stretched her neck out for me to stroke and when I stopped, she either bit my toes or gave me the cold shoulder.




G9 is a bit jealous of the new peachicks which is probably why she has suddenly become all lovey-dovey again (she went through that teenage aloof thing a while ago). As soon as she hears the back door open, and my voice, she rushes at me making the little chirpy noises she used to make when she was a baby.

For those who don’t know, I discovered G9 outside over a year ago, obviously abandoned by whoever her mother was, so I raised her myself. During her first day with me, I had to meet friends for lunch so I took her with me, hidden inside my shirt and, for the next few weeks, she spent most of her time either on my shoulder, or on the keyboard of this laptop, or in a canary cage with the door open. I took her to the nursing home to see Anthony, took her to my mother’s house for Christmas, took her to the vet when she got underneath my office chair and I accidentally injured her toe, then, eventually, took her outside to integrate with her kin.




To begin with, the other peas treated her like an alien because she was so humanized! But over the last year, she has actually become a bit of a leader, especially in the bread-stakes. I only have to open a packet of bread and she hears the rustle of plastic and zooms straight to the back door, sometimes crashing into the window, with all the others following, hoping for bread.

But now, with Queenie and the new peachicks, G9 seems to have become a little insecure, and very needy of me, almost as if she is nostalgic for our mother/baby months. It’s hilarious! She watches me watching them and pecks me quite violently sometimes.



Oh yes, the pool party. The following photos are of what must have been a committee meeting but it did kind of look like a pool party.





They all chatted for about an hour and the conversation seemed quite serious. I think it was about protecting the new peachicks but I’m not sure. G9 sat with me and watched rather jealously, so I snuck her a bit of bread from my pocket.


Bed-time magic: how a peahen puts her chicks to bed










The loveliness of dirt

The other evening, I was watching the ducklings and peachicks go to bed in their different ways and, because I keep forgetting to take a chair or stool to sit on next to the yards, I just sat down on the ground.

The clothes I had on were my ‘city’ clothes – I looked in my files for photos that would go with this post but couldn’t find any that were dirty enough!



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.


The Peacock Family Adventures 1

This is my first attempt at a children’s picture book story – very much a first draft, but lots of fun. It’s dedicated to M, J, T, M and K.

The Peacock family lived on a little farm called Paradise.

Daddy Peacock’s name was King because he had the most powerful beak in the world.


Mummy Peahen’s name was Queenie. King and Queenie loved each other very much.

The kiss

King and Queenie eventually had three peachicks: a little girl called True, and the twins, Kungfu and Mischief. When they were little, Queenie would organize tree-climbing competitions. She would fly to the top of the huge avocado tree and say, ‘ready, set, go!’ True always won because she was the biggest.


The twins, Kungfu and Mischief, tried their best but they could never beat True to the top of the tree.


Sometimes they all fell down to the ground but they never hurt themselves because Queenie showed them how to use their wings like parachutes. True already knew she had wings so, when Queenie was having her afternoon nap, True showed her little sister and brother how to fly.

When Kungfu learned to fly, he was so happy he flew straight into his dad’s feathers – BANG. But King didn’t mind at all because he had plenty of feathers and he loved to show them off.

Mischief was very good at tricks. She would sometimes pretend to fall out of the tree so that King would have to catch her. But King wasn’t fooled. He would play hide-and-seek with Mischief until she gave up and called ‘Daddy”. Then he would say BOO!


Kungfu was the first peachick to grow feathers and every day he practised doing what his dad did. It was very hard to begin with but one day, he did it!

But True, being such a truthful peahen, would say, “Kungfu, you look ridiculous!” Then they would have an argument and Mischief would laugh and laugh and laugh, but very quietly.


Mischief, being such a mischievous peahen, knew exactly how to laugh without looking like she was laughing. After all, she didn’t want to hurt Kungfu‘s feelings.

But Kungfu always knew when Mischief was laughing at him so he would wait until she was looking at her reflection in the pond and WHAMMO he would bite her big toes – both of them.

King and Queenie decided that they needed to talk to their children about their behaviour.


“Do you think Mischief is a bit too mischievous, Darling?” asked Queenie.

“No, Sweetie-pie. She’s just growing up. I’m more worried that she will fall into her reflection in the pond,” said King.

“Yes, I’ll talk to her about that. What about True – do you think she is a bit too truthful, Darling?” asked Queenie.

“Yes and no. She really needs to stop pushing Kungfu‘s buttons,” said King, wisely.

“How can we stop Kungfu from biting Mischief‘s toes?” asked Queenie.

King thought for a moment.

“I have a good idea, Sweetie-pie. Let’s see if True can ask the sky. She is really good at that.”


That night, as the Peacock Family settled down for the night, high up in the avocado tree, True waited until everyone was asleep, then she asked the sky.

And the big, red, pink, orange, yellow, beautiful sky answered her.


Then, all of a sudden, Kungfu turned over in his sleep and accidentally kicked True off her branch.

To be continued ….


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!


Arthur’s funeral

Ming and I went to Arthur’s funeral today and I guess, in all such occasions, there is a sense of disbelief that the person is gone. It felt surreal. I tried not to let my mind do the memory play thing – making poached eggs for breakfast for the workers when I was 17 and Arthur was middle-aged, listening to talk about the football and politics, watching him play around with Ming when he was a toddler, sitting on his veranda with Anthony before Anthony had to go to the nursing home, roast duck, turkey or chicken on special occasions like Christmas, Father’s day, Arthur’s birthday, organizing him going into a nursing home when the worker’s hut nearly collapsed, visiting him with Ming and Ants, kissing him on the cheek to say goodbye two weeks ago, not knowing it would be the last goodbye.

Arthur never married or had children and he was a bit of a loner, but he loved just being here, sitting on the veranda. He was way more supportive of my bird idea than either Ants or Ming when I first started getting chooks, geese, peacocks etc. and always gave me the thumbs up (until I got the emus and then he gave me the thumbs down and shook his head!) “Oh Jules,” he would say with a grin.

He was different, unusual and a bit reclusive but one of the things that has struck me over and over ever since Arthur died is that he is the only person I have ever met, or am likely to meet, who is totally without guile.

I wanted so much to show him the new peachicks and now it is too late.


This little peachick salutes you, Arthur, as we all do.


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.




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?)