Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A good day for the Shrike-thrushes.

Today there was a "grey-out", in Robertson. Drizzle, changing to mist, intervened with light rain.

Of all the local birds, it is the Grey Shrike-Thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) which revels in this weather, most of all. It calls a lot on such days. There was one singing loudly from the Cherry Trees on the main street of Robbo, which is quite some distance from the natural heavy cover which it normally prefers. If you did not listen to the call yesterday, may I suggest that you check out this site, and listen to the MP3 file, which is shown far down on the right hand side bar, under the heading: "Calls". (Go to the "Birds in Backyards" site at that link)

I mentioned yesterday the distinctive posture of this bird, when you see it hopping around on the ground, listening for grubs and worms in the soil. Listening? Sure. See the head tilted on an angle here (below)? It is not looking at me - well, maybe it is keeping "an eye" on me, but really it is listening for insect sounds.

I have no idea what noises a worm makes, but they must make some noises, for Kookaburras and Magpies listen for them. And that's what this bird was doing yesterday. With some success, as you can see.

So, for a dull-looking bird, it is quite distinctive, for its habits and mannerisms, as well as its very distinctive calls. So, it is easily recognised. There are only two bird with similar habits in the local area.

The first is the similarly sized "European Blackbird", Turdus merula (a member of the true "Thrush" family of the Old World - Europe, Asia and North America), but that bird is much darker. The males are black, and the females are dark brown. Their call is a shrill whistle, or else a harsh repeated alarm call.The other "true thrush" in the local area is the "Bassian Thrush"( Zoothera lunulata ) (also known as the "Ground Thrush"). It makes a fine whistling call, at dawn and dusk. The call is similar to the Blackbird, and is often mistaken for the call of the Blackbird, which is more common in Robertson than the native species (unfortunately).

This bird is considerably heavier than the Grey Shrike-thrush. It has a very large eye, and distinctive spotted marking (little crescent shaped marks especially on the underside - which is the origin of its specific name - "lunulata") It is distinctively dark above, and light below. This bird is very happy on the ground, preferring to run through the undergrowth than to fly. If it does fly away from you, it has a pale cream stripe in its wings, which is very distinctive. This bird is very hard to photograph, because of its preference for dark shaded areas. It is also very well camouflaged.

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