Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meet the Kookaburra

As described in Wikipedia, the Kookaburras are large to very large birds native to Australia and New Guinea, carnivore by nature, easily spotted in a wide variety of environments from humid forest to arid savannas, but also spotted in suburban and residential areas near running water where food can be searched for easily, including on its menu lizards, snakes, bugs and meat... like raw meat, sausages, fillets or steaks in an unsupervised BBQ or visitor’s plate!

Image from wikipedia
What I find more interesting about this bird is that it looks like a stuffed toy bird, with all its feathers puff up gives it the appearance of being super fluffy white, blown and blue fairy floss in the shape of a bird with a big waffle cone as beak (I was not starving at the time that I wrote the last paragraph!).

Laughing Kookaburra.
Very common in Sydney
Its name derives from the word guuguubarra, which is (kind of) the sound these little fellows do to call each other, producing a distinctive yet hysterical sound very close to the human laugh. Curious enough, their laugh is known worldwide, used on infinite number of attractions and jungle themed entertainments around the world such as wildlife parks, or the more characteristic monkeys laugh in Disney’s park attractions.

And why do I want to share this knowledge with you?

In case you think this is related to the blue bottle incident... 

No... I was not stung by any poisonous Kookaburra while a mysterious man came out from the bush with an unknown yet catchy nursery rhyme about Kookaburras flying in blue skies... But I feel compelled to tell my experiences with these birds.

Experience #1 – First encounter.

I was newly arrived to Australia and I was walking with Kathy around the area (looking around... trying to find furniture to use in our empty apartment to be perfectly honest...) and we started hearing that laugh at which we quickly turn around to face the source of it, just to find a white and brown bird, looking back at us and no one else. At first I thought I might be a bit crazy... then I turned to face Kathy asking her if she heard it too and she replies says ‘Does Australia have monkeys anywhere?’

The Kookaburra, watching at us and nothing more.
The image is from Ian

I was trying to find a recollection of an article of book... but nothing; I could not remember any Australian monkey famous for its mockery of bystanders.

Two more steps and we heard it again, facing back as fast as possible just to see the same puffy bird, sitting placidly on its branch. I remembered Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” where a raven gave visits to a man, just to remind him his beloved late Lenore...

“Once upon midday dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint a curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly walking, suddenly there came a laughing,
As of someone gently giggling, giggling at my bad joke,
‘Tis some visitor’ I muttered, ‘giggling at my bad joke
Only this and nothing more’ ”

Turned once more to face Kathy and tell her that I did not know the source of the laugh, but whatever it was, wasn’t moneys and then for third time we got the ‘GUU GUU UHA BA AAH AAH AAH!’ and to my surprise there was the bird, shaking with an harmonic yet spastic movement to which each ‘AAH!’ corresponded perfectly.

Full of excitement and curiosity; we rushed back home to try to find this odd bird whose singing was exactly like if it was laughing and googled ‘laughing bird Australia’ and there it was... first link ‘laughing Kookaburra

I must say, it looked so puffy and huggable (just like a stuffed toy bird) that I skipped the carnivore part of the text (do not remember reading it) and ever since then I wanted one in my balcony, laughing to me, making happy each morning, day or night an hysterical opportunity to feel joyful.

Experience #2 – The Taronga Zoo

There had been few days since the arrival of some dear friends, when we decided to go and get to know the famous Taronga Zoo... and getting the very emblematic (yet mandatory) picture with a roo. In fact my mom told me several times, ‘without a picture with a kangaroo, you have no proof what so ever that you are in Australia!!!’ and so... that day of March we took the train to Circular Quay, walked to the wharf with the huge ‘Taronga Zoo’ sign and got the annual membership.

Why? (or why not to get a simple ticket? you may ask)

Well... lots of people told us ‘is a huge park and you will have to walk a lot!’ it was noon-ish already and the annual membership costed as much as two tickets for an adult. I thought ‘what the hell, I know that I am going to come more than once...’ (I did, later on... don’t take my decision back).

Once in the zoo, we went straight away to take pictures of koalas and kangaroos (Erm, I must clarify this, Taronga does not have kangaroos... in reality they show Wallabies, but it fits the purpose) and in our way to see the birds show Kathy and I stood petrified trying to find the precise location of the laugh origin. It was going to be the very first time to watch it up close and there it was, a big bird (30 or 35 cm head to tail bird) puffed as always, looking down at us, trying to invite us to give it some food.

I think someone from the zoo saw me and came by fast enough to cough while pointing to the sign ‘feeding the animals is forbidden at all times – fines applies’ to which I reacted instinctively to protect my wallet and told to Kathy to keep walking... Kathy just looked at me with her usual ‘I told you not to...

'What does it say?'
'Dunno... don't worry,
humans seems to not understand it either'

Yeah... I know... shame on me.

Experience #3 – The BBQ

We had less than a week of having bought the BBQ and have it assembled when Kathy told me ‘I am hungry... could you cook some sausages in there?’ Pointing to the BBQ with the look “I don’t want anything from the kitchen to get dirt”

I stood up, grabbed the tomato and basil sausages just like she said, warmed up the BBQ and put the protective cover of oil just like one of my mates at work told me, to then leave (unattended for five minutes) those sausages and keep playing God of War while Kathy was folding shirts in our room.

