highlights, SEQ, 500m

Subject: highlights, SEQ, 500m
Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2005 13:08:58 +1000
2005 - Easter, and 4-5 April.

From my childhood here I recall Easter as marking in our minds the last likelihood of a cyclone - the end of the Wet season. It was a last brief summer getaway, and it did often rain. This year, though, on our mountain, both air and ground continued unseasonally dry. The heat gradually fell away, but the parchedness of things is frightening. Since then, a greyness has finally set in - but too late, perhaps, as it brings passing showers only, the plants look tiredly bedraggled, and the ground will not reach its usual end-of-summer moistness before this year's approaching Dry season arrives.
        On Good Friday the first autumn leaves appeared on the Liquidambar tree. For some weeks there have been downy feathers lying everywhere, and unidentified birdcalls come and go each day. Plumed Whistling Ducks were crowded onto a dam down at Delaneys Creek the previous weekend. A flock of (4-6) SULPHUR-CRESTED COCKATOOs appeared around our place - first time in some years - on Easter Sunday, and the YELLOW-TAILED BLACK-COCKATOOs pass through each morning and afternoon.
        The Tipuana tipu tree ('Pride of Bolivia') hosted its first pair of GALAHs for the year. As this year's seeds are now greening on the tree, we can expect to see the Galahs sitting in it more and more.
        As I worked in the garden on Easter Tuesday, I heard an unfamiliar male SATIN BOWERBIRD whirring and skeetching in the umbrella bush (the traditional 'workshopping' area for these birds). After a while, the bird flew up into sight - The first green bird has begun his practice-performance for the year!
        But the highlight of all these days was this: Three GLOSSY BLACK COCKATOOs! These haven't been sighted on our place since the beginning of 2003, and are rarely seen. They seemed to move into a small stand of allo/casuarinas (hard to see through the bins) on the opposite slope, their quiet sounds and the gorgeous red flares of their tails - so exciting.
        One seemed to be being fed by another. And the local TORRESIAN CROWs looked a bit uneasy with these birds around... I reflected that afternoon that of the four large cockatoos atlassed for our little area, three had been present on the one day.
        We've had FRIARBIRDs and BROWN HONEYEATERs, perhaps passing through, and I can hear other birds out there, but can't see them!
        There was though, a strange sight last Tuesday lunchtime (5.4): A noisy group of birds flying north-south over our heads suddenly resolved itself to be - mostly RAINBOW LORIKEETs flying with 4 or 5 GALAHs all wheeling and flocking together, with and around a RAPTOR. Finally, as they reached the souther ridge/horizon, the parrots peeled away, wheeled back northward, and split into the two species before passing us on their back to where they'd come from.
        I was so startled by all this that I failed to identify the raptor that had been among them. The Pacific Bazas in our area inspire some strange animosities, and of course the Collared Sparrowhawk is always mobbed/chased off once discovered, but usually by Noisy Miners, Magpie Larks, Magpies, Crows, etc. Certainly this bird was crow-sized; its tail was narrowly squared, the trailing edge of the wings was rounded, it looked pale-ish with faint?barring across the breast/belly, and even while being 'flocked-off' by these largish noisy parrots, its wingbeats seemed almost leisurely...
        Generally though, I'm afraid, I was simply open-mouthed! This was not 'mobbing', but something else, and beautiful too.

Meanwhile, over the break I was reading 'SWALLOW SUMMER', by Charles R. Brown. This is an account of a season of fieldwork, one Nebraska summer in many years' of research into the Cliff Swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota. Each day of the entire summer he writes of what he & his partner & their students actually do in the field - and both the tedium of much scientific work and the excitements come through excellently. His love for these swallows and for the places where they nest overrides all the discomforts and drudgery. The aims & achievements of the research are there before him always. This long book is strangely absorbing: you wouldn't think there'd be anything compelling about day-by-day minutiae and repetition. Yet I looked forward to going back into that world each night (from the comfort of my armchair, of course), and like Charles R. Brown himself, I'm sad it's over.

That's all for now.


Judith L-A
S-E Qld
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