Saturday, September 21, 2013

Of crested pigeons and first impressions

On Tuesday afternoon, just before the skies opened and a pleasant round had to be put on hold, a young fellow with a fine set of dreadlocks caught up with the Professor's party of three. The best policy would have been to let him play through, as one of life's near-irrefutable rules is that the brain shrinks in inverse proportion to the length of the dreads sprouting atop it. But Doctor Yowie is a soft touch for lost souls and The Herbalist even worse, so before the one flint-hearted member of the group could send the Richmond Rastafarian on his solitary way down the fairway, an invitation had been issued and everyone was shaking hands. To his credit, the new addition removed his glove before doing so, which spoke of good manners and respectable parents.

Well it turns out that, while jumping to conclusions about apparent hippies is generally a sound policy, there are indeed times when first impressions can be deceptive. As the rain came down and the now-party of four sheltered beneath an ancient cypress pine -- one of the few green fanatics have not had removed in the name of promoting "native" tress, which often aren't native to the parts of the country where they are being planted in their invasive legions -- the subject turned to birds and the expanding number of crested pigeons one sees these days. Assuming that Mr Dreadlocks would subscribe to the Greens view of things and in the interests of ruining the newcomer's round, the Professor quipped that Christine Milne's sprout-sucking admirers would attribute the species' increasing incidence to climate change.

"Aren't they just the biggest arseholes," said Dreadlocks. He then observed that, when he wants advice on nature and its ways, he puts no faith in those who think of Fitzroy's Edinburgh Gardens a wilderness.



We're seeing more of the quite delightful crested pigeons because they like open grasslands -- golf courses, in other words. Rasta turned out to be a thoroughly decent bloke, also agreeing that the ecological havoc pseudo-conservationists are promoting at Yarra Bend Golf Course, where they have transplanted a colony of shrieking, crapping fruit bats to the verge of the third hole, should make them liable to criminal prosecution. Like crested pigeons, the bats are extending their range because suburban gardens' plentiful food supplies make it worthwhile putting up with the sort of Melbourne weather they once spurned. Thanks to those filthy bats, the bellbirds and their calls, which used to be amongst the Bend's charms, are no more, a 200-metre stretch of Yarra riverbank is a wasteland of dead and dying trees, and there are taxpayer-funded signs all over the place warning golfers not to lift hand or club against the wretched creatures. What one doesn't need when relaxing on the fairway is a further hectoring by know-nothing bureaucrats and ecological vandals toting clipboards, dubious degrees in environmental science and the power to impose steep fines. Along with their droppings, the plague of stickybeaking green urgers is one more way in which bats are inflicting their gross damage.

By the time the rain stopped and the round resumed, Mr Rasta had also announced that he voted for Abbott and detested Christine Milne, whom he memorably described.

"How could anyone vote for a fanatic with a face like two cats leaving the room side-by-side?" he wondered

And do you know what? He was right!

Mr Rasta will be welcome to make it a foursome any time he feels like it from now on.

A footnote: Unlike any other pigeon, the crested variety whistles -- although not in the conventional manner. When alarmed and taking flight, air passing over their wings produces a high-pitched warning to their mates. An entire flock taking off is quite the thing to hear.

Update: As reader Kae notes in comments, it's actually more of a squeak than a whistle

17 comments:

  1. They squeak when they fly and the noise drives my dog nuts!

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    1. Actually the ones up our way make more of a high-pitched "p-r-d-r-r-r-r" as they accelerate. And put the hard word on their women folk with a "woop, woop, woop."

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    2. "woop woop woop" If only the female of our species was so easy to impress many dinner bills (and several trips to the ballet) could have been avoided.

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    3. Be grateful you don't minor birds - be very grateful!

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  2. I have a pair living in my yard - the pigeons that is, not rastas. Their sound is almost like a wheeze as they take off.

    They're some of the local mendicants I attract by putting a slice or two of soy and linseed bread out in the morning. So far I only get natives.

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  3. I don’t know how or why it works, Milne really does resemble a couple of feline freckles, also capable of excreting the same pleasantness. Deko

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    1. Emile Mercier used to draw the cats in his cartoons with a little 'x' under the tail. One day, an outraged editor told him to get rid of the 'x', so he drew a little roller-blind over it before publication.

      The 'x' stayed.

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  4. Perhaps a bit of this also:
    http://img90.imageshack.us/img90/9020/kaygerik1vs.jpg

    Cheers

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  5. A colleague of mine used to refer to the unsightly sacs each side of Ms Milne's mouth - which her PR photographers have tried from time to time to mask out - as 'snit pouches'. Not perhaps as good as your Natty acquaintance's cat simile, but if Orwell was right, and people do get the faces they deserve by 40, then Milne must be a piece of work.

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  6. Professor, I must profess to owning a marmalade moggie thank goodness I didn't go for the grey to keep it company, I'd have Christine Milne in my home by default.What a perfect description of the cranky ol' biddy I've always thought she looked like one of Disney's chipmunks, either Chip or Dale, hard to pick, except less articulate.

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  7. There are more of these pigeons about each year I grew up in Coburg and don't recall seeing them much around the Merri or Moonee Ponds Creek in those days. There is probably much less grasslands now than then so why are they now common? Same with Rainbow Lorikeets, I never saw them around Melb when I was young now they're everywhere. I don't accept the climate crap reason but the bird populations have changed.

    I could add that once Emperor Gum Moths were common but now seem rare.

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  8. "Habitat is grasslands, brush and wooded areas but they can also be seen at watercourses, homestead gardens, pastoral areas, sports grounds, and golf courses. Their habitat has expanded since settlement has produced pastoral lands (previously they were only found in inland and Western Australia). Wiki
    So WA exports more than iron ore and wine.

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  9. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.September 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Never judge a book by its cover, Prof.

    Me, indeed. 'Trophy' wife? You bet.

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  10. "Their habitat has expanded since settlement has produced pastoral lands (previously they were only found in inland and Western Australia)."

    Nahh read 'The Biggest state on Earth' by Bill Gammage.

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  11. We are getting something similar happening in Sydney with corellas replacing the pink galahs. The former are native to the inland, but someone has obviously allowed a breeding pair of pet ones to escape, and now pink galahs are about as rare as a kosher deli in Lidcombe.

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  12. That's a rather Delphic comment Lizzie. Assuming you are a 'trophy wife', how would that 'cover' lead anyone to think that you admired Milne? Or are you trying to make some other point?

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  13. Has anyone else noticed the similarity between Mad Milne and a dried apricot, or is it just me?

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