Sunday, 12 February 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 12 February 2012


I spent more time than was necessary yesterday trying to put a name to a little brown bird. LBBs are tricky enough when they’re out in the open, but in a rainforest they are almost impossible. It was not a brown gerygone. It was not a scrubwren of the Atherton or large-billed variety. And it was certainly not a white-browed or yellow-throated scrubwren — yellow-scroted thrubwren, as it is known around here thanks to a friend’s delightful Spoonerism. Unless it reappears on my window sill, I will have to leave it as an LBB. I have quite a collection of them.

The birding is lacklustre here at the moment. The tooth-billed bowerbird is still singing, although he is noticeably unenthusiastic about it, and the spotted catbirds seem to have given up altogether. When they stop off at the Melicope during their afternoon circuit, they give a few ‘tink’ calls and that’s yer lot. No yowling duets or vigorous vocal duels with neighbouring pairs. And the quandongs have finished blooming, so the honeyeaters and lorikeets have moved on to the Buckinghamia. I haven't seen them, but no doubt they gorging themselves on the bounty from those exuberant blossoms.

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Butterflies are compensating for the low bird diversity. In addition to the usual suspects —birdwings, triangles, bush-browns and jezebels — iridescent blue Ulysses flit through the garden in the company of wanderers, hamadryads and a large number of unidentified yellow butterflies. These last ones might be lemon migrants, but I have yet to spot one when my binoculars are to hand. The butterflies are almost luminous, the colour of a canola field on a sunny day. Half the pleasure of butterfly watching lies in their names. I would like to see a pearl owl, otherwise known as Artemis owl, but that lives only on the Torres Strait islands and the tip of Cape York Peninsula. Perhaps I should start a butterfly list.

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One of my neighbours has replaced his flock of Wyandotte chooks with Australorps, which are glossy black. This is going to be very confusing for the brush turkeys.

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