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Updated: 2 hours 34 min ago

Orange-footed Scrubfowl Shenanigans

Wed, 10/24/2012 - 21:03

Originally published in ‘Nature Territory’ October 2012, Newsletter of the Northern Territory Field Naturalists Club Inc.

 

They’re noisy, they’re dog proof and they love to dig up the garden. They are the Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt), a common sight and sound around Top End suburbia these days.

Affectionately known as Scrubbies, these opportunistic, chicken-sized relics of Gondwana appear to thrive in close proximity to humans and often seem oblivious to our presence. They do especially well in our tropical gardens which offer many things that scrubfowl need, such as dense trees and vegetation and plenty of moisture. Gardens also provide a source of food such as insects, fruits, berries, seeds and shoots.

Being a megapode, scrubfowl create nest mounds using plant material and sand or soil which pairs of birds will return to and maintain each year. Occasionally several pairs may use a single mound simultaneously (Palmer et al. 2000) and some mounds have had continual use for over 40 years (Jones et al. 1995). Using strong orange legs and feet the birds continuously add and remove leaf litter, mulch and other materials to the mound to mediate the temperature inside for egg-incubation. This is not always welcomed by gardeners since they dishevel garden beds and irrigation systems in the process. Not to mention that their ‘maniacal calls and screams carry some distance’ (Wildcare undated). Mounds are sometimes removed to deter messy, noisy birds however attitudes towards them are generally positive (Gillis & Noske 2007).

Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Bees Creek. Credit: Mischievous Magpie

Megapodius reinwardt hasn’t always been a suburban resident. It has a large range and is found in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and northern Australia. It occurs in a range of habitats from sea-level to 1,800m, including lowland and montane forest, swamp forest, mangroves and more arid bushy or wooded country near the coast (BirdLife 2012). Local records suggest the birds used to be restricted to large patches of monsoon forest on the coast or inland (Crawford 1972) such as Casuarina Coastal Reserve or East Point and there is no mention of Orange-footed Scrubfowl in Thompson’s 1978 ‘Common Birds of the Darwin Suburbs’. Scrubfowl were first noticed inhabiting Darwin city around the end of the 1980’s and by the late 1990’s were a common sight in gardens and streets across 23 suburbs (Franklin & Baker 2005).

So why this growth in the suburban population? Several theories exist. One suggests that two main threats to scrubfowl eggs, buffalo and monitors, have decreased significantly in recent years due to culling programs and cane toad poisoning respectively. Another theory points to destruction of scrubfowl habitat in places like Lee Point and Buffalo Creek to create the very suburbs the birds now inhabit. A third theory suggests that the suburbs initially acted as sinks for excess young from nearby rainforests and may now be both sinks and sources of new generations of the species.

Whatever the reason, urbanisation of scrubfowl provides us with a great opportunity to learn more and some interesting behavior has been observed in recent weeks.

About four years ago on a Bees Creek bush block, a pair of Orange-footed Scrubfowl claimed for their mound a 2 metre tall pile of topsoil intended for the garden. They’ve maintained the mound and two juveniles have been spotted in the last two years. On Wednesday 18th July, the pair was challenged by a male previously observed foraging in open woodland to the rear of the property. The trio’s cacophonous shrieking, flapping and chasing around attracted the attention of another pair who appeared from nearby until all five of them were cackling and flapping about on the nest-mound. The neighbouring pair appeared to be helping the resident male defend his mate as they frequently lunged at the interloper and once they had seen him off, made a noisy exit back to their own patch. The resident pair returned to digging on their mound. A couple of hours later the challenging male returned and despite the female’s best efforts and her male’s attempts to divert the interloper, the latter managed to pin her down and mate with her. Immediately afterwards the resident male mated with her. This was followed by much chasing around the garden until finally the challenger left.

A similarly extraordinary event involving five scrubfowl leaping on each other was observed the day before in a Darwin suburb. Perhaps the rain the previous Sunday had stirred the birds to begin breeding. Orange-footed Scrubfowl pair-bond but although the female is polygamous she tends to mate with other males out of sight and forced mating such as this is thought to be unusual.

