Birding through a haze of sleep deprivation and lack of food can be quite fun. However, birding off the back of a strong cup of coffee can be so much more fun! We rolled up at the door of my aunt & uncle in Queensland to the sight of a Pale-headed Rosella bouncing over the garden fence, the shrill chatter and screech of a family of Rainbow Lorikeets in the bottlebrush and the glorious feeling of a nice steady 27 degrees Celcius. Mm-hmm.
After a pause to freshen up, feed ourselves and generally learn the lay of the land, we all headed down to the local ponds for a bash at some semi-rural birds, beasts and flowers, a chance to unwind and an attempt to get some blood moving in the legs again. A mildly bewildering flurry of new sounds, smells and sights - Blue-faced Honeyeaters, Noisy Friarbirds, Laughing Kookaburras, the scent of Eucalyptus in the air, and a background which looked both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. On the ponds, Dusky Moorhens look pretty much like Common Moorhen, but shoulder-to-shoulder with Purple Swamphens which are after your pie-crumbs? And though the swallows look superficially like Barn Swallows, they sound like Red-rumped Swallows and are actually Welcome Swallows. Confused? Me too (briefly). By this stage the coffee is wearing off, so head back to the house, relax, read and recover.
|Static Wandering Whistling-ducks.|
|Pacific Black Duck. Made up to look a little like Buster Keaton.|
|Lotus (?) blossom on the local ponds|
And at dawn the next morning, a cacophany of new sounds: Laughing Kookaburras chortling away, Rainbow Lorikeets squealing, King-parrots peeping (a most un-parrot-like sound), Magpie-larks wheezing their strange 'beep, bleep' duet, and all interwoven with the melodic whistles of Australian Magpie and the blasts of sound from Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Noisy Friarbirds. Unable to stand the suspense ("what the hell was that anyway??"), I slip quietly out of the house at 5.30 and go for another walk around the ponds. Yesterday's cast is joined by a Double-barred Finch, which looks like a mini House Sparrow dressed as a pavement mime, some Silvereyes - small Willow Warbler-green birds with brilliant white spectacles and a White-browed Scrubwren, which looks a little like an ornate wren with beetling white eyebrows and behaves like a Dunnock.
|Laughing Kookaburra looking a bit like those cuddly toys that you press to get a bird noise from. Don't be fooled: they're killers. Look at that beak. They take more children per year...|
|Rather bad photo of a Rainbow Lorikeet.|
After breakfast we head out to the local Bushland Botanical Gardens to stretch legs whilst remaining within dashing distance of a loo for Na, who's picked up something undesirable from the plane (and before you say it, no, she picked me up long before this plane trip...). Our first butcherbirds appear: Pied and Grey Butcherbirds both parade around the picnic areas waiting for an unwary Aussie whose lunch can be pirated. Scaly-breasted Lorikeets join the Rainbows in the bottlebrush bushes, squabbling for nectar. In the trees, above all the low-level trashy parrot-noise, Scarlet Honeyeaters and Mistletoebirds flit and shimmy from flower to flower with the larger olive-green Lewin's Honeyeaters. We sit and watch kookaburras perched in the trees, who in turn watch the ground, before dropping with surgical precision onto some unfortunate skink, or worm, or snake.
|Australian Flatwing Austroargiolestes icteromelas|
|Pied Butcherbird just washing down a small child.|
In the afternoon we head over to the grounds of the Sunshine Coast University, to look for Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Just two animals are out there feeding, but the ponds yield some more interesting birdlife: Masked Lapwings with chicks, Fairy Martins building bottle-shaped mud nests under a canopy, a Black-faced Cuckooshrike posing in the dying sunshine, and a smattering of egrets: Cattle, Intermediate and Great.
|Noisy Miner. How did I forget to mention these birds in the text? Especially their morning chorus of twangs, plinks and squeaks. Endearingly unmusical...!|
|Eastern Grey Kangaroos whispering secrets to the worms.|