Warning, this post is full of anthropomorphic observations, if the thought of creatures having feelings and thought processes like humans is not your scene, click away now.
I make no effort to hide the fact, that “I like Choughs”. Their communal actions and activities are a constant source of inspiration and amusement to me.
Mr An Onymous and I had a bit of time after dinner while everyone was taking their evening dip in the Resort Pool, or sipping on those drinks with the cute little umbrellas attached. We thought a walk across the golf course open forest area would be a good way watch the sun go down. And we’d seen some White-winged Choughs there the night before, so armed with the photography hardware we sallied forth. Bumped into one of the Resort staff who pointed out where the 4 or 5 Eastern Grey Kangaroos come down to feed on the grasses, and I didn’t have the heart to explain that back home they are in plague proportion and considered a nuisance. Still, the right words. “Oh, Kangaroos, wow, that is amazing, fancy seeing them in the bush”, seemed to work.
We very soon found a family group feeding across an open paddock, and they were engrossed in digging down into the sandy soil to extract a white prize. (no not a golf ball). It might have been a grub, or a shell, or a seed. Just hard to tell. But it seemed to me they were able to pinpoint where to dig. It wasn’t random.
One found a top from a take-away coffee, and seemed to be amused by it, and went to no length of trouble to make sure no one took it away from it. In the end, no coffee, no food, and just left it standing. Those engaged in the digging would find a ‘white thing’ and then run across the paddock to be the first to pop it into the ever waiting beaks of the 3 or 4 young they were looking after. Much wing folding, spreading and Chough babbling accompanied the activity. By now they treated us with disdain, and just carried on feeding.
Then with a clatter, they all headed for the forest. Mr An and I looked at each other, but couldn’t conclude why they left, so, we followed.
Light was now really fading, we found them inside the forest having met up with first one other company, and then another, up to 40 birds in total I guesstimated.
They took to the trees for a quick preening session, and then reassembled on the ground. What happened next is best seen from the photos.
3 birds seemed to take centre stage and call the meeting to order. Then one of the others “St Paul”, delivered the “Vespers” message. To our amazement, the 40 or so birds all stood round in a rough half circle and seemed to listen intently to what was being said. Meeting over the three families began to prepare to roost for the night.
This involved much wing hugging, chatting and preening. It also resulted in the very first Chough Scuffle I’ve seen. One bird was trying to go with a particular group, and it became obvious that its perfume, politeness, dress sense or general demeanour were unacceptable by the group. A real scuffle followed and one emerged with a beakful of feathers! Disgruntled the looser skulked away to find some where else to roost for the night.
All the others in the group wigwagged appreciation and then flew off to find a spot.
Now finding a spot to roost sounds easy, but not for Choughs. Its all in the order of who sits next to who on the branch. Much calling, wing waving and downright pushing and shoving ensued. It was obvious that ‘she’ didn’t want to be next to ‘him’ and this one only wanted to roost next to that one. And so it went.
In the end Five Choughs on a branch is the limit, and the next one to land bent the branch so much that all were put to flight.
By now the light had gone, and they did a final sweep over a Pied Butcher Bird and her two offspring. Moving them along out of the area.
Last seen and heard setting into the tops of some gum trees.
Choughedness, something I’ll never understand, but will be pleased to learn more.