For most of my life I thought I was listening to one bird calling when it was actually a pair. Welcome to the Eastern Whip-Bird, one of the more than thirty species regularly seen – or heard! – at Bunjaree Cottages.
Image: Barrylb under the Creative Commons license. Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Whipbird
Its call can be heard in the recording on this page at Birds in Backyards (a fabulous resource). The first “whip-crack” comes from the male, with his mate chiming in at the end with a “choo-choo” response. The Eastern Whip-Bird’s call also contributes to the various sounds Bunjaree’s resident lyrebird weaves into his imitations.
The Eastern Whip-Bird is a secretive insect-feeder, olive green with a long tail, a grey-white belly, and a black head with white cheek and eye patches. They can sometimes be seen feeding on the ground if you’re patient (and lucky!).
Author: David Cook Wildlife Photography
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Ahh, the Black Cockatoos.
As I sit here writing this, they are welcoming the bad weather by with what has to be the best horror-movie sound made by any bird, as they hang around the top of ridges looking for pine nuts (of which there are plenty in Wentworth Falls) and banksias (also available in profusion).
Since there aren’t pine trees on Bunjaree Cottages, it’s the banksia that brings the Black Cockatoo here. They don’t live on the property, but they are frequent visitors, always identified by their calls.
They are the largest birds you will see roosting on Bunjaree trees (as much as 65 cm in length), making their agility truly impressive: they seem completely unfazed at the aerobatics required to fly through spaces barely wider than their wing-span!
While they snack on large nuts, the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos’ main diet is wood-boring grubs – which means they can do considerable damage to tree branches while feeding!
These are truly magnificent birds, a wonder and a treat to see.
Here’s someone special. We have a few pairs of the Azure Kingfisher, Alcedo azurea, around Bunjaree Cottages, and since I haven’t written about our birdlife for a while, I thought this fellow was worth an introduction.
These birds aren’t often close to the cottages themselves. Rather, they live in the hanging swamp that occupies part of the property (the bush conservation area).
They can sometimes be seen, however, flying towards “the dam” – which isn’t actually a
The Azure Kingfisher. Photo credit: JJ Harisson. License: Wikimedia Commons. Original at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alcedo_azurea_-_Julatten.jpg
dam, it’s the hole where the clay was dug to build the cottages. While it mostly favours yabbies and small fish, when the weather is right, the dam is a haunt for frogs which attract the kingfishers.
They’re a very beautiful bird, as you can see – so if you’re lucky enough to spot one, consider it a special treat!
White-Throated Treekeeper. Image by “Aviceda”, Creative Commons license.
There’s more than one species of Treecreeper around the Blue Mountains, and they’re very small and fast – which makes it a little difficult for us to decide which ones we’re seeing at Bunjaree Cottages.
It’s quite a cheerful sight, however, when you turn your head at a call and see these fellows sprinting up tree trunks! Whether you spot the White Throated Treecreeper or the Brown Treecreeper, their agility on tree trunks is quite impressive!
When they’re on tree trunks, it’s to feed. Treecreepers browse on ants on the trees, sometimes adding a little nectar for variety.
Listening to the call posted on Birds in Backyards, I suspect the Treecreepers we see most often at Bunjaree Cottages are the White Throated – Cormobates leucophaea if you want the Latin name.
And here is a call I recorded on my my smartphone. I reckon it might make an acceptable ring-tone. What do you think?
(Note – when I posted that snippet to AudioBoo, I hadn’t identified it. My thanks to the local birder Carol Probets for naming it for me!)
First, a caveat: Pardelotes are very small, very fast, and don’t sit still. As a result, I have never seen one long enough to either get a photograph, or identify which species of Pardelote hangs around Bunjaree Cottages.
However, Pardelotes are among the many species of small birds which frequent the bush around Bunjaree Cottages. They pass through in flocks, sweeping between different locations on the site in a group, feeding, chirping, and moving on.
Spotted Pardelote - Image: Wikimedia
These birds are tiny – at 8cm to 10cm, they’re not much smaller than your hand, and are definitely smaller than some of Australia’s biggest moths! They have a quite musical call – Birds in Backyards has calls recorded here for the Spotted Pardelote and here for the Striated Pardelote, and since you’re more likely to hear them than see them, it’s worth listening to.
