It’s springtime, and love is in the air…
My undergraduate biology professor was, I recall fondly, the most eager ornithologist alive; I’ve never, ever experienced a person with such passion for his field. His descriptions, slideshows and enactments of Bowerbird courtship nesting rituals were more animated than the dances of a Broadway ‘Simba’ on acid. I just wish I could remember his name….let’s call him Birdman.
“He’s a bird watcheeer…he’s a bird watcher…watchin’ birds go by: my, my, myyyy…”
I learned a thing or two from Birdman; first of all, that, if all men behaved like Bowerbirds, the world would truly be a better place—meaning that women would constantly be showered with attention, affection and personalized, heartfelt gifts (sigh!). The elaborate nest-constructing rituals of the Bowerbird are like none other on the planet.
Picture this scenario:
It’s a warm, bright spring afternoon on beautiful Fraser Island, Australia, and romance is in the air. Benny, the blue Satin Bowerbird, is looking for loooooove. He begins his annual courtship ritual: he must construct an elaborate bachelor nest—the BEST and most seductive Bower in town—out of twigs and leaves. He must then fill it with pretty objects to attract a pretty partner.
(You might be thinking: why bother reading this silly anthropomorphic version of bird mating behaviours? Because, maybe, just maybe it’s the other way ’round: maybe the birdies have it right, and we just never figured out how to swing seasonal monogamy…)
Right, moving on:
Benny has had his eye on beautiful Betty Bower for quite some time—he knows that she likes things which are shiny and blue! (sapphires, yes please!) So away he goes, scavenging the trails and the streets for (blue!) bottle caps, clothespins, plastic straws, toothbrushes…you name it, and Benny will take it—as long as it’s blue. (He even plots to steal the glistening glass eye, currently on display in the Bower of his cousin Bernie (lucky bastard) down the street.)
Finally, Benny coats any faded found objects in berry juice to ensure their blueness for beautiful Betty.
(Really, I’m NOT making this stuff up: just search for “blue Satin Bowerbird courtship nests” in Google Images. Go ahead – do it! Then come back to this blog, where the saga continues…)
“He’s a girl watcher….”
Benny waits…and waits…until pretty lil’ Betty finally arrives to examine his collection of all things blue. Benny has been waiting for this moment all year! Tweeeet! He, of course, greets her with a well-orchestrated dance routine, which Betty obviously can’t resist! She revels in the delights of broken blue hair combs, berry juice-soaked feathers and a big, shiny…umm…glass orb? (Benny managed to procure Bernie’s glass eye on a covert mission), and the rest is history.
Sweet, sweet Bowerbird lovemaking ensues…
You must be thinking: “where in the *@!# is she going with this?”
I’ll tell you where I’m going:
How awesome does birdwatching sound now? This stuff is better than Dawson’s Creek— count me in.
Following Birdman’s Footsteps
You don’t have to be an ornithologist (or a strange looking hobo with binoculars) to appreciate the nuances of bird behavior…and, more importantly, to incorporate Bowerbird courtship tactics into your upcoming spring clean and/or bachelor pad redesign…
Learn a thing or two about how to pursue your own little Betty, or, even better: steal her birdsong-loving heart by sweeping her away on a romantic, invigorating birdwatching adventure.
1. Fraser Island.
Experience the Bowerbird melodrama in its most natural state on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fraser Island, which boasts over 300 bird species (including the infamous blue Satin Bower), as well as an abundance of unique wildlife and breathtaking scenery.
A two-day excursion to this lush slice of paradise enables you to discover a multitude of stunning natural features—freshwater lakes, verdant foliage, rolling dunes, and, of course, the Seventy Five Mile Beach—as well as the intriguing Maheno Shipwreck (washed ashore in a 1935 cyclone).
Your trip will include an overnight stay in a bungalow (or tent—you choose!).
And you know what to do with your disposable bits of blue…
(Note: another fantastic northern Aus. wildlife sightseeing spot is Kakadu National Park in Darwin).
Perhaps you haven’t the patience to stake out nests in the middle of an equatorial rainforest—fair enough, but don’t give up on our feathery, flapping friends altogether!
The Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary in southern India—just a short distance from the Dravidian palatial wonders and famous colourful silks of Mysore—provides a much more intimate and relaxed environment for birdwatching. Take a break from the city bustle; discover a diverse range of exotic birds, including Spoonbills, White Ibises, Little Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, Stone Ploughers and Snake Birds.
You can take a guided boat ride through the six tiny Keveri River islands, which comprise most of the sanctuary; keep your eyes peeled for crocodiles, otters, bats, and a range of beautiful flora.
Perhaps you are on the same budget as the hobo in the park with the binoculars. In that case, why not join him? (in spirit, or in person—your choice…)
Oh wait, that’s no hobo—take a closer look…it’s (gasp!) Birdman’s one and only rival—Bill Oddie!
Rumour has it that this beloved British TV show host has done some birdwatching in London’s Hampstead Heath. Join him to discover the Great Crested Grebes, Grey Herons, Goldeneyes, Bitterns, Goosanders, Smews, Song Thrushes, Black Redstarts, Ruddy Ducks, Rose-ringed Parakeets, Coots, and Red Kites that make London a fantastic city for birdwatching.
The Education Centre at “The Heath” offers periodic birdwatching classes for beginners on weekends. Become well-versed in the ornitho-tastic jargon, and take up this sacred pastime in your own (neighbour’s?) garden…
More Birdwatching Excursions:
Gannet Birdwatching Safari Te Awanga, New Zealand.
Scenic and Nature Tour of Penang Bird Park Penang, Malaysia.
Parrot Jungle at Miami Sequarium Miami, USA.
Kangaroo Island Wildlife Discovery Tour Kangaroo Island, Australia.
La Riserva Nature Park Adventure Mallorca, Spain.