Image by Keith & Lindsay Fisher @ Kingfisher Park.
I have no commercial interest and therefore can thoroughly recommend Kingfisher Park as a top birding spot.
Birds can be like that. Just as you think you have fathomed the patterns and behavioural traits of your local patch species, they suddenly exhibit a totally new and unexpected ploy to leave you with egg on your face.
Take the Eastern [Australian] Koel Eudynamys orientalis. In a previous post, “The Demise of the Rollers” I intimated that besides the premature departure of the Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis, the Eastern Koel had also, seemingly, gone from Allen Road.
Fay and I were comfortable with that. Like the Dollarbird, the Eastern Koel has been known to stay around our property until early March [7th in 2002, 9th in 2010]. We assigned their early departure in 2011 to similar reasons as those expounded for the early exodus of the Rollers.
Imagine therefore our surprise, and perhaps even a little chagrin when, this morning [Sunday 13], we heard the distinctive call of the Eastern Koel. It was a male and it was clearly coming from within our property!
Had it gone only to return a little later? Had it actually remained on the property but simply stayed quiet for the past few days? Given that at one stage we had as many as three separate pairs swooping around, was their disappearance timed in unison, triggered by some unwritten, to human senses, unfathomable clue, or a series of pointers? Have all three males returned with only one of the males calling this morning? Have the females also returned but choose to stay silent?
This trick is beyond our ken.
The Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
is another avian trickster who can punch significant dents in your ornithological ego.
Fay and I have long since ceased to ponder about this honeyeater being at the verandah feeder where we scatter a small handful of sunflower seeds to encourage the Australian King-Parrots Alisterus scapularis. We have come to accept that, on seemingly random occasions, if one of the cats dares to attempt a little early morning sunbathing on the east verandah, one, more often several, Noisy Miners will suddenly appear on the handrail to harass them until they seek shelter back indoors or on one of the other verandahs.
We take a pride in informing our non-birding neighbours, and overseas birding and non-birding contacts, that the Noisy Miner is renowned for its alarm calls. It has two; a general purpose alarm [e.g. “Watch out, ham-fisted Homo sapien on the prowl”] and its raptor-specific early warning system. Its latter call has often alerted us to the presence of a raptor nearing the property; we down tools, grab binoculars and race out to vantages points to glimpse the approaching bird of prey.
Image from ozanimals.com
Why then did this morning’s Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides appear over the vegetable garden unannounced and unheralded by a chorus of clamouring Noisy Miners?
It was only by the merest chance that we came to see this magnificent raptor; Fay was sorting out the young chicks in their cage under the house, I was repairing the back steps and left to find a more appropriate spanner. I have no idea why I should, at that point, have turned and looked up towards the vegetable garden but there it was, gliding in from the west.
As I called out to Fay the bird could have been only a few metres above our heads, making identification unquestionable. As it passed by only a solitary Pied Currawong Strepera graculina seemed to give any vocal indication of the raptor’s presence. The eagle flew on to the northwest and disappeared over treetops.
To make matters even more puzzling, when the Little Eagle returned to view some time later, again there was no warning call from the Noisy Miners.
Clearly, Fay and I will have to modify the details we give to non-birding neighbours and even to birding overseas contacts when discussing the patterns and behaviours of these particular avian tricksters.