The Place Where The Birds Happen - Here’s an Australian wildlife experience that you will never have
So it's my first time in Melbourne. My boyfriend and I went on an adventure, he had told a story about "the place where the birds happen". He showed pictures of himself as a child, covered in tiny cute birds. This tale and my general interest in wildlife inspired us to set off to find this mythical place from his childhood.
Well it doesn’t seem that it exists anymore but many helpful friends directed us to Grants on Sherbrooke, a picnic ground on the side of Mt Dandenong. The area is lovely with soaring gums and glimpses of Melbourne laid out below.
The picnic ground itself is spacious and includes a small cafe and tourist gift shop where some of the smaller tourist buses stop. All of this was dwarfed by my excitement to see the trees filled with birds. There were Rosellas , Kookaburras, Galahs and Cockatoos - lots and lots of Cockatoos perched in the trees, on fences, and wandering round on the ground.
We parked up and wandered over to a small fenced-off concrete pad where a lady was selling trays of seed for four dollars. For four bucks you could take you family inside the enclosure and feed the birds either throwing seed out to them or holding the tray so they would come up and perch on you. “Awesome” we thought “let’s do it”.
There wasn’t much tourist activity but there were plenty of Cockatoos and in short order we had handed over our token and been supplied with a metal tray filled with seed and a cheerful throw away warning:
“They’re a bit feral today; I don’t know what’s got into them.”
Before we had even left the entry hut the birds were flocking to us and by flocking I mean landing on, climbing over and generally mobbing us.
Within seconds I had maybe seven Cockatoos on the tray and my limbs.
“ Go further out, turn around.”
My boyfriend was trying to get a photo but the thing about Cockatoos is they are not small birds. They are heavy and the feet they so casually clamber about on you with are in fact hooked talons. Add this to the fact that today the birds were not getting along and were using my arms and shoulders as platforms to fight and peck at each other as they squabbled over the seed.
Needless to say, the experience was somewhat more traumatic than I had expected. After a few minutes we swapped roles with me taking the camera and him the tray of seed. I have to admit I was quite amused as the birds landed on his bare arms and he discovered just what I had been pulling faces at.
I escaped the flock with scratched arms and shoulders and one particularly large bruise where a delightful birdie used my arm for leverage mid fight. We retreated to the outside of the arena where we watched in amusement as other tourists got mauled. Not that the Cockatoos were in any way attacking us they were only treating us as they would any other food-bearing branch, it was only when they defended their meals that the claws became a problem. Eventually once most of the seed was distributed we ventured back to our abandoned tray to take some photos with the much calmer birds.
All in all it was a pretty unique experience. I got to see a bunch of Australian birds close up, I got to hand-feed the Cockatoos with them perched on my shoulders like a pirate's parrot. The photos are amazing, our war wounds made a great travel story and all this for the price of a coffee.
The only thing I would suggest is wearing long sleeves. You never know when the birds might be a little feral. =)
The whole Mt Dandenong area is well worth a visit. Lots of family picnic spots surrounded by Australian bush, seriously quaint pubs with live music in the evenings or check out Burke’s lookout of a free view back out over Melbourne. Then there is the wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for a whole range of Australian natives. You may even stumble across the place where the birds happen.