There’s some new kids on the block in our neighbourhood and they’re causing a stir in the treetops.
The new arrivals are a mob of young magpies who seem determined to throw their weight around in the Waterworks Valley where I live.
I discovered one of the magpies early in the summer when I heard the unfamiliar flute-like magpie song. I say unfamiliar because the magpie is rarely seen in the largely wet forest of the Waterworks Valley, preferring the dry woodlands nearer the coast.
Other birds that seem to prefer drier woodlands like the noisy miner and the eastern rosella are also absent, and a close relative of the magpie, the butcherbird, only makes a rare appearance.
I soon learned that the magpie didn’t arrive by accident. It had been reared by a local wildlife carer – after presumably falling from a nest as a fledgling – and the carer had decided to release it in his garden, so he could keep an eye on his charge and feed it if necessary.
He was confident the magpie, once fit, would soon move on to find other magpies. Instead the magpie – named Julia – decided to stay and was soon playing big sister to three other young magpies, who also had been handed to the carer.
Julia was joined by Penny, Albanese and Ruddy, and clan was soon named “Cawcus” by the carer and his partner.
My inclination might have been to release magpies in areas where the species is common – like FitzroyGardens closer to the city – but I have been proved totally wrong on that score. It seems that the magpies from FitzroyGardens have travelled south to visit the clan in the valley.
Together they have all ganged up on the other residents. Among birds I noted feeling the wrath of the magpies are resident green rosellas, who have now learned to give the magpies’ south-eastern side of the valley a wide berth. All the same the magpie’s beautiful lilting song has given a new dimension to the symphony of birdsong I hear on most days.
The “new kid on the block” cliché comes from my days when I lived in New York – the ultimate urban jungle – many years ago. What fascinated me then about the city was that the human habitats seemed to change from street to street.
Just walking a few blocks on Manhattan I’d be confronted by different sights and sounds, and people. “Yuppies” on the Upper East Side seemed to have nothing in common with the Puerto Ricans who made Spanish Harlem their home just up the road.
The world of birds, and where they live, is not so very different from the divisions, real or otherwise, that separate human areas.
I can state with some certainty that you could plop me down in an area of Hobart, blindfolded and by the birdsong and calls I hear, I could tell you where I was; certainly if I was south or north of the city centre, and certainly if I was on the Eastern Shore.
Basically, as far as birds are concerned, Hobart can be divided into wet and dry areas, although this rule can be confused by suburban gardens which in drier areas are watered.
So if you listen for birds, you’ll hear black currawongs, green rosellas and yellow-tailed black cockatoos in the wetter areas of the city to the south, especially in the foothills of Mt Wellington. In drier areas closer to Hobart and on the eastern shore you are more likely to hear magpies, butcherbirds, noisy miners, brush wattlebirds, musk lorikeets, and eastern rosellas.