Walking through double glass doors today at work, I found a grey feather in the space between them. So after one door had swished shut and the next one opened to let me out, I stopped to pick it up, and momentarily felt an odd flicker of worry that somehow this would cause both doors to malfunction, and the feather and I would have to stay in there together.

It’s a feature of windy days that things get blown in, and stay unnoticed. We’re all so busy, and we rush about, ducking around each other. But there’s evidence all around of the hard-work trailer and tools gardening labour that brings so many birds to the campus.

Satin Bowerbird, photographed by Michael Snedic

Here’s the secretive Satin Bowerbird, who I sometimes see swooping low into the trees where his bower is kept in immaculate order. When you find the bower, he’s rarely there, although I often feel that he’s nearby, watching to see if someone disturbs his installation, and moves his things.

I read a news report about research that was done on a different bowerbird, that collects white stones and shells and arranges them in size order. While he was away, researchers crept to his bower and rearranged the bone white pieces. On returning, the bird crossly put them back. From this the researchers deduced that the size order had some meaning to the bird. Who knows what the bird figured out about the researchers?

Satin bowerbirds are natural companions to university communities. The blue items they collect and arrange are exactly what we drop: ballpoint pen inserts, bottle tops, drinking straws, bits and pieces of everyday blue stationery.

The gardeners know where the bowers are, and they go undisturbed.


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Filed under Gardeners, Work life balance

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