Kookaburras, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Galas, Whip Birds, Butcher Birds, Magpies (the list seems endless): the Australian bush is filled with the loud, raucous, joyous sounds of birds. It’s the only thing I’ve ever missed, and so of course, “K” must be for Kookaburra. Rather than present it’s genus and other biological credentials, I’d like to let my father tell you a about his first encounter with our iconic bird.
Papa arrived in Sydney on the Thursday before Easter, 1924, the remains of the Five Pounds his grandmother had given him as travelling money jingling in his pocket, and a precious envelope with a further Twenty Five, “to be banked”. As it turned out, his arrival wasn’t as anticipated, and instead of being met by his sponsor, the friendly farmer from Coonabarabran, he was thrust on the mercy of the Department of Immigration.
Times were different, back then. Instead of being handcuffed and led off to the nearest Detention Centre, young Nevis spent Easter with the Woods, at their home over near Manly.
His encounter with the infamous Laughing Jackass, that weekend, was the first of many faux pas the sixteen year old with the big hands was to make before somehow he became an Aussie, and is a story he loved telling against himself. But let him tell it in his own words:
“We swam every morning, except for Sunday, when we went to church. I was shown the Botanic Gardens, and on one afternoon went to the zoo, where I was to see the famous Australian ‘Laughing Jackass’. Well, I heard the wretched thing laughing alright, but when the family tried to point the creature out to me, I just couldn’t spot it – until Mr. Woods laughingly explained it was a bird. And here I was, looking for a beast with two large ears and four legs! “
This fellow used to visit us frequently ,once the drought set in. Competition for food was fierce and the lush, sub-tropical gardens of the Sunshine Coast hinterland played host to a myriad of prey animals for a hungry Kookaburra and his family. He would sit atop this stump, still, barely moving an eyeball, watching for frogs, and lizards within the understory of the garden. But that’s not all – seems we also had a steady supply of snakes for this vigilant bird.