Bin Chooks

The main thought on my mind as I turned the corner for the final stretch of the park this morning, was whether I would get to the car with the dogs before it rained again, and that was going to depend on whether there were parrots in trees above and whether Lucy was going to notice them or not.

Before Lucy saw any parrots, though, I noticed a car driving towards us along the adjacent road. I noticed it, because the road is a cul-de-sac and I had seen the car before. When I saw it last time, I had assumed someone had turned into the road by mistake, but now I watched as it turned into the driveway of a house at the end of the road. It was a small house with a modest front garden and I was trying to keep Lucy from noticing it, because on the lawn this morning, as they are every morning, were about seven ibis birds.

Ibis sounds so much nicer than the nicknames these birds are given over here. They are quite large birds, with white bodies, black legs a black head neck and long beak, and black tips under their wings. They look like they are wearing evening wear to me, but because they have been very successful in migrating into urban areas and feeding on the rubbish that humans leave behind, they have been nicknamed, ‘Tip turkeys’ or ‘Dumpster Divers’.  I remember when describing them to a colleague, before I knew their name, he identified them as ‘Bin Chooks’ I suppose because their bodies are around the same size as a chicken’s and they have a reputation for scavenging from bins.

The car pulled up and I watched for a moment, wondering who could be possibly coming home at that time in the morning (conveniently overlooking the fact that I would be doing just that in under five minutes). The car came to a stop and an elderly lady got out of the passenger side of the car. She was wearing a dressing gown. Odd.

A man, presumably her husband, got out of the driver’s side. He was fully dressed and I wondered if perhaps the lady was suffering from dementia, had gone wandering and her husband had just been out to pick her up. He did not seem overly concerned about her, but was carrying a small purple bag.

The couple moved towards the front door, and as they did, the Ibis birds, who had been grazing on the front lawn all this time and apparently without a care in the world, started to move as a group towards the front porch. If Hitchcock were around I am sure he would have suspected the worse, but the birds did not seemed utterly docile.

They were not in a hurry, but they moved together in the unhurried manner of a community with a well established ritual. The man was inside by now but the woman had gone inside and reappeared on the front deck. It was then that I noticed that her hair was wet and I realised that she had not escaped her home in a fit of confusion, but had probably been swimming, hence the purple bag.

When she came back out, she was carrying a small white bowl. She stood on her deck as the crowd of patient Ibis stood below on their long black legs and dipped her fingers into what must have been bird seed and sprinkled it on the lawn. The Ibis moved across the area, carefully picking out their breakfast from between the blades of grass.

No bin breakfast for these birds, no tip run for a take away. This small flock was enjoying the very best of Australian hospitality and personal five star service from a local resident. I just hope they were able to get a second service later on so they did not have to dive a dumpster for dinner.

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