True love is for the birds

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - THEA HAYES

NAR­RAN­DERA, NSW EV­ERY Oc­to­ber, the dol­lar birds de­scend on our farm in Nar­ran­dera in south­ern NSW and nest in the red river gums be­side our house. They mi­grate from south­ern Asia to breed in our beau­ti­ful ru­ral area and fly back in March with their new fam­ily. We have seen them in the same tree for the past three years.

We can hear them in the morn­ings; it’s a rapid cackle — kzak-kzak-kzak or, some­times, kak kak kak or even a sim­i­lar but slightly slower and stronger kzaark.

We strain to see them high up in the branches but they are very elu­sive. Not so the cock­a­toos and galahs, who clearly think they own this patch of trees near our house. You can hear their screech­ing as they fly around be­ing hunted out by the dol­lar birds.

Af­ter the dol­lar birds have made their nest in a tree hol­low, if we are lucky we will see their ac­ro­batic aerial twist­ing and rolling dur­ing courtship flights. We might also glimpse un­der their pale, green-blue wings patches that re­sem­ble their name­sake Amer­i­can sil­ver dol­lars.

In 2012, we duly noted the ar­rival of the dol­lar birds; we heard the cranky, re­lin­quish­ing cock­a­toos and galahs. We saw a lit­tle of a dis­play by the cocky young male vis­i­tor, and pre­sumed love had found its way.

How­ever, in Fe­bru­ary, we had a heat wave that went on for weeks. Later that month we heard a very sad kza­kkzak-kzak. It was the male dol­lar bird call­ing for his mate. Onit went for days. What had hap­pened to the lit­tle fam­ily? We had to pre­sume that, very sadly, the mother and ba­bies had ex­pired in the ex­treme heat in their nest.

By March, the dol­lar bird had re­turned to Asia. Hav­ing lost his loved one would he want to come back here?

On Oc­to­ber 20 last year we woke to the screech­ing of the cock­a­toos and galahs, fly­ing about in a frenzy. We dashed out­side and then we heard the fa­mil­iar kza­kkzak-kzak.

The dol­lar bird had re­turned. Over the next few days he made claim to his hol­low in the large red river gum.

In Oc­to­ber, we heard his ex­cited cry. Bob, my ob­ses­sive bird-watch­ing part­ner, as­sured me our lit­tle friend had found a new mate.

We took it as a sure sign that in­deed life goes on. Love had found its way. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a kit (to­tal value, $107.85) of OSABrands Uni­ver­sal Travel Adap­tor with two USB ports ($44.95), OSABrands Dig­i­tal Lug­gage Scales ($32.95) and Ta­tonka RFID Pro­tected Pass­port Pouch ($29.95). More: osabrands.com.

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