Friday, October 29, 2010

From the North

The wind is blowing onto Norfolk's northern coast today, laden with moisture from warmer seas, the rapid rise when it meets the cliffs creating the fog we are so accustomed to in November.

The northerly winds no doubt assist the Long-tailed cuckoos, as they are coming to us from somewhere in the north; maybe Papua New Guinea or anywhere across the Pacific as far as the Marquesas Islands. These cuckoos don't rate much mention in Australian bird books, and are recorded as an 'irregular visitor" to Lord Howe Island. In New Zealand they are expected in October each year and a list of the species they trick into raising their young is provided, showing that they are well known there and have been observed over a substantial period of time.
Long-tailed cuckoos have now been reported as having crashed into windows at two houses on the island. The first survived and was held overnight in a cage adjoining that of some very nervous canaries, enabling us to visit and photograph the bird in some detail (Thanks Archie.) It yelled at us quite a lot and by the time it was released, shooting off like an arrow as soon as it had the opportunity, it was being mobbed by small birds that emerged from the surrounding trees, waiting to see it off their property.

The second bird is waiting in a freezer to assist science.
(All bodies gratefully accepted!)

It would appear that a mob of these birds arrived together as there were two sightings at widely separated locations on one day, followed by the stunning of the temporarily caged one on the same afternoon. Others have been sighted in the last week that are more window-wise.
If you see a strange brown bird it might be a Long-tailed cuckoo. In size and colour they bear a passing resemblance to a kestrel, but their markings are more striking with the striated breast and barring that is typical of cuckoos across their long tail. When they are flying they have an undulating flight and their back appears dark brown.

Shining Bronze-cuckoos are also evident around the island now, more often heard than seen. Their iridescent green and striped breast plumage provide perfect camouflage in the forest, but their loud whistle announces their presence from a long way off. At first sounding like someone whistling a dog (a little slowly) the tell-tale descending note at the end of the call identifies this much smaller bird readily. Fantails and Gerygones (Peurties) beware of strange eggs in your nests!

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