Spangled drongos

Writing today is interrupted by a family of spangled drongos in the bunya pine next to the studio. The parents have raised three young in a nest about a hundred metres away but this is the first time I’ve seen the babies out and about. They perch on the horizontal branches waiting to be fed.

Every time one of the parents comes in sight all three shake their wings and call out in their infectious chatter, ‘Pick me, pick me.’ The tireless red-eyed adults with their wonderful swooping fish-tails (the babies have yet to develop either of these) regurgitate whatever insect they’ve caught into the waiting mouths.

These birds are the most delightful of our summer residents. They appear around the beginning of October, having made the extraordinary journey from Papua New Guinea, and stay until late March when they return north. Their call is unique, a sort of stone rattling laugh, occasionally tinged with a melodious metallic quality reminiscent of something Telstra might produce deep in a copper wire. Today, however, the mother is producing a single repetitive high note that I’ve never attributed to her before, telling her children to sit still and behave and that the man on the studio veranda with the camera is okay, even if he is a man.

The bunya trees, by the way, are carrying more fruit than I’ve ever seen. One of them has forty or fifty of the large nut clusters in its top branches. Rarely has there been a season as rich as this, the trees have a vibrancy that delights the eye, the birds, insects, plants all sing of the fecundity and generosity of life from the first glimmer of dawn till dusk.

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