Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: OVERLOAD (10/06/16)
TITLE: The Great Awakening
By Jennifer Woodley
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“Shut the window!” he cried in despair and then turned restlessly in his sleep. But I cannot. The Great Awakening has begun and I must not miss a moment. It is 5.04 am. No wonder my husband is complaining.
The first flute-like notes greet the dawn. I listen intently to the song, trying to discern what type of bird it is: perhaps a pied butcher bird? He is singing with joy. His is always the first loud, distinct call heralding the commencement of a very special performance. The same shrill voice every morning slices through the silence crying out like a proclamation, repeating the same six notes for the next ten minutes. Nothing else is heard outside. The melody is very close to the bedroom window. My husband is groaning in his sleep, but I am up with warm tea in hand, anticipating the next welcome performer.
The melodious flute-like song ceases and enter center stage, the blue-winged kookaburras. No-one is sleeping now! They jostle together on a jacaranda branch, a brown parcel of four in a row, vying for the first pickings on the lawn. Above their raucous voices, I can hear eastern whip-birds, their calls coming up from the creek bed below the house. An antiphonal whip crack by the male and then a sharp ‘coo coo’ in response by the female. A beautiful liturgy. If I strain really hard to listen, I can hear the spotted pardalote’s triple high-pitched call from the bush-land close by. However, it is soon drowned out by the rising calls of laughing kookaburras. They throw their heads back wildly, open their beaks simultaneously and let loose competitively.
Not to be outdone, the lorikeets take their place on stage, charging in in flocks of bold color. Flashes of green, red and yellow fill the wooden seed feeders. For a moment no other call is deciphered but their squabbling. The noise is unbearable; the local lorikeet war has begun. They tumble down from the feeders, rolling and rumbling on the grass in an indecipherable jumble. Furious fighting makes it impossible to discern their shapes; where is the head, where is the tail? Then, as quickly as it began, the battle is over.
My attention is now drawn to the large black crow entering stage left calling out an unhappy ‘caw, caw’. With a clumsy landing, he settles on the lawn and beady black eyes search for bread scraps scattered the evening before.
Then, when it seems to me the air space has no more room for any more birds, the galahs and king parrots arrive in unison. They wait nervously, almost in the wings, looking anxiously at the feeders. They will be waiting a while. Apparently the lorikeets are not sharing this morning. The galahs dangle upside down, why perch sensibly right way up? Pink and grey wings flap awkwardly. I wait for one to drop off and fall to the ground. The deep rain-forest green and fire-truck red king parrots cry loudly, ‘carrak-carrak’, impatient to crack black sunflower seeds.
Slowly two pale-headed rosellas drift onto the stage. They are the darling-ones whose sweet call and soft yellow and dusky blue feathers, are irresistible. Unlike the lorikeets, they have manners, never pushing or shoving for food. Later, when all the others have moved on, I will had feed them, seed by seed. Not to be forgotten, the spotted turtle doves glide into view, cooing and bowing to each other in a rhythmic dance of love. They are grounds dwellers, contented to gather the seeds tossed idly by the birds in the feeders above.
Now, just when the stage is overloaded with color, with energy and with a cacophony of calls, squabbles, laughter, feasting and celebration, for a grand finale, seven sulphur-crested cockatoos screech onto center stage, swooping down onto the feeders, scattering seed and lorikeets everywhere. I am in awe. They have truly upstaged every other bird. Their corn-yellow crests stand erect. Their pure white wings beat stiffly. Their harsh screeches are deafening. But I am standing and applauding.
It is almost 6.00 am. I shut the bedroom window quietly and my husband mumbles a sleepy “Thanks”. Unfortunately, this morning he has missed the show. But there is always more than one performance.
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