Diary of a Hills Backyard: The weed patch, and always listen to what fairy-wrens have to say (because your life might depend on it) (December 2019)

This year has been a busy year, with our son arriving, and plenty of travel and work. This busyness resulted in the garden being somewhat neglected and weeds in some areas reaching lofty heights. Towards the end of the year we got onto most areas except one of the slopes by the back veranda. We noticed a couple of months ago the Superb Fairy-wrens collecting nesting material and taking it into the weed patch. The fairy-wrens did indeed build a nest and successfully fledged three chicks, resulting in the weed patch being conserved temporarily. In December, the fairy-wrens built another nest, and were again successful in fledging chicks.

As well as providing refuge for the fairy-wrens, the patch also acted as a fort in which a rabbit, dubbed the “Nibbler”, made its home. The Nibbler has damaged new plants we put in and, along with blackbirds, dug small holes in the garden. The Nibbler remains at large, but in the hot weather I have called a truce and I have ceased my attempts to catch it.

Grasses make up the greatest proportion of the weeds in the weed patch, and have matured and dried producing copious seeds. A few weeks ago I noticed the appearance of mouse holes nearby. Given most other areas in our yard and in the paddocks next door have been mown or grazed, the weed patch probably has a higher abundance of seeds than elsewhere. Good encouragement for mice to move in. The next logical resident to appear in the weed patch is one to keep the mice in check.

One day, in the throngs of a heatwave, I was outside trying to keep plants hydrated, and the fairy-wrens and New Holland Honeyeaters alerted me to the arrival of the new weed patch resident. I went to investigate the peeping alarm call, which is less frantic than the one used for a hawk. I peered under the bushes and over the weeds, looking at where the birds where looking. It wasn’t long before I found a meter-long brown snake sliding up against the fence, which promptly disappeared at my arrival. There have now been four occasions that fairy-wrens, mainly, and New Holland Honeyeaters, have alerted me to the presence of snakes.

Always listen to what fairy-wrens have to say, your life might depend on it.

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