Not for the faint of heart, apparently

On Monday night I gave a reading from Madigan Mine at The Wheeler Centre, as part of their “Debut Mondays” series. It’s the first time I’d read that particular section in public, and it’s one of the nastier scenes in the book. There is a knife involved, and quite a bit of blood, and someone getting sliced up (although not fatally). As I was nearing the end of the ten minute reading, I became aware of a commotion in the audience and looked up to see a young man slumping over sideways in his seat. Turns out he’d fainted!

Needless to say, I didn’t finish the reading. The young man came around after a couple of minutes and was perfectly fine, if a little embarrassed. During the impromptus intermission, during which some very decent wine was served, three women crowded over to me to ask how the piece ended. “We have to know what happens!” Later, I chatted with a man who confided that he usually didn’t read that kind of thing, but that he found himself completely engrossed by my reading. So, I guess it all went well. You know, apart from making people pass out.

Me and Chuck Palahniuk, who knew?

In other news, Mother and Father Blackbird have both been working very hard the last couple of days, flying to and fro with food for the new babies. I can’t see them from my vantage, but I’m thinking of setting up at a ladder at a respectable distance just to have a squizz. I’ll wait a couple more days until the babies are older and I am perhaps at less risk from being divebombed from a justifiably irate Father Blackbird. Here are a couple of photos of the industrious pair. I do believe that Father Blackbird is giving me the evil eye!

Mother Blackbird

Mother Blackbird

Father Blackbird

Father Blackbird


Of Blackbirds and Currawongs


Evil Currawong

The thing is, I should love Currawongs. I should be on their side. They’re big black birds, ever so distantly related to ravens — an ever so distant relation which definitely shows in their general mien — with bright yellow eyes and a penchant for falling with clumsy grace through the branches of trees. They are also native to Australia, and a protected species at that. I am a Friend of the Crows. I should lurve Currawongs.

But if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll remember that a pair of Blackbirds have taken up residence above one of our courtyard doors. Right opposite my office where I sit for much of the day. I watched Mother Blackbird and Father Blackbird build their nest from scratch, with twigs and mud and bits of leaf and feather, over the course of just two days. I’ve watched Mother Blackbird sit on her nest for the past week, nestling down snug over her eggs, leaving only on brief forays for food and water.  I felt a bit dirty towards Father Blackbird for not sharing the load, until I spotted him doing perimeter duty on the roof, perching on the TV aerial for better vantage, and seeing off Noisy Miners who came too close.

In short, I’ve bonded with these damn Blackbirds. It doesn’t matter that they are an imported species. Or that my friend Elaine tells me they are considered a pest and a blight on the Australian environment. Or that we won’t be able to use the BBQ in our courtyard until the brood has fledged and flown. My heart cares not for such quibbles and refuses to listen to reason. They are my blackbirds.

Mother Blackbird

Mother Blackbird

All of which goes to explains why I was most distressed to see a Currawong checking out the nest at lunchtime on Sunday. Mother Blackbird stared her down, and Father Blackbird performed aerial manoeuvres, but Currawongs are four times their size and have huge pointed beaks, and so the Blackbirds quickly deemed discretion to be the better part of valour and fled. I stood up by my glass door and waved my arms, and the Currawong promptly fled. After a while, Mother Blackbird came back, very cautiously, with much sounding out of the area before settling back into her nest.

Repeat three times. Currawong arrives, Mother Blackbird flees, Kirstyn shouts and claps her hands like a Mad Thing. Currawong retreats, Mother Blackbird returns, Kirstyn is stupidly proud.

The Currawong made no appearance yesterday and I thought perhaps I’d scared her away for good, but — alas — just in the last half hour she has come back for another attempt at egg-stealing. I did the arm-waving thing to shoo her away and I suspect the recently-fled Mother Black will be back shortly. As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s making me very anxious. I don’t want to leave the office to make myself lunch, which means I am taking my self-appointed guard duty far too seriously. I am also nervous about plans to see a movie on Saturday afternoon, because I won’t be here to protect the Family Blackbirds from the Evil Currawong (who, of course, is not evil at all but merely behaving according to her nature, as so she should).

It doesn’t matter that the Currawong is a native bird and that she probably has nestlings of her own to feed. These are my Blackbirds, damn it, and I was looking forward to seeing chicks hatch and fledge and take to wing. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that this will happen. I can’t be here all the time and Currawongs, it seems, are persistent. And, yes, the rational, reasonable, environmentally-conscious part of me will simply sigh and shrug and say, that’s nature for you, when I inevitably find the nest abandoned and Currawong bellies presumably filled.

But my stupid heart will weep. Because they are my Blackbirds.


Blackbirds Nesting!

blackbird nesting

This afternoon I looked out my office window and noticed a pile of twigs on top the awning above one of our courtyard doors. Within a few minutes a female blackbird (whose plumage is, in fact, a mottled brown) had flown down with more twigs to add to the pile. Which meant that it wasn’t any old pile of twigs . . . it was a bird nest!

I snapped a photograph of mum-to-be on one of her trips back with building supplies. Dad-to-be (whose plumage is actually the deep black which gives these birds their name) has also been helping out. And my little black cat, Smudge, has been sitting at the glass office door, watching the construction efforts and making the cutest I’m-gonna-get-ya noises. She hasn’t got a chance, what with her quasi-agoraphobia combined with an inability to pass through solid plate glass and/or kill things with just her furry little mind.

So it looks like we’ll have baby blackbirds in the none too distant future. It’s a pretty sweet spot they’ve chosen: sheltered from rain and wind; protected by brick walls on two side; awkward (if not impossible) for predators to reach. The only problem is that our BBQ is just a couple of metres away, and we were planning to start using it now that the warmer weather is on the way. Hmm, might have to wait until the chicks have all fledged. Ah well, a small sacrifice for the chance to see baby birds being raised right outside my office door!