I started smelling the delicious aroma coming from cooking process when I heard the flapping of something close to the BBQ, just to turn around enough and see a Kookaburra standing in front of the BBQ and I thought... ‘Ouh! How lovely looks the... WHAT THE FLUNK IS IT DOING?????????’ whiles the bird jumped inside the BBQ, taking one sausage with its beak and flying away very very fast.

yes mister... you will eventually pay me that sausage!
I stood there... totally speechless... Wordless to say, Kathy told me not to leave the sausages unattended. She did not foretell any theft bird stealing our lunch, but she was trying to avoid getting charcoal as meal.

As I walked to the table, I tried to think into very different explanations to ‘why are we one sausage short?’ to which in my imagination I was about to tell her ‘I just dropped the sausage to the floor and throw it to the bin’ or ‘I was hungry and got one ahead’ or ‘I think the pack had one less than usual’. Then she asked and all I came up was with ‘damn Kookaburra! Too long to explain, I will get one slice of bread and a sausage, you will get your sausages... don’t worry

She looked puzzled... but at least I got one less ‘I told you so’ (and less sausage as well...)

Experience #4 – the one in Macquarie University.

I have been always marvelled of how careless to human presence some animals in Australia are, is like they know people mean no harm to them and as long as you don’t try anything weird, they won’t try to go away, which is the total opposite to animals (desirable animals) in Caracas; if you were walking, pigeons will fly away; if you stop abruptly, it will fly away. If you are talking to someone, it will fly away... if you are quiet... it will fly away... Does not matter what you do, it will fly away as soon as you are on its field of view.

Anyway, some birds in the Macquarie University campus aren’t the exception. Some time ago I was going back to the office and I see this lovely and puffy Kookaburra standing in a handrail and I thought of pulling out my cell and capture the moment... but as soon as my hand got to my pocket the bird looked afraid so I stopped in an attempt to not scares it. Apparently the Kookaburra was curious about me either and started walking towards me, while still in the handrail getting puffier and puffier and then stood there, in front of me at a distance where I could grab it easily if I wanted. So I start moving my finger towards its head to try to touch it when I heard ‘If you really love your finger, put it away, mate!’ as the student went passing me by, acting as if he wanted to bite his finger... then I looked back at the Kookaburra just to realise that it was opening its beak as I was rising my hand.

Looks small... but its beak is very intimidating...
Thanks to my affection to my extremities... I decided to keep walking to the office and leave the sociopath Kookaburra behind.

Experience #5 – the one in the park.

Yesterday (Saturday 7th of May) a couple of friends, Kathy and I went to Lane Cove National Park with the intention of getting some good food, talk and enjoy one of the multiple national parks that this wonderful city have. Our friends picked us up at 12 PM with pretty much everything except the wood for cooking, which we bought 5 minutes later from the petrol station and off to our picnic.

First thing was start the fire, to which I began my explanation of how to set the wood in a squared shape with a bit of oil in the middle (or combustive material) trying to get the centre as hot as possible to get the wood burning...

Most of the times I remember when one of my older brothers was explaining to me the same technique and telling me how the kerosene gave a nasty taste to the meat, while I was emptying a jar of kerosene on top of the charcoal to then throw a match on lighting up... it was like slow motion movies... my brother watched the match descending into the grill while screaming ‘what are you doi...’


This is a video of what happened when the match hit the grill.

He just stayed there, quiet, staring at the grill burning from the ground up... literally from the actual grill till the floor... with the subsequent phrase ‘I should have known you planned something like this... that’s it, I am not going to teach you anymore...’

Gladly for me, I was the one among my brothers that really loved cooking BBQs and eventually (taking far away from me anything combustible with the exception of a paper napkin soaked in oil) he did teach me how to light it up without getting the entire forest burned.

Back to the story; we got the wood ignited and cooking sausages, meat and some sweet corn while I was looking at the nearby trees while trying to refine my hearing, just in case some Kookaburra was close by, waiting to drive in our picnic and steal some food... but then between the chatting and eating I saw a Magpie getting ready to jump to my friend’s wife plate. I took one small piece of meat (I was not going to eat it anyway) and throw it away... My mate tells me ‘you should not throw them stuff... they are not going to jump in our plates to get anything...’

But as I was explaining to him one encounter I got with a magpie at Guzman & Gomez, where the bird tried to peak my burrito but I was a bit faster, moving my hand enough to cover it and continued saying ‘plus we should be wary of any Kookaburra around here... they tend to steal food from people and.... hey!! Look a Kookaburra!!’

But my warning was too late; the Kookaburra was already stealing the biggest part of my mate’s wife steak and flying back to its branch... to which I completed ‘as I was saying... the Kookaburra steals food to people just like us... chatting about Kookaburras stealing food...’

I realised at the moment I was the mysterious man with the not very well done rhyme of Kookaburras eating behaviours.

So in conclusion... be wary of clear skies because a Kookaburra might steal your bite!


El Lado B Del Planeta (Monólogos Bipolares) said...

haaahahahahahahahahahaha I really enjoy reading your blog hahahahahahahaha...

you know... I loved this bird once I saw it in one of the... I don't know how many zoos we visited... I really loved it! it is so cute! But thank you for your advise! hahahaha... and keeo waya from the kookaburras! I think they don't like you...

Rod said...

Hehe, I am very glad you liked it.

By the way, you should have let me know you were coming to Sydney for few days :(

El Lado B Del Planeta (Monólogos Bipolares) said...

I'm sorry, it was last year... Actually we went there on May 10th 2.010 hehehe today (here) is one year...

Rod said...

Oh... I did not read the year anywhere... :P

Sorry :P