Saturday, January 19, 2008
The river trail was filled today with the glorious song of the Eastern Whipbird, the hooping of the pheasant-like Coucal and the chattering of flycatchers, wrens and other LBBs (Litte Brown Birds). The Whipbird's sonorous whistle echoes across the valley. Mostly, says the birdbook, they are heard but not seen so it was a special moment watching a pair of these smalll birds hop through the branches, chattering and singing (Frith, 1976).
The clever musicality of the Whipbird is created by both male and female singing together. The male starts off with his characteristic smooth 'Whip!', then the female completes the call with a high-pitched, drawn-out and beautiful 'choo-eeeeeee'. And here they were, the two of them, looking splendid, their head crests raised slightly, their olive feathered backs blending into the leafy canopy, and their fan-like tail swishing back and forth dancing among the branches.
Whipbirds are very active but shy. They forage in the leaf litter and logs lying on the ground searching for insects and larvae. And the birdbook reveals something else that's special about the Whipbird - they are 'an ancient group of species that are found no where else' (Frith, 1976: 396).
There's been a lot of rain lately. It's flooding in many locations across southern Queensland causing havoc. Here the river is running high, fast and brown. Lots of people are out and about jogging, rowing, walking their dogs, and as their dogs splash in the shallows between the Mangroves, we talk about the height of the river, the very high tidal flows and the return of the wet.
Looking up at what were sad and seemingly dead trees a few weeks ago, clumps of new shoots have begun sprouting from the branches, while the birds heralding the rain, the new growth and the revitalised life along the riverbank.
Frith HJ, 1976, Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds, Surry Hills, Reader's Digest Services Pty Ltd.