Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wetter, Wilder & Whipbirds

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In my blog of 9 January I used the title “Wet & Wild” in which I briefly described climatic conditions in my part of Queensland. Little was I to guess that it was no more than a gentle prelude to a rather wetter and wilder patch.

As I said, on Sunday 9 January the skies opened up and poured 102.5mm of torrential rain over us in the space of a few hours. It broke all previous rainfall records for the property. The place was saturated. Water was streaming towards the house. I undressed to my underpants [even on 7½ acres of mostly woodland modesty reigns] and started to madly build higher “whoaboys’ [ridges to divert water] and excavated ditches to drain away even more water. I was saturated.

It seemed to do the trick; water was being diverted around the house.

Too much water for the drains.

The following night [Monday 10 January] we experienced a severe thunderstorm, with associated lightning. One clap of thunder, directly overhead, shook the entire [wooden] house. The rain gauge registered 134mm of water.

For those accustomed to thinking of rain in terms of inches, I’ll leave you to mull over these figures – 236.5mm of rain in under 24 hours. 25mm to the inch.

The defences held. More or less. On further inspection we discovered that some of the water being diverted around the side of the house was gathering in a hollow [created by the plumber when connecting the house to the septic system]. A pool had collected and water had seeped under the bottom plank to dampen that corner of the concrete foundation slab. No damage. We only keep the spare ‘fridge there.

And that has been the last of the rain. Life is gradually returning to normal. This morning [Monday 17 January] I even travelled to Blackbutt [where I teach] and managed to pick up fresh milk.

And of course there is a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Not only has the dam more or less doubled in size [see picture in previous blog]but a pair of Eastern Whipbirds appear to have taken up residence on the property. The species is not new to the Backyard List; we first recorded it here back on 10 June 2001. It is not however a common bird here, or anywhere else along Allen Road for that matter.

Image from

We became aware of its presence on Monday 10 January during our early morning walk down [west] Allen Road. It was calling from somewhere off to the north.

On Tuesday 11 January we heard the sharp whipcrack of the male coming from somewhere along the western boundary, clearly within our fenceline. We sat up. We looked at each other and listened intently. The whipcrack had moved to the south west, soft but unmistakeable. It finally seemed to settle south of the house BUT not too far away.

As is all too often the case in such instances, by the time we had dressed and gone looking for the critter it had decided that silence was the better part of valour. We did manage the briefest glimpse of the bird as it flitted behind some undergrowth and Fay eventually viewed him flying across to the orchard.

On Wednesday12 January not only did we hear the whipcrack of the male but it was immediately followed by the “choo choo” of the female. We had a pair!

The following morning the male was calling as early as 0444 hours but we could get no further glimpses of him. Then disaster struck. There was no sign of the Eastern Whipbird on Friday [14 January], not so much as a squeak. Had the pair moved out?

No. On Saturday he was cracking his whip as early as 0446 hours and has continued to crack his whip, with occasional responses from the female, ever since. That makes it a week since we first noted them on the property.

It would be exciting to think they have come to stay at least a while longer.

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