Our rainforest garden: The evidence was in the egg-shells
This is a photo of my newest garden, and I have just weeded it.
"Wha..aaat!" I can hear you say. "That is not a garden at all, and it hasn't been weeded."
Well, this is the way that I garden these days. I put in things that will bring in the wildlife, rather than plants with pretty flowers. Every new plant must have animal value, either directly by being a food or shelter plant, or indirectly by adding to my rainforest planting.
Actually it is a new old garden, one of the gardens that I am replacing with native plants. It is in our front yard around the power pole and had become overgrown with nuisance plants that I had once liked but now am trying to eliminate.
Those piles of rubbish that you can see are the old plants that I removed, piled into untidy heaps. I build them up in vacant spots in the middle somewhere, and eventually they break down and provide mulch and nutrients for the new garden. In the meantime they create shelter and a hunting grounds for frogs and lizards. And they also provide a way to stop "terrible weeds" from coming into contact with the ground and growing new roots.
I haven't removed all of the weeds because I have a very big garden to manage, and mostly, at this stage I am concerned with pulling out those that will grow over the top of my new plants and kill them with too much shade.
The garden is dominated by four trees. In the front is a lillypilly (Syzygium paniculata), and growing around its base like a tutu on a ballerina, is a Japanese maple. The Japanese maple has become rather portulent in recent years and now sticks out much more on one side, but I quite like the effect for the time being, and will leave it in place even though it is not a native.
A few weeks ago, as I walked down the steps beneath these trees, a wonga pigeon exploded out of them in panic, with a great fluttering and scattering of feathers, and headed off towards the rainforest on the other side of the creek. This happened again the next day, and then again.
Wonga pigeons are quite large, and very elegant ... for a pigeon. They have sober grey backs with white and speckled markings on their undersides, and they are usually impeccably groomed with smooth, sleek feathers. We mostly see them as they search for fallen fruit on the ground, or hear them in trees issuing forth their endlessly monotonous, middle-tone call repeated over and over again, during the summer months.
The lillypilly was not fruiting, and I could think of no reason for the pigeon to be there, unless it was sitting on a nest.
Now pigeons make very sparse nests of sticks, often on the flat spot where a branch forks, but no amount of craning my neck and peering upwards revealed any sort of likely structure. So I thought no more about it.
Then, when I was weeding beneath the trees a couple of weeks later, I found part of an egg shell. This fragile fragment was pure white underneath the dirt. More searching on the ground revealed a second piece of shell that could be put together with the first to show the perfect oval shape of the egg. It was cracked all the way around its circumference, showing how the chick had escaped.
It was clear that this was a pigeon egg, and that somewhere above my head there must be a nest.
A more thorough search, this time, revealed a flimsy, loose pile of small sticks, about three metres above the ground on an outer fork of the lillypilly tree. It was well-hidden by dense foliage and was only made visible by pulling back branches of the maple tree.
I could see no sign of the baby bird. I do hope that it fledged successfully, and flew away.
These are the treasures in my garden. I don't need pretty flowers.