Springtime news from the mountains

Subject: Springtime news from the mountains
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 20:47:09 +1100
The cicadas are almost deafening this year in many parts of the Blue
Mountains, which makes birding rather difficult at the moment. I think the
majority are "Masked Devils", which is a form of the Greengrocer with an
orange head and a black abdomen. They wake me up every morning and sing
right through the day whenever the sun shines. It's also a good season for
orchids - I've seen at least half a dozen species in flower just in the
past few days.

The Red-whiskered Bulbuls have built a nest in the jasmine on the wall of
my house. They currently have 3 eggs but haven't yet started to incubate.
The cup nest is built of rootlets, twigs, bits of tissue paper, and some
lovely paperbark which they stole from my Melaleuca styphelioides. Although
they are an introduced species they don't seem to cause any major problems.
However, I'm not sure if it's possible for an introduced bird to have no
negative impact at all.

There have been lots of Channel-billed Cuckoos around, but few Koels so
far, at least in my local area. I heard the first Koel calling here at
Katoomba on the 3rd November, which is quite late.

This afternoon the drizzle cleared and I went for a walk to the Ruined
Castle (which is not really a castle but a rocky tor on a ridge on the way
to Mt Solitary, south of Katoomba). This involves a steep descent into the
Jamison Valley then walking for several kilometres through some magnificent
forest. After heavy rain yesterday everything is wet and slippery, and all
the usual rainforest species such as Rufous Fantail and Black-faced Monarch
were evident, as well as Red-browed Treecreeper, Cicadabird, and a small
party of Gang-gang Cockatoos which landed with a great deal of commotion in
the trees above me. I watched a Sacred Kingfisher as it caught a cicada
which was almost larger than the bird's head then, high above the forest
floor it bashed it against a branch for a good ten minutes until the
cicada's wings fell off, then swallowed it in one gulp.

On the way out I sat and listened to a Superb Lyrebird giving one of the
best concerts I have heard, despite it being the "wrong" time of year. In
addition to all the usual mimicked bird sounds, this lyrebird seemed to
take particular delight in the various calls of the Pied Currawong,
including a perfect rendition of a young currawong being fed, complete with
frantic begging calls and gulping sounds at the end! After about 20 minutes
of listening I had to move on, and the bird continued to sing non-stop as I
climbed all the way out of the valley. I could still hear it when I reached
the lookout at the top. A glorious afternoon.



Carol Probets
Katoomba in the upper Blue Mountains, NSW
(100km west of Sydney)

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