Sydney storms - 19 Feb

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Sydney storms - 19 Feb
From: "Tom and Mandy Wilson" <>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 14:18:13 +1100
Hi all
those readers in Sydney & the Central Coast no doubt also experienced
yesterday (Sat 19 Feb) afternoon thunderstorms.  As the weather was building
up (about 3:30-4pm) I (like Edwin Vella at Prospect) was looking for swifts.
However, I was more successful - from the deck of my house in Turramurra
(northern Sydney) I saw eights or nine "packets" of swifts go through,
ranging from one small group of White Throated Needletails of about 12
birds, to a big group of 70+ WTNTs.  The latter was one of the groups that
one sees where the swifts are at all sorts of altitudes and as one scans the
higher up birds with binoculars, one can see a range of dots higher up
still - presumably more swifts.  As well as WTNTs, two of the packets were
Fork Tailed Swifts - easily distinguishable as they were quite low so I got
great views of the longer tails and white rumps. One group was 25-30 birds,
the other a bit larger.  I scanned all flocks (but esp the fork tails)
carefully for smaller birds and squared off tails but they all looked
"forky" to me with the tails generally extending well beyond the swept back
wings and no white throat/white rump combinations seen.

In answer to Edwin's request, the birds were about 60-75 minutes ahead of
the first heavy rain at my place, the wind was picking up at ground level
and the storm was building from the west but the birds were under the
"bright" leading edge cloud of the storm, not the dark grey rain bearing

A question that did come to mind as I watched these groups of birds head
east with the weather - at what point do they bale out and head back
inland - presumably at some point the supply of insects in the updraughts
peters out as the storm is no longer over land - and how do they then get
back past the front - the tops of the storms are pretty high I presume.

At about 6pm, as the rain was setting in, I could hear (and at points see)
our resident Grey Butcherbird singing away, despite being soaked well past
the feathers.  However, as well as the normal Grey Butcherbird calls, he
(she?) was quite clearly mimicking other bird calls as well, although very
sotto voce.  Included in his repertoire were Rosella, Kookaburra, and
Currawong.  None of my guides (Pizzey, Morecombe, Simpson & Day) mention
mimicry - is he a normal Grey Butcherbird or a clever dick?

Tom Wilson
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