Canberra in August, the joys and hazards of spring…unless you have a Muesli Bar

Winter in Canberra becomes dreary and seemingly endless by late July.

This year has been a particularly damp winter, and while we always welcome rain in Canberra, grey skies and drizzling rain can dampen the spirits during a pandemic!

Just when spring was around the corner, we had freezing temperatures, and snow on the mountains….

Michael McCoy, in Gardening Australia writes that winter is bleak in his patch,

‘but then, sometime in August it’s as if someone flicks on a dimmer switch preset at its lowest setting and starts to turn up the dial.”

Almond tree blossoms
Manchurian Pears beginning to flower, flowering Almond tree nearby, and the beautiful yellow Snowy River Wattle bush

Not only does the light change in August, but bird songs change too…..during winter and early spring, we hear the territorial call of the raucous Wattle Bird, who seems to be telling us off every time we go into the garden.

The Wattle Bird has been feeding steadily from the Grevillea bush (Wee Jasper) all through the winter.

Now we hear the early morning magpies warbling melodiously, and during the longer spring evenings the blackbirds start to sing…… a joy to hear.

Magpies are one of the most common birds in Canberra, known and loved for their friendly visits to suburban gardens. Most of the year they are affable birds, companions in the garden, without causing too much damage. They not only have a beautiful morning call, but are also skilled mimics, and are known to imitate barking dogs, sheep, chain-saws, and during the bushfires they very quickly learnt how to imitate fire engine sirens.

However, once spring starts, some Magpies become territorial, and the swooping season is upon us! As Canberra has so much bushland between suburbs, the magpies are naturally nesting close to suburban houses. Traditionally magpies swoop as a means to protect their patch while they care for their young.

Magpies are a protected species of bird in Australia, and so there are plenty of warning signs for people, walkers and cyclists especially, to be alerted to swooping magpies.

Bike riders and and people on small motorbikes are particularly targeted, perhaps because they are moving rapidly across the bird’s territory.

Spare a thought for all the people who work outside during spring.

Surviving as a postman/woman in Canberra has always been quite a challenge during spring…. a helmet and a waving yellow flag might help, but a territorial magpie can be very persistent.

In 2017 this young postman won local fame by trying a new technique.

” I get some pretty good quality Muesli bars specifically to feed the birds. You have to develop a relationship with the birds, that is the way to do it in spring”

However, times have changed. The magpies in this postman’s area are, no doubt very disappointed because Canberra now have new electric bikes for delivers of mail.

The new high-tech electric Australia Post vehicles have been adapted from the Swiss Post Model. These bikes are energy efficient, and more stable than a motor bike. They are also so quiet no one notices when their mail is being delivered.

They have the capacity to carry many more parcels, and with increased online shopping parcel deliveries now outweigh letter deliveries.

There are some definite downsides to the vehicles, but they are here to stay, and I think all posties will be glad of protection against rain, wind and heat in summer.

The roof of the vehicle gives 100 percent UV protection and an added consideration……. protection from swooping magpies in spring!

Our local postie was very enthusiastic about her new vehicle, and when I asked if the new model was keeping swooping magpies away she said

”well, yes, so far……. but they’ll find a way!”

I’ d be interested to know how other readers are receiving their mail these days.

I hope the sun is shining and your garden is growing where ever you are in the world today. In these uncertain times the garden, city parks, country walks, bush trails are a wonderful distraction.

Stay safe and sane!

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

16 Replies to “Canberra in August, the joys and hazards of spring…unless you have a Muesli Bar”

  1. Lovely yarns, as usual, Geraldine. There is always something to notice when you take the time to get close to nature.
    Re mail – no deliveries where I live. I get in my car and go to the nearest post office (16kms away) to collect mine.

  2. It seems those birds of yours that I always enjoy seeing have a challenging side too. 🙂 Those are pretty interesting delivery models your post office has and I’m sure the employees appreciate the additional protection. I must admit our post office is still using small jeep like trucks that have a familiar engine noise so we definitely know when the mail arrives. Here in the US, the amount of packages being delivered to homes resulting from online shopping is unbelievable including fresh farm products being delivered in refrigerated trucks. It’s a brand new world. Stay well.

  3. Wow…….,,that warning sign ! Love the new postman’s vehicle. He really deserves protection Our postie in Florida has a special right hand drive van so he can put the post into the boxes without leaving his seat. I never thought of Canberra as having a dreary winter. Enjoy your spring, Gerrie as we go into autumn.

    1. Sounds like your posties have a better system. Yes, Canberra is close to the Snowy Mountains, and we do have a definite winter. (a pity!)

  4. Well that was a fascinating read! I had no idea your magpies were protected and such good mimics as well as being aerial weapons in spring. The best mimics we have are starlings which specialize in mobile ring tones. Goodness, the postie vehicles are something!!! Our posties walk or cycle on rainy days. Here’s to a wonderful spring and lots more bird stories.xxx

    1. I like the way you describe magpies as turning into aerial weapons In spring…so true! Paul had a casual job as a postie when he left school …. walked up and down hills and was never as fit as that ever again!

    1. I love the wattle bush too, and you can get quite a variety of flowers. Canberra’s Covid numbers (much smaller population than other states) Total cases 113 and Recovered 110.

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