Is there a lovelier sound to start the day with than birdsong? I don’t think so. Here in South Yarra in inner Melbourne we often hear magpies at first light. Sometimes they come to our garden because our big old gum tree is a handy stopping point in a densely settled area between the huge trees in the two closest public parks.
But the magpies don’t stay. Last week, however, there was something else – a kookaburra, the first one I’ve seen in our garden in 47 years (sorry to admit how old I am, or might be).
It was sitting right at the top of the gum, which is a Eucalyptus leucoxylon hybrid, planted in the late 1970s by us as a small tree. Our neighbours get upset because it drops leaves in their pristine back yard and their gutters. But the birds love it. It’s full of lorikeets when the flowers are out, magpies and currawongs, wattlebirds, and now, a kookaburra.
It’s quite a young one I think, snowy white, slightly fluffy feathers on its flat-topped head. Through the binoculars, because it’s a long way up, I can see it surveying the garden. Its call is just a little bit peremptory, and perhaps inquiring. Where are my friends? it seems to say. Or maybe, where are the worms?
It perches there for a while, then goes on its way. The next day it’s back, and the next. Then later in the week it gets a reply from further afield. Yesterday I could hear that it had a friend, or friends, in the nearby trees but by the time I’d made it out to look, they’d gone.
No matter. Suddenly our garden, which has always been welcoming, has another dimension. I’m really hoping that the kookaburra is here to stay.