Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Cuckoo.....Fan-tailed

I've been struck down with a nasty virus (is there any other sort?), and it's unfortunately effecting my eyes (among other parts!). So this is something of a make weight.
Shortly after taking the shots of a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo in the previous blog, I visited Risdon Brook Park, near Risdon Vale. I had photographed Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo there a few years ago--pretty awful shots in fact--and I had seen a single individual on a recent visit, so I was hoping for a another photo opp..
Arriving early am, on a very still and overcast morning, I'd hardly got out of the car when I heard my first cuckoo, a Pallid, calling from the nearby high ground. A good omen I thought. Well in the few minutes that it took me to get my gear organised and cross the car park, I'd heard, in quick succession, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, and both Horsfield's and Shining Bronze-Cuckoos. What more could I ask for? Now all I had to do was find them.
Cuckoos have, from my observations, very large territories, measured in hectares, and I haven't found chasing after calling birds particularly productive. So I set off birdwatching, hoping that sooner or later, I might just be lucky. I did get some good birding in, including seeing both Blue-winged and Swift Parrots, and my first Beautiful Firetail in this venue for a couple of years. A fairly distant view of a Brown Goshawk being harassed by a pair of Yellow Wattlebirds, high in a eucalypt. One of the many Kookaburras in this park, being mobbed by some recently arrived Dusky Woodswallows. But although I heard several cuckoos, I didn't look in any danger of photographing one. But that's the way birding is, and makes the good days really stand out. After about 3 hours of tramping around, I headed back to the car, having taken few shots, save for some close ups of the few orchids that have survived, despite the dry conditions.
Crossing a large open area of what was once a sheep run, I stopped to watch some Dusky Woodswallows hawking for insects from the dead branches of a fallen wattle. I closed on them to get a few shots, and disturbed a perched Pallid Cuckoo which 'looped' its way to the top of fairly distant gum. Decision time. Was I going to try to take some shots that I knew would hardly amount to much anyway? I was pretty weary by now and lunch was beckoning. While I was still deliberating, I saw a bird fly to the ground some hundred metres away, and was now mostly hidden in the dry grass. A look through the binos established that it was a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, the first that I'd seen that morning, despite hearing several. Well, as you can see by the accompanying images, I scrambled a few shots of this surprisingly tame individual. The Fan-tailed Cuckoo is arguably the most commonly seen cuckoo in Tasmania. All our cuckoos are Summer migrants, but Fan-tailed Cuckoos commonly overwinter, usually in coastal areas, and I recorded 2 calling vigorously on Goat Bluff, South Arm, in the middle of July this past Winter.


mick said...

Great photos again and it sounds like a very nice morning walk even without all the photos you had hoped for.

Penny said...

Hi Alan , hope you are beating the virus!
It wasn't until I read your blog on cuckoo's that I realized just how in the back ground, & out of sight they like to be. All day I listen to the sound of a fan tailed cuckoo, but I've only seen it twice - both times in the company of a pair of Dusky Wood Swallows - it will be interesting to see what fledges from their nest this spring!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mick,
It was indeed a great morning's birding, and I managed to keep my mind off the early affects of this virus. Orchids are always a bonus too.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
I gather this virus will "bug" me for a few weeks yet, but it probably won't stop me going birding.
I've rather relied on knowing the calls of our cuckoos to ID them, rarely bothering to actually look for them. If it wasn't for their propensity of sitting on power lines, I think I'd rarely see them at all. They are a fascinating group of birds.

John Tongue said...

It always fascinates me how the 'host' birds recognise adult Cuckoos, and mob then aggressively, and yet will feed a young cuckoo hatched in their own nest. Gives new meaning to 'bird-brained'!

James said...

Great photos Alan! Sounds like a good day birding. I've lurked in these blogs and have read your posts for sometime but I have only just signed up. Keep posting!

Graham Ryrie said...


The other night we heard a cuckoo singing. The first time we have heard a cuckoo in the twelve years we have lived in Colebrook, about 40km north of Hobart.

Would anyone be able to advise what variety it would most likely be and are these birds purely nocturnal or can they be spotted during the day.

Sorry for the basic questions, but we are not knowledgeable on birds, just love the idea there could be an uncommon species to these parts.


BirdingTas said...

Hi Graham,
I have been mulling over this for a few days. Many birds occasionally call at night, and you don't mention which cuckoo--2 candidates, Fantailed or Pallid. However since you didn't say which cuckoo, perhaps you're not familiar with our cuckoos calls, could it actually be a Boobook Owl? It's 2 note "Boo-book" is somewhat similar to the European Cuckoo's "Cuc-coo" call. Your thoughts?

Graham Ryrie said...


Following from my last post, regarding hearing what I thought was a Cuckoo the other night in Colebrook. Do either the Fantailed Cuckoo or Pallid Cuckoo have a call similar to the European species ?

My wife and I both distinctly heard "Cuc-coo" with a definate time gap between the "Cuc" and the "coo". We heard this call about a dozen times.

Hope someone can help.


BirdingTas said...

Hi Graham,
Neither Fantailed or Pallid have a call that could be construed as anything like the European Cuckoo call of Cuc-coo. Hence my alternative suggestion of a bird (boobook Owl) that has a somewhat similar call (two syllables),and does call at night.
I'm not saying that my suggestion is what you heard, merely that it is somewhat more likely. There are sites that have the calls of these cuckoos, I suggest googleing them. David Stewart has a CD of Tasmanian bird calls that, as far as I'm aware, is still available locally.