All of this begs several questions. Is it common for scrubfowl to interact this way or is this possibly a suburban behaviour? Has suburban breeding increased since the last survey was conducted in 1998? As clearing continues to cater for larger and denser human populations in Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area will the birds still find a home in our suburbs?

There is clearly much more to learn about our Top End scrubfowl. Their high visibility, popularity and fascinating behavior could make these birds the ideal focus for a citizen science project. As well as adding to knowledge about the birds, participants might develop stronger attachments to their local Scrubbies and may inspire others to maintain wildlife friendly gardens and suburbs.

…………………………………………………

This article developed from a discussion on the NT Birds list and the author gratefully acknowledges the following local birding experts for their contribution: Graham Brown, Fiona Douglas, Johnny Estbergs, Stephen Garnett, Mike Jarvis, Niven McCrie, Richard Noske, Magen Pettit, John Rawsthorne, Jo Wright.

References

BirdLife International 2012. Species factsheet: Megapodius reinwardt. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 04/08/2012.

Crawford, D. N. 1972. Birds of Darwin area, with some records from other parts of Northern

Territory. Emu, 72, 131-148.

Franklin, D.C. & Baker, B. The Orange-footed Scrubfowl Megapodius reinwardt as an urban bird in Darwin, Northern Territory. Australian Field Ornithology 22, 48 – 50.

Gillis, M. & Noske, R.A. 2007. Orange-footed Scrubfowl in Darwin – horticultural pest or partner? Northern Territory Naturalist 19: 76-80.

Jones, D.N., Dekker, R.W.R.J. & Roselaar, C.S. 1995. The Megapodes. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Thompson H.A.F. 1978. Common birds of the Darwin suburbs. Pp. 7-12.

Wildcare undated. Living with Orange-footed Scrubfowl Factsheet. Downloaded from www.wildcarent.org.au/factsheets on 04/08/2012.


In the Company of Curlews

Tue, 10/16/2012 - 18:32

Haunting, mournful and eerie are words often used to describe the night-time calls of the enigmatic curlew.  It’s little wonder these birds are shrouded in myths about death and mourning. Also known as “wailing women”, the bird’s cry often represents a mother grieving over the loss of her child.

But it’s the birds themselves that are becoming myths as their woodlands are disturbed and the large flocks of yesteryear dwindle to isolated pairs.  It’s mournful that this shy and gentle creature has been scared onto the endangered species list.

If you walk quietly across our lawn, and cast your eyes into the orchard, there by the pile of fallen branches you’ll find a family of bush-stone curlews.

Bush-stone Curlew (Burhinus grallarius) Credit: Mischievous Magpie

We know they’re around when a typical evening’s squabbles and hoots are suddenly silenced by a supernatural keening.  It’s the cheerful dirge of curlews courting on our moonlit lawn. Later their frenzied screaming is accompanied by the doleful falsetto of chicks exploring the upper ranges of their spine-chilling repertoire.

We creep around in the dark, delighted to catch the occasional glimpse of them skulking, dashing and freezing, like a family of feathered ghouls practicing their scaring techniques.

Curlews bond for life and adults share the care of their young.  We take a moment every morning to count the heads from afar and satisfy ourselves the chicks are alive and thriving.  But a couple of weeks ago one of the parents disappeared.

Is that eerie keening now grief for the loss of a partner and mother?

The remaining adult may live out its 30 years; perhaps bring a new mate to our orchard and woo us all again with moonlit wailing.

Or we may never again enjoy the company of curlews and that really would be something worth mourning.


Valuing our Native Birds through Land for Wildlife

Tue, 01/17/2012 - 16:25

I was sitting at my desk at home last week typing busily away when I became aware of a flurry of activity in the native cherry outside the window. I thought it might be one of the varied-trillers; the male and female can often be seen around the garden, most recently with a hungry chick in tow. The trillers would have been a lovely enough distraction, but in fact it was a rose-crowned fruit-dove. The male’s bright colouring of yellow, orange, green, grey and pink really stood out against the dark green foliage.

