HAVE you ever wondered why there are so few birds and native animals around in comparison to when you were a child?
If you grew up in the city it was perhaps different unless you were lucky enough to live in one of those "leafy" suburbs.
Most families in the country had pet birds, all uncaged but kept around the house or they at least came regularly for food.
Water was left out for them too, and perhaps nesting boxes.
The household cats and dogs would ignore them.
Sometimes a pet magpie or butcherbird could even be seen playing with the cat, especially if there were kittens.
At other times the wild birds would come and sit on the clothes-line asking for some food.
If you were lucky they might trust you enough to take a piece of meat or bread from your hand.
The wild birds did not like the family pet birds of course and this could be a problem.
Perhaps it was a territorial thing, or perhaps they were not sure what to make of a bird which seemed to enjoy the comforts provided by a human rather than living in a tree in the wilderness!
If one reads books written by the early settlers it is amazing just how many references are made to the number of native birds and the varieties of these.
We are now lucky to see one or two types of pigeons, but there were dozens in the old days!
Pigeons were almost a staple food for the early white settlers.
Pigeon pie was very popular and of course there was roast pigeon.
Often they could be trapped in the fowl pen. They loved to eat the food put out for the hens and ducks.
Kingfishers could be seen every day near the waterways. These beautifully coloured little birds would perch high on a limb or wire and dive into the water when they saw a movement. Most times one would return with a fish held firmly in its beak.
A good place to see kingfishers was near the old North Creek Bridge.
There were two telephone lines stretched across the creek in the old days (one public line and a private line).
The birds thought these lines were great vantage points.
They did not seem to worry about the cars crossing the bridge; they were too intent on their task!
Hawks and eagles were plentiful, especially if chickens were nearby.
Eggs would also be taken.
Many of these birds were shot by settlers as their poultry was very important for survival.
Chickens were hatched to replace older stock, and eggs were precious both for hatching and for eating.
It is a shame so many of these wonderful birds of prey have disappeared.
The old crow was another one which came to the notice of the settler.
There are still a few of these around, but not many.
The little swallows were wonderful, as were the peewees and willy-wagtails.
Every year the swallows returned to the same nest, usually on a veranda and close to the wall.
They were so careful to refurbish the nest with new material and spent days getting it ready for their next brood.
It was fascinating to watch them at work.
Even the old ibis was out among the cattle.
Where have they all gone?