Monthly Archives: September 2012

The fox and the chook

The neighbours’ chooks and roosters were making a big noise again this morning, in a different part of the coffee paddock from yesterday, so I ran down there, still in pyjamas, and didn’t see a fox but did find the headless body of a brown chook.

I hope the neighbours have more than one brown chook and this isn’t the one I’m thinking of. There are a number of chook groups that wander around the place as separate day-tribes, only one of which comes to my place. The chook pen was built right on the boundary between the neighbours’ property and the one where I live, so it’s no surprise that about half the birds are over here at my place every day. I assume the neighbours don’t care, and they sure don’t show any interest when the birds are in distress (such as yesterday and this morning), which shits me, frankly. They don’t deserve to have chooks.

So, it’s possible there was another brown chook in one of the other tribes, but, if not, the dead brown chook was my favourite of their birds. She used to come over here every day, right up to the house, even if the others stayed further away. She’d hop up the back stairs, and, at times when I’d forgotten to close the door, she’d walk right into the laundry and drink out of the dogs’ water dishes – which the dogs didn’t particularly like, but nevertheless put up with.

When I was digging the garden she’d stand closest to my feet. I liked the way she trusted me; it made me feel like a bird person.

She was just a really nice bird, and a loner, which is unusual in birds, I think, and one of the reasons I liked her so much (birds of a feather flock together). I thought of her as a friend, really, if chooks can be friends, and yes, of course they can.

Anyway, I stood there between the rows of coffee trees in my pyjamas and looked at the dead bird and couldn’t feel anything, just said “Oh no.”

Oh no. Poor brown chook. She was lovely.

The fox and the rooster

Today I saved one of the neighbours’ roosters from a fox.

It was the same rooster I once chased with a broom because he kept standing outside the kitchen window, crowing. He’s the same rooster I once chased with a mister (the plastic bottle type that sprays water, not the Mr type who might have been more useful) because he kept standing outside the kitchen window, crowing; the same rooster I once chased with a handful of sticks and stones, throwing them at him as I ran, because he kept standing outside the kitchen window and – I’m sure you’re getting the gist of this by now.

He was crowing again today, but this time out in the coffee paddock, and all the chooks in his harem were clucking loudly and madly as if they’d all just laid an egg at the same time. A subset of his harem – a breakaway faction (a few chooks and two junior roosters) – was also making a lot of noise. I went over to investigate, and just as the rooster came into view I saw that a fox was grabbing him. I shouted a big “HEY!” and a “SHOO!” or something, and slapped my hands together, and the fox stopped what it was doing, looked over at me, and ran away.

I was really surprised it gave up so easily. I thought foxes would be more aggressive than that. Anyway, then the rooster – terrified, poor thing – ran home himself, with all his chook companions running helter-skelter alongside him through the macadamia trees next door. And the little group in the breakaway faction ran over to my place instead and jumped up onto the verandah.

For a while I patrolled the backyard in case the fox tried to sneak up again, but it didn’t reappear. Shortly afterwards the newest chook mother and her four little chicks turned up from the coffee paddock as though nothing had happened, which makes me worry about them (even the stupidest fox would have no trouble grabbing one of the chickens, so the mother really needs to be vigilant or she’ll lose them).

After things had calmed down I went back to where the fox/rooster tussle had been and took some photos of all the feathers lying around. There were some brown feathers on the ground near the black and white ones of the rooster, so I hope there wasn’t more than one fox; if so, maybe a brown chook was taken.

The rooster himself turned up later, looking hale and hearty, with just a few gaps in the feathers on his tail. And he started crowing again, as usual. Loudly. Loudly. Always damn loudly.

If there are photos worth posting I’ll do that another time. ‘Tis now quite late and I’m lazy.

Noisy Friarbird and grasstree

Here’s a Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus) looking for nectar on the flower stalk of a grasstree (a Xanthorrhoea):

bird standing on the side of a vertical flower stalk

same bird, same flower stalk

here's that bird again

Grasstrees usually grow on open plains, I think. But this one is in the front lawn (in a district that used to be rainforest), planted there decades ago and still going strong. It looks completely out of place, but then probably everything else does as well, and it is a pretty weird and impressive plant.

tiny flowers along stalks on the grasstree

Neoregelia sp. ‘Fireball’ pups: which growing medium?

Back in February 2012 I potted some Neoregelia sp ‘Fireball’ pups (or offsets) in three different mediums (orchid mix, perlite, and propagation mix) to see which might suit them best. Yesterday I took them out of the pots and concluded that it probably doesn’t make much difference what you plant them in.

On the way to checking their roots I toured them around the garden trying to find somewhere to take their portraits. Here they are in the sunshine (left to right: orchid mix, perlite, propagation mix):

three little plants in pots

And in the shade:

three little plants in pots, again

What you probably can’t see is that on one of the plant tags it looks like I’ve written “Ned Fireball”. (I think that’s a much better name for them, too. “Hey, Ned! How’s it growing?”) And they each have little sticks standing beside them as stakes, by the way. Maybe it’s hard to tell what they are or what they’re doing there.

During the winter I kept the pups in the house and they got about one hour of direct sun in the afternoons. Probably. For weeks at a time I forgot they existed and didn’t think to check on them, which means I really have no idea how much sun they were getting, and for large amounts of time they weren’t getting any water.

They survived the neglect but went quite green. I expect this is related to the amount of sunlight they were getting, but their parent plant (which was getting 4 or 5 hours of morning sun every day) went green too. So, maybe their colour relates to temperature? Or day length? I don’t know, obviously. But both the parent and the pups started to go red again when the end of winter arrived (late August).

Anyway, here’s a look at the pups:

– in orchid mix (large particles e.g. bits of bark):

closeup of plant roots

– in perlite (round balls of lightweight stuff that resembles polystyrene; and please note that the roots all emerge from the base of the leaves even though the photo makes it look like some come from the end of the stalk too):

closeup of plant roots

– in propagation mix (small grains, heavy, probably mostly sand):

closeup of plant roots

The roots were clinging to the medium, regardless of what it was, so I think if you were growing lots of plants it would be easier to transfer them safely from a small-grained medium (the larger particles of the orchid mix move around more when you’re handling the plant, which could break the roots that are stuck to them). Also, I think the weight of the propagating mix was helpful in keeping the plant stable; the lighter pots (orchid mix, perlite) could have blown over in a wind.

But, overall, I think you could probably grow them in anything. And maybe they don’t even need a medium to grow in; maybe the roots will grow in air? I don’t know.

I’ve planted the three pups into the ground now. Two are in permanent shade (probably… unless the mid-summer sun shines closer to the house than I remember it doing) and one gets half-day morning sun. Fingers crossed for healthy lives.