5: The Menu Fare
BRILLIANT shards of crystal sunshine penetrated the cracks between the vertical blinds covering the unit’s front entrance stabbing slivers of light into the inner darkness. Wiping the night’s dreams from my eyes I pulled blearily on the blind’s opening cord allowing the full force of the new day to wash unabated into the living room.
Drowsily opening the glass sliding door permitted entrance to a brisk autumn breeze that joined forces with the sunbeams heralding the new day. Being cool and goose pimply, the breeze began to wipe away the remaining sleep that lingered still in my addled mind and through half closed eyes I drank in the full and ethereal beauty of Mother Nature’s morning glory that spread out majestically before me.
‘It was good to be alive’ I thought as I stretched my arms and released a satisfying yawn. I looked forward with eager anticipation to what this day may bring. As my mind began to clear, I became aware of strange shapes on the balcony railing. Two magpies were perched comfortably side by side looking intently at me.
I wondered “Had they already been told of this strange new supplier of food stuffs?” for they were definitely waiting to taste the menu fare. Was Mother Nature’s bush telegraph that efficient that word had spread to all variety of birds in the area that a free lunch was to be had at the most westerly nest on the upper level of the strange large earthen Aerie?
I had recently solved the conundrum of the sticky mince. I came across packs of hamburger patties at the local supermarket. There were two piles of five, each separated by a sheet of grease paper, packed into a plastic container. By freezing the hamburgers, I could then pries off individual patties, slice them like French fries and zap them for a minute or two in the microwave.
They were un-sticky and easily broken up into small pieces and tossed into the hungry mouths waiting expectantly on the balcony railing. The patties are rather spicy and at the start I thought that the birds would spit the meat out in disgust. But on the contrary, they all loved the taste and without question, eagerly came back for seconds… and thirds.
The only concession I had to make was to provide water, held in an old icecream container for the birds to slake their thirst and dilute the heat of the spices in the hamburgers – to which they all eagerly availed themselves for a start but eventually became inured to the hot spices – like veteran Mexicans.
I fed the two magpies and the company of butcher birds that now accompanied them. Squeaky tolerated the intruders but he and his mates preferred to perch on the guttering above whenever the magpies occupied the railing. This was to become the norm, so whenever this occurred I had to feed one lot on the railing and another group above me at the same time, all waiting expectantly and all expecting to be first served.
Over the next day or so, the magpies revisited for their free lunch and then one mild autumn day they arrived with two juvenile birds. They were dun colored instead of black and white. I realized that the magpies had brought along their chicks to join in the free feed. Hence, the magpies were named Mum and Dad. The chicks were typical youngsters, getting into mischief, so together they were referred to as ‘The Brats.’
One junior bird was very cheeky and would nip at my toes to get my attention whilst it would look up at me and quack like a duck which was a very strange sound to be coming from a magpie. For this he was christened Donald and naturally, the other became Daisy. They were to cause havoc amongst Squeaky’s family over the next month or so…