Rose-crowned Fruit-dove. Credit: Mischievous Magpie

I’d never seen this dove before let alone found one in my garden. Rose-crowned fruit-doves are notoriously difficult to see as they tend to sit in the canopy hidden amongst the leaves where they look remarkably leaf-like themselves, so the fact that a male was foraging in a tree right outside my office window was a pretty special thing. This one was quite bold and not at all fazed by the yellow figbirds and olive-backed orioles also foraging noisily nearby. In fact he seemed to be posing and it would have been rude not to sneak outside and take his photo. Once back inside I added him to the growing list of species I’ve recorded on my bush block in the last couple of years. He’s number 88, but he’s so much more than just a number.

We all have birds on our blocks and we probably can hear more of them than we’ll ever see. But what do they actually contribute to our lives? Birds mean many things to many people. For some people birds are a means to an end, for example their meat is used for food or their feathers for decoration; others appreciate them for their colours or songs and may create paintings or write poetry about them. The thrill of the chase drives some enthusiasts to travel thousands of kilometres just for a sighting of something unusual. Scientists get excited about birds too as they can teach us not only about their own life histories but also about the workings of our natural environment. Some people find them a nuisance when they eat the best of the veggie patch. But for many of us they simply make the experience of rural living that bit more enjoyable.

Large-billed Gerygone. Credit: Mischievous Magpie

Exploring the values that Australians hold for native birds has shown me they play a far greater role in our lives than we might realise. Over three hundred different birds lend their names to Australian streets, towns and waterways. Would it surprise you to know that swan is the most popular breed with over 250 locations named after it? We see images of native birds on our coins and stamps, while government, councils and the defense forces use birds as emblems to reflect their values. And of course Australia’s love affair with sport would be far different without the Crows, the Roosters, the Magpies, the Sea-Eagles, the Kookaburras and all the rest. Birds add richness to our language giving us colorful and unique idioms such as ‘ostrich policies’ and ‘budgie smugglers’, someone can be a ‘drongo’ and something can be ‘grouse’.

Bird watching is a popular activity and contributes significant amounts of money to regional and remote economies around Australia, not just from local twitchers, but also from international visitors. Overseas our international identity is wrapped up in many of the creatures unique to our country: tourists flock to buy gifts such as tea-towels, post-cards and posters illustrated with parrots, emus and kookaburras. And what economic value could we place upon the environmental services birds provide such as pollination of plants and pest control through feeding on insects and rodents?

Tawny Frogmouth. Credit Mischievous Magpie

Yet for all our native birds contribute to our society, they are neither as loved nor as protected as they need to be. There are over 800 species of native birds in Australia but around a quarter are currently endangered. Take for example the orange-bellied parrot. It is one of only two migratory parrots found in Australia. It is also one of the world’s most endangered animals. Experts estimate there are about thirty adults left in the wild. Another hundred or so exist in a captive breeding program and it’s hoped that in a few years’ time their offspring can be released back into the wild. But will the habitat they need still be available to them or will it have been developed for our own purposes? That so many species of birds face extinction is a national tragedy. When I see a logo of a Tasmanian Tiger on a beer bottle, I wonder what society must have been thinking to drive such a creature to extinction; what will future generations make of us, with our resources and riches, if we allow so many more of the species we’re entrusted with to perish on our watch?

Orange-bellied Parrot. Credit: Chris Tzaros

In the Top End we are lucky to live with bountiful biodiversity, but even so, over 200 species of wildlife found in the NT are endangered.

Our birds face threats on many fronts and habitat loss is the most significant. While the rate of development around about us can seem daunting, through the Land for Wildlife program we have an opportunity to stall habitat loss to some degree. That’s why I think Land for Wildlife is so important: we can contribute towards the protection of native birds through managing our properties in an appropriate way. By working with our neighbours and other Land for Wildlifers to protect existing habitat and plant new bird-friendly areas, we can provide essential nesting and foraging resources for our Top End birds. This gives them a far better chance of survival against the threats they may face elsewhere.

