We may have been a bit bird-centric in the past couple of weeks but Jase was busting to share his recent sighting. Jase is a newly converted, and now extreme birdo. This is his first contribution to Before It’s Gone.
As we drove up the Clarke Range the cloud cover intensified making it hard to see much of the rainforest. Not deterred, and with book, bino’s and camera in hand we persevered to start what was supposed to be a day of Eungella Honeyeater surveys, a camp out, a cuppa and bed by 7pm of course.
Unfortunately our navigation skills are far inferior to our bird watching skills and we misjudged the exact location of the campsite. After an hour or so of ‘must be just a bit further’ we found ourselves staring down a road only serious 4WD enthusiasts would be excited about. This would have been a disastrous day had it not been for one of the most amazing birding experiences I have had to date.
Just as we decide to turn back, we drove past an area dominated by Wild Tobacco Bush (Solanum mauritianum). I noticed a bright flutter of yellow, something I had not seen before, could it be? Yes! It was a bowerbird, a Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus). The black and gold of the male Regent Bowerbird (RBB) is unmistakable. As we observed the RBBs feeding on the berries of the tobacco bush I saw another flash from the corner of my eye and then another and another. It wasn’t just one or two or even three male RBBs, we counted six in total and, when reviewing our photos, noticed a similar quantity of females camouflaged in the bush.
Eungella is the most northern part of the RBB’s range. Like other bowerbirds the RBB builds a bower, although theirs is probably the least impressive of the group consisting of no more than a few coarse twigs. But what they lack in architectural genius they make up for in interior design.
The RBBs use bunches of leaves to ‘paint’ their bower with a colourful mixture of saliva and leaf juice (one of the few birds documented to use tools). The paint spittle is applied to the twigs of the bower, which is also decorated with leaves, snail shells and pebbles.
RBB congregations are a behaviour exhibited in winter months and to see them en masse is a feast for the eyes. Of the seasoned birders I spoke to very few had seen this for themselves. It was a serendipitous case of being in the right place at the right time. Of all the 200 + species of birds in the Clarke Range the Regent Bowerbird would have to be my all-time favourite and this sighting will be hard to beat.