2 amusing incidents

Subject: 2 amusing incidents
From: (John Leonard)
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 11:01:40 +1000 (EST)
I've just been looking through my note-books recently and been reminded of
the two funniest avian incidents I have witnessed. Most of the time, I
think, we see birds as superbly graceful, competent and dignified creatures
just getting on with being birds, but occassionally we're lucky enough to
see an incident which shows them as less than dignified and competent:

1. About ten years ago I had gone to a wood in England to try to see a
Nightingale. In the right habitat these bird are quite easy to hear, but
difficult to see (they begin singing in the late afternoon, by the way).
Eventually I succeeded and was making my way out of the wood when I saw a
Blackcap, a common sylvid warbler, fly to a perch about ten feet above the
ground and begin to sing its territorial song. However, almost as soon as it
started a nightingale started to sing powerfully from nearby underwood.
Every time the poor blackcap started to sing the nightingale drowned its
song with its own, including mimicry of the BC's song. The BC has quite a
nice little song, but it's no match for the Nightingale?the effect was that
of someone playing a tin-whistle and suddenly being drowned by great blasts
of music from a powerful church organ. And it must just have been pure
bloody-mindedness on the part of the nightingale, as these two species are
not in competition and normally hold sympatric territories. The BC was
intensely discomforted, and after a while flew off chacking angrily.

2. Soon after I arrived in Australia I went to Sandgate 2nd Lagoon in
Brisbane. I was watching a Royal Spoonbill feeding from about 10 meters
away. As it was sweeping backwards and forwards with its bill through the
water it suddenly snapped at a fish and pulled its bill out with a
medium-sized flatfish grasped in it. However the fish was obviously heavy
and a little on the large side for the SB to handle. It took it a few
minutes of juggling to get it head downwards and when it began to swallow I
could see that the fish was too big to swallow easily. However the SB
persisted and got it halfway down its throat. It was standing there with a
great big lump halfway down its neck straining desperately?just like in a
Tom and Jerry cartoon when Tom has had a bowling ball rammed down his
throat. Anway, after a minute or so the lump suddenly vanished downwards and
the SB looked most relieved. I expect it had to go away and digest its very
large dinner for several hours.


Dr John Leonard
PO Box 243, Woden,

" Old pond,
  a frog.  "  Basho


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