Sunday, 13 January 2013

Macadamia Raider

Harvest awaiting drying and shelling
I hear the raucous call and jump to my feet. A sulphur crested cockatoo is an unusual visitor to my backyard. He sounds like a young version of my grandfather who spent his last years in the front room of my parents' house smoking his rollies and coughing himself to his grave. This pure white raider, still in his adolescence, doesn't have the chest rumble and the deep voice of Larry. He's still proud and potent and announces his presence without hesitation.

 In reply the pathetic Noisy Minors make their challenge. yeeep yeeep yeeep. The sulphur crested one cockily ignores them and they give up, acknowledging the futility of mounting this campaign.

He's up there high in the macadamia nut tree clumsily clawing his way along each thin branch to reach the nuts at the extremes. He looks like he's a dapper pirate walking the plank. It's a large tree. It was mature when I arrived here almost twenty years ago so it's a survivor. I've just finished harvesting a good crop but there are plenty remaining for those prepared to fly or risk their lives.

The past two years have provided very generous harvests - one an extraordinarily wet year and this, a very dry and hot year. One a pest free crop and this year compromised. The wasps have deposited their larvae in the shells and their pupae have bored into the core and spoilt every second nut.

'Sulphur crest' cocks his head to take me in as I wander around the base of the tree but he soon returns to his task which appears to be the snapping off as many branches as possible. His strong beak simply bites through the branches as he goes. He's giving the tree a good summer pruning. He's behaving like I do when I get a pair of gardening shears in my hands - cut and cut until the urge departs - which is why I think of him as male.

He's not particularly interested in the fruit, or at least he is happy to be wasteful. Nuts fall to the ground around the base of the tree as he crawls from one bunch to the next. I don't see him crack or eat any of them. He just shows off by throwing them out of the tree like discarded babies.

Maybe he and I should strike a bargain. He can throw the high ones out of the tree, I'll gather them, then I'll crack a few and leave them out for him. And then we can both let our hair down and go on a rampage of pruning together.

CAAAARK CAAAAARK. We speak the same language.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Hong Kong there was a flock of these birds - released during the Japanese occupation they began to thrive in the country parks there ... they have to be the noisest birds imaginable!