Yesterday I wrote about the Common Skylarks calling near our house. During this last week we spent quite a deal of time dodging showers as we worked outside. The fruit trees desperately needed attention; the chain saw was fired up as some branches needed some drastic action.
In between bursts of cutting we heard the distinctive and unmistakable ‘twitchy tweedle’ call of the Rufous Songlark. This species is about the same size as a Common Skylark (and a little larger than a House Sparrow).
They are regular visitors about this time of the year through to spring. Several years ago I thought that a pair was going to nest on our block of land. They hung around the garden and nearby for more than a week, their rich, melodious call filling the air. They didn’t nest here and moved on after their short sojourn which enriched our lives.
Rufous Songlarks are widespread throughout most of Australia except Tasmania and are generally uncommon. Their preferred habitat includes open grassy areas in woodlands and scrubs.
I still need a photo of this species.
Over the last month or so I have been aware of the call of several Common Skylarks in the paddock opposite our place. This is an introduced species to Australia. It is essentially a ground dwelling bird of open grasslands and is slightly larger than a House Sparrow. I do not have a photo of this species to show you, for I more frequently hear it than see it.
What is interesting about this species here in Murray Bridge, South Australia, is that I hear it calling well before dawn. I usually leave home at about 6:15am to go to a friend’s house nearby for a morning walk. In the middle of June it is still quite dark (and cold at that time; first light is about 6:30am and the birds are calling well before that.
During the day when working in the garden I will often hear it calling again during the day. The call seems to carry long distances and continues for long periods of time. It is especially apparent during calm, sunny days.
I have always been of the impression that this is a migratory species in Australia. I have checked in HANZAB (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds). There is some conjecture as to the actual movement of this species in Australia. Some say there is movement in autumn/winter while others contest this opinion. It could be that individuals – or even whole populations – are more or less resident year round, but they only call for part of the year.
The population near my home is destined to disappear during the next 3 – 4 years. A large government institution is about to be build right where the birds live. Then I’ll have to go a little further afield to see or hear them. [UPDATE: this facility has been postponed for several years.]