Over the weekend I watched a DVD 'Wild South America'. Maybe because we were once a British colony we are inclined to ignore that continent. Lions and tigers, bison and beavers, the teeming life of the African plains, all gorillas and baboons more common in our mythology than the denizens from the Andes, Amazon rain-forest an the continent’s plains. Just as unique though.
And spectacular. The Andes, the longest mountain chain on the planet. The Amazon with its annual great flood. And the plains with much greater temperature variance than their African counterparts. Turtles that can only breed in a narrow span when the sandbanks of the Amazon are revealed. Houseboats that rise and fall as the river does. And the monkeys – a huge variety. Butterflies resting on a crocodile’s head. Ant-eaters raiding a termite’s nest. Wild llama. Electric eels.
And the birds – the mighty condor, the minute humming-bird ansd above all the colourful, intelligent parrots. Especially the macaw.
A friend once said of Australian birds – they shriek rather than sing. True. They like those parrots are colourful. We had a rosella pair on the lawn yesterday. Beautiful red-breasted creatures with lovely blue wings and tails, yellow body with black bars. They strut round so confidently. They looked at though they were onstage and knew it, reincarnated film stars. The familiar world was suddenly transformed by their presence. If I couln't go to Peru, the Australian outback can come to my backyard.
I couldn’t understand why they were raking at the piles of oak leaves at the west end of the section. They were after acorns. Their sharp beaks tore in to the flesh while overhead flitted a fantail jubilant at all the insects disturbed by the larger birds. Obviously, winter, food was short. They were there for quite a while – an Australian bird eating European food on a Kiwi lawn. A striking contrast. When they flew off a blackbird landed, pecking up the pieces left over from the rosella’s repast.
To the Englishman I might say - you have squirrels to enjoy your acorns, I have rosellas. And to the powers-that-be thank you for connections large and small.
The 2018 Book Council Lecture
2 days ago