During my research, I’ve been interviewing many people involved in recovery efforts for some of our threatened birds. One story emerged that should encourage all “Land for Wildlifers”. A lady in rural Victoria noticed a large flock of unusual birds feeding on the ground near her property. She identified them as the endangered swift parrot and contacted a member of the swift parrot recovery team at Birds Australia. These birds hadn’t been recorded in this area before and the grazing behavior she observed was previously unknown to scientists studying these birds. She gathered hours of video footage which resulted in the scientific knowledge of this species being rewritten and her local area has become an important reserve for the endangered birds. This passionate lady has gone on to become a champion in the cause of swift parrot recovery.

Swift Parrot. Credit: Chris Tzaros

By understanding what we get out of birds, we can also identify ways that we can give something back to birds. For example as a group, we Land for Wildlifers hold a great deal of knowledge about land management in the Top End. All those hours spent weeding, planting and observing wildlife are worth more if we share our experiences with others. One way we can do that is through citizen science where the public, interested amateurs and professionals can all contribute to scientific knowledge, for example by recording our wildlife sightings on the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA). If you visit the ALA webpage and go to the “Explore” tab (http://www.ala.org.au/explore/) you can view which species have been recorded in your area. Go to “Share” and you can upload your own sightings. I did a search for my immediate area and discovered that of all the 150 odd bird species recorded, there’s only one previous record for a rose-crowned fruit-dove. My record will make two. But I’ve also realised there are at least 70 more bird species to add to my bush-list. Can’t wait to see them all!

So, take note of what you see in that tree or that different call you hear one morning, and share it; it may mean a lot more than you imagine.


A bird in the hand: Worth two in the bush?

Mon, 08/29/2011 - 23:37

Presentation delivered to CDU Open Day 28/08/11

What do birds mean to you?

Sunday lunch? Birdwatching? Pollination?

I’d like to suggest that Australian birds are much more valuable to us than we may realize.

Over 300 bird species give their names to Australian streets and towns.

85 Aussie stamps feature different native birds.

Our governments, councils and defense forces all use birds as emblems to symbolize their values.

Think about sports teams: we’ve got the kookaburras, the swans, the magpies, the crows, the eagles, sea-eagles, roosters…

Birds also add richness to our language: we talk about budgie smugglers and ostrich policies; something can be grouse and someone a drongo.

 

Examples of bird values

 

The images above represent some of the values our society holds for birds. For example those in the top left corner represent a cultural symbolic value.

In the right top corner we see a scientific interest in particular species of birds.

The artwork represents an aesthetic value.

A spiritual value is found in the role that native birds play in Aboriginal myths.

And of course we also hold a utilitarian value for some species of birds.

 

Like a shag on a rock

 

I chose this picture because many of our native birds are quite literally facing this predicament.

There are over 800 bird species in Australia.

Two thirds are in long term decline.

1 in 5 are endangered.

Habitat loss is their main threat.

So what are the solutions?

Well, my research aims to strengthen the connection between our cultural heritage and our natural heritage by describing how native birds are valued by Australians today.

To do this I’ve established a set of 12 value categories. Several of these are expressed in this picture, such as: conservation, cultural symbolism, anthropomorphism and ecology.

First I measured how each of our native birds is represented in Australian society and you just saw some examples of that.

Then I surveyed the general public and I asked them about their attitudes towards native birds.

Now I’m using qualitative case studies to investigate the social forces at work in threatened bird conservation and how the values held for specific threatened birds may affect the success of strategies used to conserve them.

For example take the orange-bellied parrot.

 

Orange-bellied parrots in captivity

 

The orange-bellied parrot is one of only two migratory parrots in Australia. It’s also one of the world’s most endangered animals. Experts estimate there are between 26 to 40 adult birds left in the wild.

In summer the wild birds breed in the forests of south-west Tasmania, in winter they feed on the coastal saltmarsh of Victoria and South Australia.

Each year these tiny birds fly back and forth across the Bass Strait not knowing whether drought or development will have left them the resources they need to survive.

You might have already heard about the orange-bellied parrot as it’s been the focus of much negative media attention due to supposedly preventing the development of a chemical plant in Victoria in 1994.

