THE MACAW

This blue and gold Macaw is Pinto. He lived close by with friends of mine. He was released to fly free most sunny days.

Painting this beautiful bird took months. At first glance a blue Macaw’s wings are vibrant blue but it’s an illusion. The feathers have many subtle hues ranging from a coppery green to violet and iridescent indigo.

I once opened my window shutters to find Pinto swinging on the lamppost wire outside. His favourite haunt was the Woollahra Hotel. He’d fly onto the upstairs veranda where patrons fed him his favourite food – shortbread biscuits. Local shoppers became accustomed to seeing a flash of bright blue in the treetops and he was a delightful surprise for visitors to the area … all with their phone cameras out.

In the beginning, my friends had to hire a bird trainer to teach Pinto to land when he returned home. In the wild, Macaws stay in the tree canopy and rarely need to come down. The manoeuvre had to be learned.

Pinto loved people and was especially drawn to children playing cricket in the nearby park after school. One afternoon he was caught and taken by a man who said he thought the bird was lost. The man responded after two weeks to the reward being offered and Pinto came home. Hopefully the reward money covered the cost of repairing the timber cupboards, table and chairs Pinto gnawed in the kitchen during his stay.

Pinto passed away in December 2021 just a few weeks before Christmas. The family was heartbroken. It is thought he ate a peanut that had a fungus which acted like a neurotoxin. He was found on top of the nesting box, still protecting it, where his mate was sitting on two eggs. These have since hatched and something of Pinto lives on.

THE SHELL NEST

Birds’ instinctive and learned artistry in building their nests is a constant source of wonder.

Most of us enjoy strolling along a beach, collecting driftwood and shells. However, for some birds this exercise is necessary to build a home and to ensure their chicks are safe.

This painting was inspired by a Caspian Tern’s nest. Terns are migratory diving birds and make do with very little on seashores and estuaries. They often dig a shallow depression in the sand then disguise their nest with what nature provides – shells, driftwood and seaweed. Tern eggs are especially vulnerable to being taken by gulls and the camouflage usually keeps their brood safe until they old enough to leave the nest.

WEAVERS NEST

In Kenya, I watched a Weaver Bird work its magic hanging upside-down as it meticulously knitted blades of grass into an empty cocoon shape. At day’s end a female examined the completed nest and settled in. It was a success. Unacceptable nests are dismantled and tossed to the ground by the female.