A lot of people also mistake female Pardelotes for scrub wrens, because their grey-and-olive plumage and small size makes them look a little wren-like.
I’ve been lax with Bird of the Week lately, but this is special: we’ve had a recent sighting of the somewhat-rare Gang-Gang Cockatoo at Bunjaree Cottages. This picture shows our visitor (with thanks to our friend Stilgherrian, who took the pic and posted it to Flickr — the original is here).
Photo by Stilgherrian
Gang-Gangs are quite gregarious and curious when they’re around, but they are an unusual sight around the Blue Mountains, which are at the edge of their range. The NSW Department of Environment & Heritage lists them as “vulnerable”, mostly due to land clearing leading to habitat loss.
Once, years ago, I asked a friend what this bird was, and was told “Bronze-Wing Pigeon”, and that’s what I have called it ever since.
However, as it has turned out, this resident of Bunjaree Cottages is more likely the Slender-Billed Cuckoo-Dove, Macropygia amboinensis, native not just to Australia but also to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Some scientists consider the Australian population to be a distinct sub-species, and give it the name Macropygia phasianella.
Around Bunjaree Cottages, there are several breeding pairs that stay all year. They will sometimes dispute the bird-feeders with the more numerous Crimson Rosellas and King Parrots.
Australia has quite a number of native pigeons, but none of them quite match the Wonga Pigeon, Leucosarcia melanoleuca.
The photo doesn’t really do it justice: the Wonga is a seriously large amount of pigeon.
Source: Glen Fergus, O’Reillys Guest House, Queensland
While quite shy, the Wonga pigeon is a ground-forager. Around Bunjaree Cottages, early risers can get lucky and surprise a Wonga Pigeon around their cottages.
If the pigeon sees or hears someone, it will leave as quickly as possible, and here you will get your second treat: its takeoff is noisy and rather ungainly because they’re so heavy by pigeon standards. The wing-clapping noise is quite impressive.
The Superb Lyrebird is almost a mascot of the Blue Mountains: it only takes a little good fortune (and a watchful eye) to spot lyrebirds on a bushwalk. And we feel incredibly lucky to have Lyrebirds living around Bunjaree Cottages.
They are very shy, but can sometimes be spotted in the early morning, moving between feeding spots and crossing the driveway. Lyrebirds feed by scratching around the leaf-litter for insects and spiders, and leave quite distinctive scratchings.
Superb Lyrebird. Author: Attis. Source: Wikimedia
We’re more likely to hear the Lyrebirds than to see them. They mimic a huge variety of sounds, but are particularly fond of putting whip-bird songs into their repertoire. I was so pleased with this recording of a Lyrebird (taken on my phone) that I use it as my ringtone!
Bushwalks where we have spotted Lyrebirds include the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which runs between Leura and Katoomba; between the Three Sisters and Scenic World; and around Katoomba Falls.
Here’s another Lyrebird performance I recorded. First it has a dog bark, then it imitates the owner (“Yoo-Hoo!”), and then it kind of riffs on other birds. “Yoo-hoo Lyerbird”
We can’t guarantee that you’ll see every one of the 30 or more species of birds that frequent the bush around Bunjaree Cottages – some are shy, some are rare, and some are nocturnal. But we can absolutely guarantee that visitors will see Crimson Rosellas – Platycercus Elegans – because there are several families living here.
Image: Richard at Bunjaree Cottages
These beautiful birds love visiting the feeders at our cottages, and will stay around for several hours on any given day.
Apart from their looks, the Crimson Rosella is notable for its variety of calls. There are sounds that you will recognize as normal for parrots – the chattering when they’re around the feeders; a loud, short screech in flight; but most astonishing is the beautiful bell-like “family call” when they are perched in a tree and calling to their family. It’s a two-note, high pitched “who-he-whoo” (low-high-low) that seems to mean either “here I am”, “where are you?”, or “come here, there’s food!”
They’re also extremely agile in flight. We’re constantly amazed at the way they can streak through dense bush at high speed – it’s really something to see!