The Victorian Premier at the time, Jeff Kennett, made his feelings clear when he called it a trumped up corella.

This parrot is probably even more famous for supposedly preventing Bald Hills wind farm from going ahead 12 years later.

In both cases the media reported that these developments didn’t go ahead because orange-bellied parrots would be adversely affected by them.

For example chemical spillage from the chemical plant could ruin their habitat and the birds could fly into the wind turbines.

But in actual fact it was for economic and political reasons that these developments didn’t go ahead. Nothing to do with concern for the parrots.

This tiny endangered bird was picked up and bandied around like a political football.

There is also an insurance population of about 100 birds which are part of a captive breeding program. If the captive birds breed successfully over the next few years they may be released back into the wild.

But what will happen in the meantime?

Will the scientific community have worked out by then why the population’s declining so dramatically?

Will there be any wild birds left to teach the captive ones where to breed or where to migrate to?

Will landholders on the mainland protect the saltmarshes these birds need or will it be developed to suit our own needs?

Is this migratory bird which has evolved to fly thousands of kilometers over its lifetime fated to exist only in captivity?

Millions of dollars have already been invested in conserving this little bird. Should yet more money be spent trying to keep it alive when the odds for its long term survival seem so low?

And yet, can a wealthy modern society as we have in Australia today allow a species to go extinct under its watch?

The phrase trumped up corella has come to symbolise the significant cultural, economic and attitudinal differences that need to be addressed if we want to succeed in rescuing this beautiful little bird.

These decisions are made by society and are based on the values we hold about preserving our natural heritage.

Society decides whether it’s worth it or not. Society includes you and me.

So, next time you come across a bird….either in a tree, on a label or a coin….think again about what birds mean to us, how diminished our lives would be without them and how we can ensure they remain a valuable part of our future.


If you go into the woods today…

Sun, 07/31/2011 - 02:23

We were dismantling the old shed roof on our block yesterday evening, banging away at massive pieces of dangerously loose planks of wood attached to perilously sharp sheets of rusting corro, when we stopped to take stock and look around.

It’s not often we go into the woods next to the big billabong along the creek, for one thing it’s pretty overgrown with trailing vines and tangled branches, and for another it’s a haven for mosquitoes. Also it’s saltwater crocodile territory.

Today was no different, but as I stood back from the shed I heard the distinctive whistle of a radjah shelduck and then something very white caught my eye through the trees.

Living in the bush I’m on constant visual and aural alert for the next wildlife encounter: eyes and ears scanning for the new and unusual.  I’m always hopeful that the stick lying on the grass is a snake, or that the branch is swaying from a bird of prey landing.

The flash of white through the trees was one of those signals. A few steps into the woods and I could see it was something out of the ordinary. Something larger than usual. I once saw a little egret in the small billabong and I’m always hopeful it’ll come back. This time it was a great egret, stalking on the far side of the big billabong on the bank where the lily-filled pond meets the meandering creek. I could see the outline of its neck so long against the shapely curves of its body, so white against the mud-brown bank and aqua-green water.

Great egrets are twice the size of little egrets and can stand up to a metre tall. The joy of seeing such a creature in close proximity may well have been twice the joy of seeing the little egret. Who can measure a thing like that?

Great egret. Credit: realestatepuntacana.com

I called to my partner in demolition and we crept under the vines and over the branches, trying to crunch as quietly as possible on the ankle deep fallen leaves. Mind you our cacophanous banging and clattering hadn’t disturbed it so why should the sound of crunching leaves?

Approaching the brow of the billabong we could see another white shape at the edge of the water, a duck this time, the radjah shelduck I’d heard. It was still whistling quietly. Again its clean white and black body stood out sharply against the muted tones of the bank. This was even better. The ducks are quite common, in fact the local flock of maturing ducklings had kept me awake last night with their socialising in the mahogany next to the house. But to see both the egret and duck at the water’s edge really added to the sense of vitality around the billabong.

