Bird Members of Our Community: A Photo Essay

Rhonda Poholke

Birds are talking, in gardens, parks, streets and empty buildings. Often heard before they are seen, wild birds, have a natural suspicion of humans and tend to blend into the background when one comes into their territory. There’s nothing like a chirp, coo or cluck-a-luck to turn a bird watcher’s head. Those familiar, soothing sounds put the world right for a minute or two.  Imagine a town without birds.

These feathered community members work, play, love and squabble (just like us) raising their families, hardly noticed by the majority of people. Yet here they are, living amongst us, without the conveniences that humans require. Their needs are simple: water, food, and materials for nest building.

Birds take a beating from predators such as dogs and cats, and humans encroaching on their habitats. Despite the speed limits in built up areas, a high number of birds are killed by vehicles going way too fast.

Even a seemingly plain looking bird has exquisite tones and patterns layered in its feathers. And every beak has its own unique shape, held proud and true to the species. What ancient avian thoughts behind those rounded, piercing eyes? To capture such depths with a camera takes patience – or potluck. Recently I spotted a hawk circling over the garden and by the time I raced back out with the camera, it had gone; a missed opportunity, but at least, “my” birds were spared.

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This photo essay was inspired by the birds I’ve met, some in the wild, others from council parks and gardens. To hold a bird in my lens, feathers all a-sheen in a tree’s green light, or against the sky’s backdrop, or across the silvery shades of water – this is the ultimate challenge, before it flies away. Sometimes a bird lingers, as if granting me permission to take its photo, or perhaps curiosity keeps it there; but for those few seconds, there’s only the bird and me, then it’s gone, back to its feathered business.

Where do birds sit in this fast-moving society? I’ve heard it said the land is healthy if there are birds. Rather, shouldn’t it be that birds are healthy if there is land (for them). As I write this I hear birds conversing outside, from the bottlebrush to the flowering gum. I wonder what they say to each other when they see developers move in on another section of their territory. Perhaps that cockatoo flying overhead last week with its sky splitting shriek was speaking for all bird kind.

© Rhonda Poholke 2014

Rhonda Poholke is a poet and photographer living in Western Victoria. Her poetry chapbook If You are Quiet was published by Melbourne Poets Union in 2007. In 2008 Rhonda self published First She Lived a poetic journey of Wimmera pioneer woman Eliza Lipson Allan. Rhonda has had her photography published on several web sites including ABC Snapped, Australian Photography, Elders and Art Is Festival.

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