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The Far Southeast: Gippsland's Coastal Forests

The far southeast corner of mainland Australia, known as East Gippsland, is a region of mountain eucalypt forests, lowland dry scleraphyl woodlands, coastal heaths and, in sheltered locations, pockets of temperate rainforest. It is to one of these pockets that this recording takes us.

The tanin-stained waters of an esturine creek flow silently, almost imperceptibly, soon to join the lower reaches of the Wallagaraugh River. Its banks are lined with a gallery forest of tall euclypts and dense shrubby understory.

In the predawn darkness, a Yellow-bellied Glider calls while parachuting among the treetops, a Sooty Owl gives a distinctive cry, a Koala grunts distantly and the first birdsong is heard. As the dawn chorus gathers pace, Yellow Robins, Golden Whistlers, Honeyeaters, Kookaburras, Wonga Pigeons, Fantails and Whipbirds join in.

After the chorus ebbs, we hear the delicate song of Rose Robins, the tinkling of Bell Miners, Lyrebirds, King Parrots, Spinebills, Lewin Honeyeaters and Currawongs, while Bassian Thrushes give high-frequency trills while foraging among the leaf litter close by.

It really is a spectacular palette of bird sounds. This continuous recording ends with the sharp, piping calls of a tiny Azure Kingfisher and it flies like an irridescent arrow up the waterway.

"This recording was made during a field recording workshop I ran during spring. On this morning, I suggested participants making their own recordings using various approaches. Some had deployed microphones on tripods, while others had small binaural mics attached to their ears, hearing the rainforest exactly as they did while sitting silently.

"Meanwhile, after leaving my own microphone rig to have its own adventure, I concentrated on engaging with folks, discussing what we were hearing and just enjoying a rather spectacular morning. I had no thought at the time of sharing the recording beyond those who were there.

"But listening back some time later, I found myself enjoying it so much I wanted it available. At times it is quite busy, but with relaxed listening, its not overwhelmingly so, and of course the sheer diversity and vibrancy is a wonder to enjoy. I particularly like the Bassian Thrushes, which can be heard right by the microphones on occasion. It is quite a privilege to hear birdsong this close and unperturbed.

"After designing the cover featuring an Azure Kingfisher, I was delighted to recognise one piping on the wing at the very end of the recording - a perfect conclusion to the album."

As there is so much biodiversity on this recording, I shall simply list species, notes of their vocalisations and where you can hear them easiest.

Eastern Yellow Robin: Loud "chap chap" calls heard from the beginning.

Yellow-bellied Glider: Raspy, gurgling call, given by the animal as it glides from one tree to another (1.37)

Sooty Owl: Downslurred whistle (falling bomb) - pretty special to hear this, as they are a rare and elusive species (4.31)

Laughing Kookaburras: (often an early dawn vocalist) (3.10 on...)

Koala: A very distinctive breathy grunting, heard here in the distance (some may say fortunately) (9.49)

The dawn chorus grows, however much of the birdsong is heard distantly, so I'll skip on to where species are heard more prominently:

Golden Whistler: Loud and clear silvery whistled song (heard in the dawn chorus 12.04... and throughout in the middle distance, coming closer at the end, 130.08. A spirited duet, possibly a territorial negotiation begins 141.13)

Little Wattlebird: Distant two-note, up/down call (from 9.23). Later an unusual frog-like, croaking call (background 68.47... and later 91.52...)

Eastern Whipbird: male gives an intro whistle before a loud whipcrack (39.36), the female may respond with a two-note call (49.40, clear close duet 88.37)

Wonga Pigeon: Repetitive low calling (from 22.50)

Grey Fantail: high-freq 'tinkling' song (38.34... 39.51, 126.44)

Yellow-faced Honeyeater: "chick-up, chick-up" song (49.14, 59.37), and aggitation calls "chet, chet..." (64.05)

Lewin Honeyeater: Rapid, chattering 'machine gun' call: (67.36, 69.19, very close one at 78.06)

Grey Shrike-thrush: Loud, melodious song, often with a cracking or rattling final syllable (not prominent but can be heard occasionally (121.07, nice bit of animated song 123.14... later a series of low piping phrases with ringing final note, beginning 133.50 and repeated every 10 secs or so, echoed distantly by another bird)

Rose Robin: Delicate, but not soft, song comprising whistled notes and ending with a more buzzy "dreer dreer" (47.37... 57.24, close 116.17)

Eastern Spinebill: thin, whistled song, made up of quick repeated phrases (87.38, coming closer 88.15, again 109.37)

Grey Gerygone: Scratchy "What-is-it, what-is-it..." or "what's-it, what's-it..." (53.20... 57.34... 59.49, closer 92.41)

Bassian Thrush: High-frequency "seer" calls, sometimes very close by as several birds forage among the leaf litter, sometimes almost under the microphone (present earlier, but close by 64.53... and again later, scuffling around 100.03)

Superb Fairy-wren: Trilling reels (in the background 42.02, 57.32)

Superb Lyrebird: Not much imitating to be heard on this occasion, mostly vocalisations characteristic of the species itself (49.31, 52.14)

Spotted Pardalote: Double-note, contatc call "pi-pi" (45.46, more prominent later ...127.02...)

Bell Miners: A colony was living nearby, so most of their calls are not especially close, and their presence did not seem to outcast other species, as can sometimes be the case. Their territorial calls are a loud, single "ting!" bell-note (54.11)

White-throated Treecreeper: Usually a very quick piping, begining high and 'subsiding' to a single note (background 62.46, bit closer, but brief 70.56), but here also a softer, liquid trill (58.50, and some nice close ones from 68.02)

Red Wattlebird: Loud and often raucous or explosive calls (background 67.46, 67.54)

Satin Bowerbird: Sweeping, downslurred whistles (69.30, 127.00)

Silvereye: Pleasant twittering song from a flock (mostly in distance 76.45)

White-naped Honeyeaters: Soft and quite distinctive mewing calls (83.38, 126.06, 127.54), plus a 'sucking' slur call (113.19, 113.31)

Blackbird: Our anitpodean Blackbirds seem to love temporate rainforests with a dense understory - must remind them of their home country (singing very quietly 86.54, and later giving a more extended bout of song 129.16...)

King Parrot: Loud, single whistles (distantly 133.54, 135.29), plus explosive, grating "chap" (90.53, flying overhead 135.09...)

Fantailed Cuckoo: Rippling, downward trill (91.23), and single, mournful notes (124.58)

Pied Currawong: Its (aboriginal) name is derived from its call (96.43, closer 106.00)

Magpie-lark: Two-note call (heard in the distance 99.00)

Eastern Rosella: a group chatter (in the backgorund 102.05...)

Masked Plover: Loud, grating call given often on the wing (as here) (116.51)

Australian Raven: cawing with very vocal quality and drawn out mournful phrase (in the distance 117.01, still distant but a bit more discernable 118.17)

White-browed Scrubwren: buzzy contact calls (132.54)

Azure Kingfisher: Loud "chip"s (single one 136.16, then series given on the wing as it flies past downstream 142.23)

Much of East Gippsland is protected within Croajingalong National Park, plus a network of parks and forest reserves covering upland areas. The whole region is remote from major urban centres, and this seclusion has no doubt contributed to it remaining a place with many special areas and rare wildlife.

Fire continues to be a threat, especiallu in the drier lowland scleraphyl forests, which have been the sight of significant wildlfires in recent decades. Rainforest pockets such as the one represented on this recording are particularly vulnerable.

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