Radjah shelducks. Credit: MischievousMagpie

The water was completely still, the creek having all but stopped flowing, but it was deep and the white lilies were an attractive mask over the brackish water. All thoughts about the shed were forgotten now as getting a better sight of the birds drew me in. The egret was making its way up and down the creek, turning its yellow bill upstream and down searching for fish or crustaceans. There must be plenty to eat in there it seems, for such a large bird to bother.

Then as I got closer to the water’s edge another black and white shape caught my eye. This time it was a little pied cormorant perching on a branch suspended over the middle of the billabong.

Little pied cormorant. Credit: Lindsay Hansch, The Internet Bird Collection

This is going to sound really over the top, maybe because it seemed that way to me at the time, but I started to make my way around the water’s edge to get a closer look at the cormorant and of course startled it and lost it to the bush. But as I climbed the little mound at the far end of the billabong, where the pond meets the creek, I heard the distinctive groan of a crocodile right before it splashed into the creek. I didn’t see it, I was running too fast in the other direction. But this morning when we went back for another look I did see it, first of all basking on the sunlit bank, then not long after another groan and plunge, it resurfaced in the murky water. With the naked eye it resembled just another piece of floating debris; through the binoculars the curve of its back, a single eye and the tip of its snout came into focus.

What was so thrilling about experiencing those creatures together? That I could add two new birds and a crocodile to my block list? That it seemed our creek revegetation efforts were paying off? That they were simply beautiful to behold? That I hadn’t gone looking for this, it was pure serendipity? That they’ve likely been visiting the billabong without my knowledge and that my very presence might well prevent them ever returning?

Probably all of these things. Mostly though it was a moment of discovery; an inkling that things were better than I thought.


Sounds of the dry

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 05:00

It’s very dry out our way now. Our  garden has turned from every shade of green to every shade of green and brown. The tall native grasses have died back and deciduous trees have almost all dropped their leaves or are reddening; their trunks are skeletal, shrunken against the torch-dry landscape. Even the normally bright blue sky is tinted smoke brown. Serenity can be found in the wattle yellows and turkey bush pinks.

With the change in visual aesthetic has come a change in the audible aesthetic. A noticeable shift in bird species around my block, returns forgotten but familiar sounds to the day and night. Fairy martins soar silently overhead but grey-crowned babblers chatter sociably through the woodland. A rufous owl, possibly the same one who came last year, spends his nights whoo-whoooing loudly from the mature mahogany next to our house. The large-tailed nightjar has returned, adding his voice to the night shift. His endless tok tok tok is beautifully monotonous, a little like the pattering drop of mahogany leaves that sound ironically like raindrops falling onto our iron roof. Almost overnight spangled drongos have started up their rusty pipe call and the black butcherbirds’ whistling melody is a refreshing diversion.

These are some of the notes that will make up our soundtrack for the dry season months ahead. Our pleasure in them comes from the variety, the richness of species that come and go with the seasons. How much greater our appreciation when we think about the alternative: the tragic silence of birds.


Searching for the Alligator Rivers Yellow Chat

Fri, 04/15/2011 - 22:18

Well the search for the Alligator Rivers subspecies of the yellow chat continues. They live in such inhospitable habitat in Kakadu National Park that only “mad rabid fishos” who don’t mind mosquitoes, crocodiles, tidal rivers and torturous heat and humidity have a chance of seeing them on any kind of regular basis.

I had a chance but it was not to be. The Arnhem Highway closed due to flooding on the Adelaide River on departure day and I didn’t fancy the possibility of getting washed off the bridge into the area where the Adelaide River Queen coaxes huge salties to leap into the air by dangling pork chops over the water.

Dangling pork chop, hungry crocodile, Adelaide River. Credit Mischievous Magpie.

Dangling pork chop, leaping crocodile, Adelaide River. Credit Mischievous Magpie.

The attempt will just have to wait till drier times.

However, that did mean I got to spend a wonderful time out at Fogg Dam instead. The dam wall walk has been closed since 2009 ” until further notice – due to presence of large Saltwater Crocodile” (only one?) and the dam was so inundated from our record beating wet season rains this year that water was flowing over the road creating one giant floodplain. The birds were having a ball though and despite having a really crap digital camera (don’t buy the Olympus E-400) I managed to get a few nice close ups of a jabiru, little egrets and pied herons.

