Nature Photography with marysejansenart
An extraordinary concert against a magnificent backdrop
Table of Contents
The sounds of the rainforest
As soon as I hop out of the car, after a long drive in busy holiday traffic, the rainforest washes away all my stress. The silence is so calming … Silence? No, it is not actually silent. By silence I mean that I cannot hear the urban sounds of cars, trucks, lawn mowers, planes, helicopters and barking dogs. But what I can hear is the sounds of the rainforest: birds, cicadas, the breeze rustling through the trees, trickling water and even some frogs! And that against a backdrop of lush rainforest in all shades of green! What could be more relaxing??
It is already a bit late in the afternoon, but I can’t wait to go into the rainforest and explore, so I go for a shorter walk. Tomorrow, there will be time for a long walk! I set out on one of the walking tracks, it is already quite dark under the trees, even though there is still enough daylight left.
I hear a deep reverberating call, it’s unlike anything else you can imagine. It is difficult to describe this amazing bird call, sounding like a sort of gargling, quacking ‘woompoo’ and ‘wollack-woo’. It belongs to the Woompoo Fruit-dove. It really carries through the forest. The bird has a colourful plumage with green upper parts, a bright yellow bar on the wings, a plum-purple chest and throat, a pale grey head and a bright yellow belly and underwings. It has a red eye and a red beak with a yellow tip. You’d think you can’t miss it, right?
Well, they are actually rarely spotted as they forage for fruit high in the dense canopy of the rainforest which makes it really hard to see them. I have seen one before, years ago, and it was absolutely stunning as you can see in the photo I took that day. But today, I will have to be content with enjoying the beautiful sound. If you’d like to try and spot one, you can find them along the east coast. There are three distinct populations: from central eastern New South Wales to central eastern Queensland; north-eastern Queensland; and northern Cape York Peninsula.
I walk on and hear the familiar sound of the Eastern Whipbird! This bird is definitely at home in the rainforest. I already wrote a whole blog post about this amazing bird and its call – you can visit it here to learn more! I hear a lot of other birds too, I do recognize the Golden Whistlers, but I don’t know all of these calls. It is a beautiful concert though!
I arrive at a special place in this part of the rainforest and it houses a pocket of Antarctic Beech Trees! These giants are remnants of the ancient Gondwana forests. They used to cover Antarctica, before it broke of the Gondwana continent. These days, only a few pockets of these trees are left. They can only grow between altitudes of 500-1500m in the cool, temperate rainforests in New South Wales and southern Queensland. Multiple tree trunks grow out of a complex root structure, called a crown. They grow up to 25m tall and develop large, gnarly trunks with dark, scaly bark often covered in moss. The featured image for this post shows a stand of these ancient wonders!
Next, I hear something that takes me back to a memory from another walk. I hadn’t been in Australia for very long at the time and was walking in another rainforest area. There were a number of other walkers on the track, including families with young children. I heard a baby crying out in distress in the distance. And again …. and again … After a while I started wondering what was wrong. It was very persistent…and a bit disturbing!
Imagine my surprise when I learned this was not a human being calling out but a bird!! This call belongs to the Green Catbird! Thankfully I am not the only one who has mistaken this bird for a crying baby! You may also think it sounds more like a cat meowing – hence the name Catbird!
This medium sized bird is a type of Bowerbird, although it doesn’t build a bower the way the Satin Bowerbird and other Bowerbirds do. The male Green Catbird does clear an area from where it performs to attract female birds. It will also present attractive objects in its beak while doing so, such as colourful fruits, leaves and flowers.
The Green Catbird is predominantly emerald green in colour and has white spots or streaks on its chest and underparts. It also has white spots on the tips of certain feathers in its wings and the tips of the tail. The tail and head are a mottled brown-green. The eye is red and the long, stout beak a pale pink. It really is quite well camouflaged as it forages around in the canopy and middle storey of the rainforest, which is its preferred habitat. It mainly eats fruits like figs, supplemented with insects and other small animals such as frogs or hatchlings of small birds.
Green Catbirds can be found along the east coast of New South Wales up to the Cooloola Coast in Queensland. Right now, I hear several Catbirds calling out to each other, it is an amazing experience. The birds of the Australian rainforest are really putting together something special today, what an array of unique and wonderful sounds!
The Catbirds don’t show themselves. As with the Woompoo Fruit Dove you don’t often get to see these birds. But, again I can share with you an image that I took on an earlier encounter! You’ll have to look closely to see the very well camouflaged bird! You can also check back episode #9 of ‘Come for a Walk in the Australian Bush’, where I did catch one on video!
I am on my way back as I hear lots of shuffling in the foliage. It’s getting dark very quickly now, but I can still make out movement. A group of birds is rummaging around on the forest floor. I get a few glimpses of them on camera, just enough to be able to identify them as Australian Logrunners. They live up to their name and don’t sit still very often. They run around along fallen logs to quickly cross to different places and then jump onto the forest floor, in search of food in the leaf litter.
These can be a noisy bunch, especially in the morning, when they produce squeeky calls. Right now, they are keeping quiet. All I hear is them scraping the leaf litter with their feet and sweeping with their tail. Their head and back are streaked rufous-brown and their wings are black, with white bars. They have grey sides and white underparts. The male has an all white throat and chest. The female has a bright orange-rufous coloured throat and a white chest. It’s these throats and chests that help me see and identify them, for the rest of their bodies are very well camouflaged against the dark forest floor.
You can find the Australian Logrunner on the east coast of New South Wales and Queensland, from near Canberra to north of Brisbane. It is uncommon in southern New South Wales.
Would you love to hear the sounds I have described to you, and enjoy the beautiful backdrop of the rainforest at the same time? Walk with me in a new episode of ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’ where I share this experience:
If you are interested in purchasing ‘Antarctic Beech’ or would like to see what the image looks like on the various products, please head to my shop. Also check out my Rainforest Gallery for the other images in this post and more here.