Re: the controvery on Blackbirds invasion, coming from England and being
well acquainted with Blackbirds there, these were originally woodland birds
that over the centuries have learnt to live happily in urban gardens, being
of great use in scratching up grubs around flower beds, even if they do
make rather a mess at times - but if there is a mess, grow ground cover.
They are usually quite tame and hop around close when one is gardening.
When I arrived here in 1983 I found a few living in the Sydney Botanic
Gardens and it is my impression that they do not do well in humid more
tropical conditions, as there are very noisy active healthy populations in
colder areas and Melbourne's Botanic Gdns. They seem to thrive in areas
where there is a frosty winter. Incidentally, those in the Sydney Botanic
Gdns have deviated from my memories of the normal song pattern, starting
with a few correct bars and then going haywire - copying the locals? -
whereas those in Melbourne have kept more to the British tone patterns.
Most likely because there are more of them there.
I usually see or hear them in dense higher forest particularly where there
is a lot of weedy undergrowth and blackberries, where they seem to have
reverted to their original condition, being extremely shy and secretive. In
the pine plantations around Sunny Corner State Forest, near Bathurst, NSW,
they are frequently heard and glimpsed, just as when one leaves the Sydney
basin for the Blue Mountains they are reasonably common.
Re: interaction with Bassian Thrushes, as the Bassian is a bigger bird I
would not have thought Blackbirds would have much effect - rather the
Bassians have been badly affected by ferals and loss of habitat. It is too
often that people rush to attack an exotic bird when the main problem is
feral cats, dogs, foxes and people, particularly the latter - clearing
native vegetation and incessantly planting/mowing lawns and removing all
undergrowth. The Superb Fairy-wrens in Sydney University's campus survived
the Currawongs until the groundsmen started clearing out the shrubberies
(as a security against lurkers at night), exposing the wrens fully to the
ever watchful Currawongs.
So don't be so quick to blame the Blackbirds - plant natives, encourage
thick tangled undergrowth and do something about feral cats in particular.
Penny Drake-Brockman, Examination Recitals Co-ordinator, Sydney
Conservatorium of Music.
Tel: 02 9351 1254.
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