Little egrets dancing, Fogg Dam. Credit Mischievous Magpie

Jabiru, little egrets and pied heron, Fogg Dam. Credit Mischievous Magpie.

Also around were plenty of little black cormorants, scarlet honeyeaters, radjah shelducks, intermediate and great egrets, jacanas, chestnut rail and more.

The man-eating crocodile even gave an appearance, floating around seemingly in a dwam but I reckon she was paying attention to every single thing around her.

Sorry no gratuitous croc-porn this time: crap camera.


Does that shrill whistle really do it for him?

Fri, 04/15/2011 - 21:13

You’d think living in the bush would be a quiet sort of life, but one of the things that strikes you most when you come to the Top End is the endless variety of bizarre noises, especially at night. Some of them are quite soothing, while others seem designed to set your teeth on edge.

For example, and allow me to anthropomorphize for a second, the male brush-cuckoo’s call has to be one of the worst. He arrived at the beginning of the wet season then for weeks on end he let out the same repetitive whistle every few minutes, on and on he went until it seemed either he must go mad with desperation or I would go mad with dispare.

Then finally a female! fantastic, at last his search was over and harmony would reign in the bush. Not so fast. The female has a call like a deranged football referee. Just as her suitor’s about halfway through his own frantic repertoire she interrupts him with a shrill, whistling demand that cuts him off mid call. It’s pretty clear who wears the pants in this relationship.

Does it really do it for him, or is he just beaten into submission by her scolding? Listen and decide for yourself…ah, scrap that, just discovered you have to buy the WordPress upgrade to add audio. Well if you really want to hear these calls and loads of others then get in touch…

Now the spangled drongo I could listen to all day.


Hot off the Film Press

Thu, 09/23/2010 - 02:28

Apart from studying birds, I am also part of Ganesh Consultants, a a creative service based in the Top End of Australia.

So far this year we’ve released four award winning short films, docos and animated ads.  Check them out at Ganesh

Bio-Diversity Incorporated
This short film won first prize in the Open Category of the Wild NT film competition and is part of the UN year of Biodiversity. As a spoof corporate video it highlights humans lack of responsibility to the environment; it also questions the current view that quantative economics will save the day.

Saving Ningaloo
This short documentary follows the successful ‘Save Ningaloo’ campaign of 2002. Filmed in Perth and Coral Bay, Western Australia it shows how people power can overcome even the most stupid development ideas.

Banks
A spoof tv advert, Banks, was chosen by GreenPeace to be used as part of their video display at this years Glastonbury. It uses the images of the original, Trees, with a different voice over and some graphic changes.

Chase the Taste
A TV ad entered into a competition for a well-known snack food. It didn’t even make the top ten…which shows how much taste these particular corn snacks really have! A shameless Saul Bass tribute.


Thank you to all you wonderful volunteers!

Thu, 09/23/2010 - 02:02

I would like to sincerely thank the following people who volunteered their time, expertise and knowledge of Australian birds in a variety of ways to help me collect social values data over the last few months.

A special thank you goes to Clive and Alan who persevered with some of the largest data collection tasks.

Ian Abbott WA, Greg Barrett WA, Rob Buttrose VIC, Fiona Colbeck WA, Maureen Cooper QLD, Joan Dawes QLD, Fiona Douglas NT, Noela Edwards QLD, Susan Freeman NSW, Vanessa Keyzer NSW, Cilla Kinross NSW, Grace Lewis VIC, Megan Moore VIC, Clive Nealon WA, Kirsty Sadler WA, Alan Sergi VIC, Hollis Taylor NSW, Les Terrett NSW, Janelle Thomas VIC, Jean Tucker QLD, Paris Yves VIC.

I also appreciate the assistance of many staff members working in various organizations from govt environment departments bird conservation organizations to state and territory art galleries and libraries to shire councils and bird tour operators.

Analysis on the social values data and development of social profiles for each native bird species will begin shortly. Preliminary results will be available soon. Please contact me if you would like to know more.