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Froth and bubble

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Is the Price Right for the Write Stuff?

Love a Plover

‘Are you aware of the birds? The birds nesting?’ I ask the couple, as they walk along the shoreline towards me with their two dogs off-lead. The bloke growls at me, ‘Our dogs are under effective control,’ as one lollops off, zigzagging its way into the sand dunes.Further down the beach, the small nesting boxes nestle into the grass, past the high water mark. There are ropes to signify ‘stay away’ from this marked-out safety zone.
In this space between land and ocean–a place of submerged and washed up things, of life teeming below the surface and skimming across waves and the shore–small birds, camouflaged among the seaweed and beach grasses, build their tiny nests in depressions in the sand.
I feel like I have a duty to speak, to alert these humans to the precious creatures, at risk on this coastal zone. I wonder how the dog owners will respond. ‘The whole beach here is on-lead during nesting season,’ I say. ’I’m just concerned about the hooded plovers. There are only a few hundred lef…

Magpies, my sentinel birds

Spring. Swooping season. Time for articles about magpies in attack mode. I have seen the terrifying images already, of the magpie approaching someone’s head at high speed. But, in my mind and heart, magpies are the birds that remind me of my father. When they visit, I try to sing their song to them: burdle-durdle-dup. I watch their heads tilt, they turn to survey me, and then they sing back. They are my sentinel birds: they keep watch and stake a claim.

At the beach shack, when we are singing, more maggies join us from beyond the tea trees. They are always at the gate when we arrive, heralding us in; they sing to us each morning we are there; and as we leave, the magpie family appears from the perimeters. They stake out their claim to the property again, as we turn right under the gum tree and sweep away down the hill. It's as if dad has seen us onto and off the block.

That’s one of the magic things about magpies: they turn up, like some kind of portal. And when they do, they pick m…

Side by side with humans, let the songbirds sing

With Spring now upon us, Melbourne is heading deep into the midst of AFL footy finals. We are also in the middle of magpie nesting season. And that means talk of magpies swooping. (For a Collingwood fan, this has extra significance, but I digress.)
Already the images of attacking maggies are circulating on social media—there's this Buzzfeed tweet, and Google searches filled with helmetcam swoop pics. There’s even a magpie attack map where hapless humans can drop a pin where the magpie tried to drop in on them. There are dates, times, exact locations, but more than that, there are also magpie stories. Stories of swooping aggressors, sure, but stories of people making friends with magpies, feeding them, and learning to live with them.
My great grandfather wrote stories of the magpies in the Australian bush, taking shelter in the highest trees to avoid predators, rain and floods. ‘The Magpies chose the tallest tree/That anywhere their eyes could see/Where they’d be safe from every harm…