Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Golden Mornings........Whistlers

Towards the end of August, there was a noticeable increase in female Golden Whistlers in some of the coastal areas that I frequent. They were feeding quietly among the denser scrub, rarely seen in the open, and I had dubbed them "grey ghosts". I say 'grey', because despite the fact that they are indeed mostly light brown, as you can see from the image below, they appear grey. While watching honeyeaters and other bush birds, I would become aware of these females as they moved through the scrub, rarely getting an opportunity to photograph them. Reviewing some of the few shots I did get, I noticed the unmistakable remnants of spiders around their bill (legs), so I'm assuming they're high on the menu at this time of year. During summer these whistlers feed mainly on caterpillars. I only very occasionally saw a male, in fact throughout the winter, I only saw them on rare occasions.

     In early September, I heard the first male calling, and in the ensuing days the numbers of males I observed increased, but mostly they too were deep in the 'shrubbery'. By mid September, the numbers of calling males was significantly higher, and they 'emerged'. Males chased males as they patrolled their chosen site, stopping to call at times from a prominent perch. Not, I suspect, the site where they will breed, but an area where they could show of their singing skills, and attract a mate.The numbers of males in some spots far exceeded the number that will breed there, so perhaps it's not so surprising that the males were so boisterous. The upshot of this was that for a few days my morning walks were full of very strident and persistent calls as the males participated in a singing competition, marking another spring event. Within a week most of these birds had dispersed leaving only the few pairs that will breed there.
   Golden Whistler males are one of the 'showiest' of our native birds, and judging by the numbers of images on the various photo forums, one of the most photographed. I am, however, left with a puzzle. Where do all these male Golden Whistlers hang out during winter?