Saturday, June 25, 2011

The natives and the interlopers

They ripped down cottages to make way for an old people’s home. They gutted trees and bulldozed the land. Any pigeons that for years had lived in the topmost branches alongside the magpies and starlings moved on. The rats of the skies.

Now they line the telegraph wires along the side street beside my house. I see them in the mornings, lined up like soldiers, one by one, beaks burrowed into their chests, heads lowered, asleep or dozing or doing whatever it is that birds do when they are not in flight or scavenging.

By mid morning the pigeons move on, from the telegraph wire to my neighbour’s gutter. Or her television aerial. Their midmorning cooing is like velvet against the background blast of traffic from the street in front.

Awake now the pigeons peer into my back yard. I can see them edging closer. By lunchtime, they are ready for another rest. The gum tree in my backyard is forked. A runt of a tree, it should never have been allowed to sprout higher than a sapling, but it grew despite its crooked branches, like a misshaped tooth in an otherwise straight set of teeth, it grew at an angle, down and back into the soil where ants burrow to make nests.

Last summer the caterpillars hatched, yellow and white with orange tufts that flared along their backs. They stripped the gum of its leaves, stripped it of its strength, no flowers now, just half chewed leaves a resting board for the pigeons that line its bare branches in increasing numbers.

I tried once to count the pigeons, as if in counting them I could satisfy my belief that they have increased in number, that they have been breeding, that they have moved in from other places, maybe not only down the road but up the road as well where the bulldozers have moved in to make way for a new shopping centre, a new office complex.

The bulldozers have brought down more cottages since, ripped down more trees, taken over the homes of other birds.

I cannot hang out washing on the line any more, on any but the two outer lines on one side. It might seem a small thing to you, a trifle perhaps to find your washing smeared in the white brown sludge of bird poop, but for me it is a catastrophe.

I have lived in this house for many years. I have lived in this house, uninterrupted, and cared for my cats, my fish and birds. I have distributed birdseeds daily for the wattlebirds and sparrows, shooed away the greedy minor birds and kept my cats in at night.

By day I tell my cats to go after the birds. Go after them but discriminate. I tell my cats to discriminate between the natives and the interlopers. These pigeons must be culled. They have no place here.
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