Saturday, March 17, 2012

Glossy Black-Cockatoo

That’s life! Sometimes the end result of a search is another tick to your Lifelist, or simply another good view of a favourite avian species. On the other hand, on occasions, the fruits of diligent observation and searching can amount to little more than a memory, the fading excitement of what might have been.

We experienced the latter on Saturday [17 March]. Not that we were birding avidly at the time. Far from it. There were too many tasks around the Allen Road property listed as needing urgent attention to allow for any serious birding. Nevertheless, as a matter of habit, even while filling in another deepening rut [clay soil and heavy rainfall make for sloppy track surfaces that rapidly degenerate into seeming chasms] eyes and ears remained alert to the possibility of new, or at least interesting, birds passing by.

It was during one of a number of tea breaks that our attention was alerted. Or rather, Fay’s attention was brought into focus. I was inside, continuing to redefine our Lifelist; Fay was on the north verandah reading another chapter of yet another book [she can read the average who-dun-it novel in a couple of days].

Fay called me out on the second call of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami.

You need to understand that unlike its near local relatives, the more common Yellow-tailed C. funereus and the rarer Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo C. banksii, both raucous variants of the family, the Glossy [actually a brown rather than a black cockatoo] is a comparatively quiet bird. Its call could go undetected; its arrival unnoticed as it locates a suitable tree to silently chew away on seed pods.

We both ceased whatever it was we were engaged in doing at the time, grabbed our binoculars [never too far from hand], raced down the front steps and cautiously approached what we refer to as the “Northwest Quadrant” of the property [not that the property is actually divided into four equal parts, nor indeed are there four definable segments]. Fay had heard the bird call from this section; our last sighting of it had been here.

It wasn’t new; it wasn’t going to be a “megatick”. My records indicate that since first seeing the species at Glen Innis [northern New South Wales] back in May 1999 [July 2001 for Allen Road] we had 93 subsequent sightings recorded – the last [at Allen Road] as recently as October 2011.

But it was always going to be exciting! As I have written elsewhere, they remain the darlings of our backyard bird species.

We walked, we stopped, we listened for the tell-tale sound of casuarina seed pods being chewed. Nothing. We walked on, we stopped at intervals and again listened intently for any giveaway indications of their presence – they often travel in trios although we have noted pairs and on one occasion a solitary bird.


We crossed the track and explored along the eastern fence line, heading back south towards the house. Our neighbour, not a birder, has an impressive stand of casuarinas in the northwest corner of his property [abutting our “Northeast Quadrant”]. It was the original source of the seeds used to start our own planting program.


Clearly the Glossy had merely been passing through and to add insult to injury, the rain started to come down. Those remaining ruts and potholes will have to await another day, as of course will our next sighting of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo