Tawny Frogmouth, Innes National Park

Tawny Frogmouth, Innes NP Visitor Centre

The Tawny Frogmouth has a special place in our family folklore. Back in the mid 1980s we were camped in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park in north west Victoria. We were right next to Lake Hattah, a lovely camping spot and  place full of interesting birds. On this occasion we were disturbed around midnight by an “um-um-um-um” sound in the distance – or so we thought. Imaging the worst we feared someone had a portable generator, something forbidden in most Australian national parks. It really annoyed us.

Just as we were retiring the following night we heard the noise again. My attention was drawn to a dark shape in the tree just above our tent. Sitting there quite at home was our “generator”, a Tawny Frogmouth calling. This was the first time I’d heard this bird calling. And it kept on calling for a long time but we slept soundly, now knowing where the noise was coming from.

We occasionally have this species in our garden which is great. We don’t often hear it calling due to other noises – such as the television. My latest encounter with the species was at the Visitor Centre of the Innes National Park. We were paying our entry fees and I saw the lovely bird (shown above) sitting on display on the counter. A beautiful bird.

Sad to think that its um-um-umming days are over.

Good birding.

Rufous Songlarks have arrived

Over recent days we have had the delight of hearing two Rufous Songlarks in our garden and in the nearby scrubland. This species is one of those that arrive in the springtime to breed. They spend the autumn and winter months in northern Australia where it is warmer – clever birds.

Around this time of the year they migrate south to breed. We don’t have them in our garden every year, but when they do come we love hearing their rich, melodious call echoing through the scrub. Some field guides describe the call in this way: “twitchy-tweedle”. I like that. You can hear a recording of the Rufous Songlark here, but be warned – it is not a very high quality recording and their call is partly drowned out by another bird, a calling Common Blackbird.

I will be keeping an eye on them in case they decide to make a nest nearby. I also need a photo of this species.

Bird calls in the morning

On those days I am feeling a little lazy and sleep in a while I enjoy lying in bed listening to the morning chorus of birds in our garden. When we stay with our daughter in Clare (mid-north South Australia), or with our son in Sydney or with friends or family in other parts of the country, the bird calls in the morning have variations we don’t get at home. When we are holidaying in our caravan or camping in our tent there is a different set of calls to identify. Call me a lazy birder but it is very enjoyable.

A while ago we were in Clare. At dawn I identified the usual birds in my daughter’s garden or nearby. Laughing Kookaburras could be heard down by the lake. The “chock-carock” of the Red Wattlebird is another easy one to ID. The Common Blackbird skulking in the bushes nearby gives its warning “cluck-cluck” call and a mournful Little Raven flies unhurriedly overhead. The “sweet pretty creature” call of the Willie Wagtail is very familiar and easy to hear. Up the street I hear a small flock of Adelaide Rosellas and their “chink-chink” calls. The screeching Musk Lorikeets rocket their way to another tree nearby for a feed. A pair of Australian Magpie Larks on the back lawn begin their piercing duet calls, “pee-wee” answered immediately by the other with “tee-o-wee”.

But there is one call that intrigued me. On first waking I dismissed it as a Red Wattlebird but then I wasn’t so sure. I wondered if it was a Little Wattlebird. In all my years of birding in the Clare district I’d never recorded the Little Wattlebird there but it was theoretically possible. Its call is what intrigued me the most. Not once but many times over about five minutes it called, mostly from the bush just outside the bedroom window. It distinctly sounded like the bird was saying “Rach-maninoff” with a very brief pause after the first syllable.

I must take more notice of the birds around here.

UPDATE: If you are trying to identify a bird call, a good place to start is the Birds in Backyards website (click here). This site features many Australian birds with plenty of information about each one. Many of the entries have sound files of the calls. Some of our field guides also have excellent apps for phones – I frequently use the Michael Morcombe eGuide to the Birds of Australia. This has all the information contained in the book version plus sound files. It costs around $30 Australian.