Chickadees and other haiku sized birds

We don’t have chickadees here; they are completely out of my experience. But ‘chickadees’ is the prompt on Nahaiwrimo today, so I had to look them up.

They are of the genus Poecile, a northern hemisphere genus. Titmouse is another name for them, apparently. I’m so pleased that I now know a titmouse is not actually a mouse. See how haiku can increase your education!

Also I went to YouTube and found out some fascinating stuff, like: they live through long winter nights and short foraging days by lowering their internal temperatures. They can feed upside down. Their hippocampus grows in autumn and winter so that they have more memory and can remember where they left their food stash. (I could use a little hippocampus growing, now and again.) Their chickadeedeedee call varies according to the level of threat. They have another high-pitched alarm call that other types of bird respond to. They have a call that people name their, ‘Hey, Sweetie!’ call. It’s used to attract females.

That set me to thinking about humans and how we love to give names to the behaviours of the animals and birds around us. ‘Hey, Sweetie’ sounds very American to me. We’d probably say, it’s the bird’s ‘Hey Sexy legs’ call, or something equally unromantic, inappropriate and funny.

Which brings me to small Australian birds. Such a wealth! Yesterday I held in my hands a Spotted Pardalote because he trapped himself inside. Oh what an exquisite little bird is that. At the birdbath these days, we have both the striped and the spotted pardalotes, about five different species of honey eaters, a golden robin and white-capped (red-breasted) robin, blue wrens, mistletoe birds, red-browed finches, tiny striated thornbills, and fantails. Oh my heart, it bursts.

We have our own names for them: thornbills are ‘pebbles’, we call the New England Honey eater  ‘Sunday dresser’ because he looks like he’s got an evening coat on, and we call the grey fantail ‘cheeky shit’ because when he gets caught inside and we catch him to set him free, he doesn’t fly off in a panic like the others, he flies just out of reach and turns around and scolds us! He even has a little mark on his brow that makes him look as of he is frowning.

just a heartbeat
cloaked in feathers
a handful of pardalote

not exactly
an elegant landing
fledgling wren

quick scribbles
of flight
the hunting fantail

from the lamb’s ears
a beak full of fuzz
mistletoe bird

just beyond the pane
the spread wings of a fantail
picking spiders

in the busy bush
a sudden silence
— goshawk



(‘Lamb’s ears’ is a plant with grey fluffy leaves)

More about haiku

Haiku is like a collaboration between writer and reader. The writer hopes the reader will make connections between the images s/he presents. Sometimes readers make different connections than the writer does and that just expands the possibilities of these tiny poems. I doubt that they must have deep meaning, but they have to engage on an experiential level and hopefully on an emotional level. Sometimes extraordinary things happen that you just can’t write into haiku because no one else has experienced that happening. But often the most mundane things carry great emotional overtones.

Buttons (with haiku)

Buttons are like treasures aren’t they? For example, the buttons you find at the bottom of your mother’s sewing drawer, cut from some worn-out piece of clothing and, waste not want not, kept for some future use.

in the button collection
a cool smoothness

shuffling through
Mum’s button collection
there’s my old green coat

Perhaps this a time-specific memory, uncommon these days? People don’t wear out clothes any more, and mothers often have nothing more in their sewing kits than a needle, thread, safety pins, and scissors. The other day my daughter said to me, ‘We don’t have Sunday-best clothes any more. We only have good clothes.’ True as it is, it could be a metaphor for the ecological problems of the planet.

between arthritic fingers
the awkwardness
of a button

on the child’s palm
the opalescent sea-scape
of a button


‘The button on the top of a baseball cap’ is the prompt for Nahaiwrimo today. Rather specific, isn’t it? It made me want to write something existential about a gnat on the button on a baseball cap. But that would be subject for an essay, not a haiku, so as usual when I don’t relate to a prompt, I picked part of the prompt. How rich is the subject of buttons? The above is a condensed; actually I very nearly wrote an essay.

beating the heat and pilsner glasses (Nahaiwrimo prompts)

winding my head
with a wet scarf
failed aircon

outside the pub doors
pooled on the pavement
cool air

forty-three degree day
that first sip
of beer

(43° C is 109° F)

home from the pub
with yet another half empty
pub glass

(not me btw, at least not since I frequented pubs)

stolen pub glass
philodendron cuttings
take root

They are awful glasses anyway. I inherited some from an ex. They are good for striking cuttings.

Indian Cotton

over under …
lost in the fibres
of an indian cotton shirt

in its muslin
the rhythm of the shuttle
indian cotton scarf

so threadbare it’s hardly modest
my favourite indian cotton shirt

Usually I try to avoid trade miles by buying locally produced products, but because of water theft by cotton growers in the upper Murray Darling Basin, I prefer to buy Indian cotton. But who do the growers sell their cotton to? Probably India. Oh well, if we each do our best…

Only one of these cloths is indian cotton actually. And, oh dear, there are a lot of trade miles depicted in this photo. One is from the middle east, one from South America, one from India, not sure about the other, but you can bet your boots it’s not Australian.

Hygiene or sterility?

Apparently it is desirable to shower twice a day, wash your hair daily, use soap or, preferably, disinfectant on every part of you body, drench yourself in various lotions to replace some of the oils you just washed away, and apply various forms of deodorant and or perfume until you smell like a freshly cleaned toilet.

Sometimes when I leave a lift, I smell like the last person to use that lift. Seriously I think we are insane. We have such a horror that we may smell like humans. Granted, physical hard work (especially when teamed with unnatural fibers) and or not washing the nether regions, can have a deleterious effect upon the olfactory receptors. But I really do not want to smell your perfume, and I certainly do not want to smell OF your perfume.

into my political tirade
the faint scent
of parrot feathers


I thought ‘Dry showering’ was the prompt for Nahaiwrimo. It isn’t, so I don’t know where I got that idea.

Anyway, I looked up ‘dry showering’. There are some weird folks out there, folks. But once you’re past the weird stuff, it’s all about (shock horror) missing one of your two showers a day and covering up the fact!

Mum’s embroidered tablecloth
a fly washes his face


morning ablutions
spotted pardalotes
dip their beaks

Pardalotes are THE most gorgeous small bird. When all the other small birds (honey eaters, fan tails, wrens and finches are all bathing, the pardalotes come also. They drink but don’t seem to bath. Goodness knows how they keep clean. Haven’t they heard of disinfectant?

See him here photographed by Richard Hall