Naturerecordists 2001 Worldwide Dawn Chorus Recordings
Syd Curtis Contribution
Copyright Syd Curtis, 2001
Dawn: Laughing Kookaburra
As I live only about one and a half miles from the
centre of a largish city, the dawn chorus here is uninspiring. So for Sept.
1, I took myself off to my childhood haunts, Tamborine Mt., and headed for a
small National Park with a good mix of subtropical rainforest and Eucalyptus
forest. Plenty of birds. And normally this would be an ideal time of the
year. But when I wanted to record lyrebirds there a couple of months ago,
the area was so dry that the lyrebirds were not breeding - and with no rain
since, the local birds don't have much to sing about. But at dawn they try
anyway, and I do have enough birdsong recorded to make a contribution.
"What Bird is That?" by Neville Cayley was virtually our only Australian
field guide for about 40 years from when it was first published in 1931. I
grew up using it. So it occurred to me that it would be appropriate for an
Australian dawn contribution, to offer a chorus of what Cayley offers
"Settler's Clock" as one of the common names, a name which arose through the
chorus signalling the start to each day for the pioneers of European
settlement when clocks were unobtainable luxuries. The species is, of
course, the Laughing Kookaburra which Cayley lists as Dacelo gigas - a
singularly appropriate specific epithet, given that it is among the largest
of the kingfishers. Alas, as taxonomists are wont to do, someone discovered
an earlier name, and the rules of priority require that we use D.
In the vernacular, "Kookaburra" (or Laughing Kookaburra if the context
requires one to distinguish from the Blue-winged Kookaburra) is now
universal. The alternatives offered by Cayley - Brown Kingfisher, Great
Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Laughing Jackass, Bushman's Clock, Settler's
Clock - are rarely if ever used now.
I arrived at the park a little before 5:30 when it was still quite dark and
opened the car door to a distant kookaburra chorus. Later I recorded the
local one - kookaburras form family groups and strongly defend territories
all year round.
At dusk, I did not do so well. Because of the drought few birds are calling
in the evening, and I didn't wait until it got dark: Very late in the day,
three rather scruffy-looking individuals, one with cap on back-to-front,
arrived and headed into the park. They still hadn't emerged when the last
of the other visitors departed, leaving me alone at the picnic ground and
car-park. In that isolated location, I deemed it prudent also to depart.
At that stage all I had recorded was Pied Currawong, so Currawong it shall
have to be for me.
In the evening of September1, I returned to the Knoll National Park on Tamborine Mt in southern Queensland for a dusk recording, but was not very successful. By then there was appreciable wind noise, and at 4:30 PM few birds were calling, although with overcast conditions the light was fading and an early dusk was indicated.
The last park visitors left, and I was alone in the picnic ground ... but three unsavoury-looking characters had gone down the track very late in the afternoon and had not yet returned. I deemed it prudent to depart, and so missed any real dusk chorus that there might have been a little later.
I had recorded some pleasant piping from an Eastern Yellow Robin - of which Vicki has already given us a dawn sample, I think, and the best I can do is a short evening call from a Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina). It is immediately followed by a single note from a distant Currawong, and then some Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) fly off, home to roost perhaps.