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Gifts from (slightly) above

Folks passing by Ligaya Garden often remark on the number of birds that they see flying in and out.Its true that we have a lot. There’s a resident flock of Sparrows, Mamma Blackbird and now her daughter, three generations of Doves, plus a number of New Holland Honey Eaters that come and go. Over the last few years, there have been Rainbow Bee Eaters sitting on the power lines as the watercourses that they prefer dry up in Summer.

Beside the entertainment value of watching a parade of birds, some of whom we know have been born and raised in the garden, there’s the sounds of their daily lives. There’s the evening crescendo as the Sparrows play in and out of the trees as the Sun goes down, there’s Mama Blackbird’s scolding when we go too close to her nest and there’s the cooing of the Doves as they call to each other throughout the day. The occasional Wattle Bird plays in the Gum Trees across the road too. They’re raucous buggers.

Of late, there are many other trills and chirps that we don’t recognise. that’s a good thing. Of course, we’re glad that we haven’t been noticed by the noisy, destructive White Cockatoos who wreak havoc on neighbouring Gum trees and orchards. Small Parrots, in general seem absent, though they are plentiful in the area. Maybe they’re just too quick for us to notice. Talking of birds, who can forget the chooks, noise makers extraordinaire as they go about their daily activities – the egg song, the trills of contentment, random clucks and cries and the occasional outburst from a small squabble over some delicacy.

We’re glad to have them all.

Birds contribute a lot to the smooth running of Ligaya Garden. Of course, the chickens have many important roles, but for now, we’ll focus on the ‘wild’ birds.

Mother and daughter
Don’t forget us! We’re birds too and we can be wild!

I’ve written about my love hate relationship with Mamma Blackbird. I love checking out her nests and her babies and feel almost paternal as they grow in the nest. It’s sad that they’re so aggressive to each other and four eggs will finally result in one fledgling as they grow, compete for food and eventually, push each other out of the nest. Only one is destined to thrive.

Mamma Blackbird and her offspring are vital to bug control and the redistribution of biomass. That’s what I call her efforts to cover our clean and tidy paths with mulch from the growing areas. She’s constantly scolding me and correcting my mulching and composting efforts.

The Sparrows too are a vital part of the living garden. Though they frequently cross boundaries and eat fresh leaves destined for the kitchen. They’ve stripped one of the young Moringa trees of leaves and flowers and last year, killed the Pepino by eating all of its leaves. A Cape Gooseberry also suffered the same defeat.

Sparrows clean up spilled grain, in and out of the chicken run, they eat bugs that we don’t even see, long before we would be aware of their presence through damaged plants. Then there’s the poo.

As you can guess from the title of this post and the pics, Sparrow poo is a constant nutrient source for parts of the garden. It often builds up beneath the places where they play and can be a little unsightly unless you think of it as a natural part of the garden’s fertility cycle. A quick spray gets the worst of it off of the leaves and into the soil, so it’s only an aesthetic thing really.

Poo also builds up under the nests of the Doves and the Blackbirds. The Blackbirds aren’t a problem; they build their nests out in the garden. The Doves are different. They build their nest right by the front door, in one of the plant pots along the South wall of the verandah.

The Doves build here every year.
The Doves build here every year.

We do love to watch the babies develop but every year, early in the season, we are constantly being startled by the Mum flying from the nest as we startle her. She settles down after a couple of weeks and all is good. There is a build up of Dove poo under the nest, it can be quite a lot when you have Mum and two growing babies. It’s easy to get rid of, just scoop it up and relocate it into the garden. When the nest is empty, a good hosing gets rid of the rest.

We’ve tried various things to deter the birds from eating our prized greens and fruit. There were the cut out, wooden cats about which you can see from the pic above, the Sparrows make their opinions very clear. There’s the fake Owls too. We have a stationary one with a wobbling head and a flying one on a stick. The only things they have scared are the chickens. The other use them as landing platforms!

We’ve tried quite a few ways to deter the birds from our own food that is growing in the garden. There’s the reflective tape that you can buy from garden centres and hardware stores, The two methods that have been most successful until the birds get used to them are – hanging CDs and cans hung in twos so that they knock together in the breeze. On the same theme, and much more aesthetically pleasing are wind chimes. We’re on the way to adding a few around the gardens to increase the ambience as well as move the birds along away from our favourite plants.

All up, we reckon that having wild birds around has benefits that far outweigh any negatives. There are probably benefits that we don’t even know about. Ligaya Garden is a thriving ecosystem after all!


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