Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, December 28, 2009

Creatures which revel in the fog.

There are some creatures in Robertson which revel in the Fog.
It is their natural environment. These are secretive, skulking birds which avoid being seen. So when the fog is thickest, they come out to "Party".

I refer to the Whipbirds (Eastern Whipbirds - Psophodes olivaceus to be precise).

I have lived here for about 7 years, and have only ever taken photos of whipbirds once before, yet I "live with" these birds every day. I just do not see them.

When Whipbirds are around, they are nearly always on the other side of any bush --- hiding away from people. They lurk in the bushes, they scold you through the bushes, with their hoarse, scratchy, croaky voices.(Courtesy of Lamington National Park website - recorded by Dave Stewart).

And then suddenly the male starts his call - a long drawn-out pure whistle, followed by a "crack" sound - hence their name, from the sound of the Stockwhip being cracked. (Click here to listen to a recording - courtesy of Fred Van Gessel, from the "Birds in Backyards" website).

The female, if she is around, usually answers with two or three "Chew, Chew, Chew" calls - immediately after the male's "Crack" call. I say three, because in Robertson they girls do triple calls, but elsewhere, it is normal for them to give only two answering calls.

This morning, I heard very loud whip-cracking going on just outside my kitchen window. I looked through the balcony slats and saw this:
No other bird looks like this. The white cheek patches of the Whipbird are totally distinctive. Also the fact that the bird was mostly hidden also fitted with its secretive nature.

The surprise was that when I appeared on the deck, camera in hand,
the Whipbirds - for there was a pair - did not flee. The sky was still misty and that may have helped them feel at home.
I had to open the camera right up to get any images at all.
Apologies for the poor quality
but they are worth publishing - for the rareness.
They were playing around on a pile of cuttings from a tree
which had been felled in a recent storm.The male twists his tail sideways as he begins his extraordinary call.
You can see that is is wedge-shaped, and has a few white dots on the end of the tail.

After putting up with me trying to sneak some shots of this rare display, suddenly the Whipbirds decided that I had over-done it, and they departed suddenly.

This is a typical shot of a Whipbird - flying fast and low, with the long, wedge-shaped tail spread, as it disappears from view - heading for dense cover. But even at speed, the white cheek patches are distinctive.
Vale little birds - see you in another 3 or 4 years time.
I'll listen to you tomorrow morning, though!


mick said...

That's a great sighting and even better to get photos - any photos! I've often heard these birds but have yet to see one.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Yes, they are like that.
Secretive little critters.

Snail said...

Whipbirds are so difficult to spot let alone photograph! Heard them plenty of times but I've never seen them while they're calling.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail,
That's precisely why I published these less than satisfying images.
A fair look is better than no look at all - which is what I normally see.