We have survived our last five days of lockdown that we had thrust upon us a two weeks ago. With all that went before, we have been in good practice with lockdowns and we know how to handle them. Unsurprisingly, even though it was only planned for five days, the supermarkets were once again stripped of toilet paper and essential supplies. I just don’t know what people in our community have for brains! Some of us may have been expecting that lockdown to go for longer than five days but thank goodness it was soon over.
For the last few days we have been back to a ‘Covid Normal’ life with just a few restrictions. I’ve been getting back to having coffee with a few other Vietnam Veterans on Tuesday mornings. We can do this openly now, instead of the surreptitious meetings that we planned during our previous lockdown period.
Shopping is now hassle free, although a mask is compulsory in crowded places and shopping malls. We can again meet up with friends. We have had our grandchildren over for lunch and we are back out in our local area once more. I think over the last week, we have had less than a half a dozen cases in the community across the whole of Australia. Vaccinations have just started here. We are in the second group in the population to receive them and that will probably happen in late March.
We had a very nice day last weekend with the temperature around 28C. Jill and I decided to head out for a picnic. We began by driving towards Kinglake and then along a well-made dirt road towards Murrundindi. We passed a number of picnic spots along the way, but the ‘Commanding Officer’ didn’t like any of them. Finally, we ended up at a picnic area near a swing bridge on the Murrindindi River and enjoyed a lunch of bread, cheese, pickles ham and pastrami. (Our own version of a Ploughman’s Lunch)
Somehow, we finished our day in the town of Seymour. This is close to the military area of Puckapunyal (the most God forsaken place on earth) where I undertook my army training in the 1960s. There is a wonderful memorial in the town to Vietnam Veterans and it was well worth a stop for a short time. It contains the name of every Australian who served in the Vietnam War.
We have finally given away any thought of long distance travel for this year and this week, we cancelled our planned train trip on the Indian-Pacific across the continent. We were due to start from Sydney next week and arrive in Perth four days later.
It is just too risky to go interstate (especially to Western Australia) because at the slightest hint of a COVID-19 outbreak in another state they quickly slam the border shut (even retrospectively). We just can’t risk going there and finding that after a short trip to get there, we are required to quarantine in a hotel room for fourteen days. Instead, we have constructed a driving trip around Eastern Victoria (stay tuned!). In fact, we visited some old friends in Doncaster last week to discuss our driving plans and to think about the best options for us to do some extended driving trips around the country.
Over the last week, we have been amazed at the variety of birds that we have seen in our garden. We have an ordinary suburban block of land in the middle of a large city but the variety of birds that have visited us in the last week is stunning. Perhaps we benefit from living just a little way from the extensive parklands along the Yarra River.
We have had an afternoon visit on most days of last week by a family of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. They have been feeding on the small nuts that our ornamental pear tree produces. They have been very amusing to watch as they clamber up the branches and pick off the nuts. For some reason, these large birds are all left handed – holding the nuts in their left claw as they use their strong and large beaks to break open the shell. They can be very destructive.
On one afternoon, these marauders attacked the sunflowers that we had growing in a pot on our patio, picking off the flower heads and then sitting on the railing as they scoffed off the spoils.
On another afternoon, a pair of King parrots arrived. We don’t usually see these birds in this area. Their native habitat is in mountain valleys, although they can travel to some urban areas after breeding. They were quite spectacular with their red feathers and green wings.
Tonight, we had another surprise. A pair of Eastern Rosellas visited us. These birds are medium-sized colourful parrots with distinctive white cheek patches. They have a red head, neck and breast, with yellowish to greenish upper parts, a yellow underbody and a yellow-green to blue-green rump, with a red undertail. They are found throughout south-eastern Australia, from Queensland to Victoria and South Australia. They mainly feed on the ground, especially amongst grasses in lawns, pastures and other clearings. Their primary diet includes seeds, fruits, buds, flowers, nectar and insects.
A common bird around our area is the beautiful Rainbow Lorikeet. These birds are nectar eaters and we always see them on our bird feeder in the front garden. They clearly know their position in the pecking order and dominate other birds that come in to feed. The others simply have to wait until the lorikeets have finished eating.
Although not very pretty, another bird that we have seen over the last week are these Crested Pigeons. These birds are nearly always seen in pairs. If startled, they take to the air with a characteristic whistling sound, and then glide with down turned wings. The whistling sound is produced by the air passing over a modified primary feather on their wing.
It’s no surprise that one of the most common birds in our garden is the good old Magpie. These are one of Australia’s most accomplished songbirds with their characteristic chortles and carolling calls. They can be very dangerous in springtime as they are prone to swooping on people that pass by their nests. However, to me, their carolling song more than makes up for this very rude behaviour.
Just to top all that off, we spotted a Kookaburra sitting in one of our trees.
Seven different birds in one week is quite something!