Bazza and Mick rise early for a quick fitness session and a chat.
“Pick up the pace, Bazza. You’ve got to get the heart rate up. It’s not a stroll. Stop looking around you. Eyes straight ahead and focus.”
Mick checked the pedometer, sighed and jogged on the spot as Bazza caught up:
“I don’t know why I drew up this fitness plan for you, Bazza. You were supposed to be jogging by now and on track to complete your first parkrun by Christmas. Absolutely no hope… given the size of your shadow.”
Bazza quickened his pace slightly but was soon preoccupied with the surrounds. Human intervention dominated the environment with footpaths, roads, telegraph poles and signs that stated the obvious.
He clicked his tongue:
“You’re a tough personal trainer, Mick… but I do appreciate you giving up the early mornings to get me in tip top condition.”
Mick paused to take Bazza through a few stretches:
All good, Bazza. I can’t sleep in anyway. This young bird in a nest outside my bedroom window is making a racket every morning. I don’t know what’s going on. It has somehow tricked these poor bloody magpies into believing it is their offspring.
It’s huge and they can’t feed it enough so it just makes this monotonous high pitched shriek that just gets louder as the exhausted magpies struggle to keep up the food.
The scenario is like a reality carton outside my window… now… push down on the hamstring, Bazza. You are trying to convince it that jogging is a possibility.
Bazza closed his eyes and followed the instruction. The only sounds he could hear were also human-made; the grinding of gears and the hiss of brakes from trucks and the constant hum of cars closed out the odd bird song:
That bird is called the Eastern Koel, Mick and so called because of the noise it makes. It’s a brood parasite. It lays a single egg in the host’s nest and once hatched, the chick forces the other eggs and hatchlings out of the nest and then carries on like a screaming only child. In your case, the poor magpies think it’s their offspring but struggle to feed it as it soon grows to about twice their size… how many more stretches, Mick?
“Leave the counting to me, Bazza… so where do these Koels come from?”
“South East Asia, Mick. They travel thousands of kilometres to Australia each spring to mate and rankle our ears.”
“Now… let me get this straight, Bazza. They fly all the way here to breed and lay an egg in this magpie’s nest. The offspring kicks the other eggs or chicks out and exhausts the nest owners with impossible demands.”
Bazza sucked in a deep breath and squinted beyond the manicured lawns and symmetrically planted trees and wondered whether the distant hills had also been "fixed up" by humans:
“All pretty rude eh, Mick?”
“Bloody hell, Bazza, no wonder magpies are so cranky this time of the year… anyhow, eyes on the footpath and focus on moving quicker.”
John Longhurst is a former industrial advocate and political adviser. He currently works as an English and History teacher on the South Coast of NSW.
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