2008: Cockatiels, New South Wales

The Honeyeaters' Tree

And that was the night of Christmas Eve in Warren. For one of only a handful of adult years I woke the morning after with a clear head and raring to go. I didn’t have to go far.

The trip list gained a gregarious party of grey-crowned babblers right by my campervan. I was well into their range and drawing closer to my already beaten territory of the Warrumbungles, where I had last seen them.

On my walk out for a more thorough check of the marshes, I passed my drinking buddy from the evening before. He and his cronies were already drowning their hangovers. Or carrying on the night’s beers? What state would he be in, come the festive lunch? That would be interesting.

Not half as interesting as scrub between the campsite and the marsh’s ponds. I kept hearing a song, thought it familiar but could not track down the source. Half an hour passed before nailing a rufous songlark. It had caught me out again. Some calls were like that: a long time coming. Others would click right away. Perhaps a musician wouldn’t have that problem, but a musician I was not.

I was hitting paydirt in that scrub. Yellow thornbills and double-barred finches pushed my life list up to 938. The marsh held nothing new but pink-eared ducks, black-fronted dotterel and a white-necked heron were notable.

My 939th world bird was a stunner though. Apart from galah the only cockatoo to enjoy countrywide distribution, this species also has a worldwide presence. I deliberately don’t repeat “enjoy” there because the odious pet trade has ensured that most of these birds are in prison. And when you see a flock in the wild, you realise that the perpetrators of that trade should be behind bars for environmental crime. One day our ancestors, if we survive that long, will look at us the way we look at slavers.

The cockatiel has long been considered a parrot but really the crest must have always made it all cockatoo? Having a gallbladder also distinguishes it as a member of the Cacatuidae family. Betcha didn’t know that.

A good haul that morning but my target of the year-end thousand then required over ten species a day. An overnight lifer of southern boobook did become world bird 940. I figured it was about time I added the species because the two-tone call I heard at the tail end of December 25 and had heard a few times previously, could only be that owl. ⇐ ⇒

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