It is the dry season in the Kimberley region of far northwestern Australia. The waters of the Fitzroy River flow slowly, forming deep pools that reflecting the sky and the paperbark trees that line its banks. These paperbarks are known as cajeput in the local indigenous language, and have given their name to one of these still water pools.
Dawn has come to Cajeput Waterhole, and the birdlife attracted to this place is in full voice. A rich variety of species can be heard; among them pigeons and doves, friarbirds, flycatchers, whistlers, bee-eaters, butcherbirds, babblers, wagtails, finches, lorikeets, cuckoo-shrikes, and a variety of honeyeaters. Their voices come from the trees nearby and the other riverbank.
Downstream, rapids can faintly be heard, but as the morning progresses and the air warms, these become less noticeable, and the birdsong becomes more spacious. Every now and then a faint splash signals the presence of fish in the nearby pool.
This is a single un-edited recording, allowing you to sit and listen under the cajeput trees on the banks of the river, as birds sing all around in the morning sunlight.
"Decisions, decisions… When I arrive at a location, I set about looking for a prospective spot to record the next morning. Often I’m undecided, having identified more than one location. Nature can be unpredictable, and this leads to a quandary; with often limited time in the field, which place to choose?
"So I now travel with two recording rigs whenever possible, doubling my chances of capturing a nice recording, and giving me some latitude if one spot turns out to be less productive than the other. It also allows me to take a risk on a location that might turn out to be interesting after all.
"But every now and then, I find a spot so rich that both recordings are equally wonderful. Such was the case at Cajeput Waterhole, where the diversity of birdlife and birdsong was exhilarating. At first, I thought one recording was the highlight, but on further listening to the other, it is equally enjoyable.
"Hence, I’ve chosen to make both available. This is the first, and the second will be published shortly."
This recording begins just as the dawn chorus subsides, and birds begin their morning activity.
A few species are ubiquitous throughout the recording (although the doves quieten off as the morning progresses):
Brown Honeyeaters - this is a very vocal species, with varied songs, often scratchy in texture. Much of the busy birdsong on this recording comes from Brown Honeyeaters.
Bar-shouldered Doves - warm, two-note; "wit-hoo, wit-hoo" (eg; 21.04...)
Peaceful Doves - a smaller dove with a higher call, a characteristic quick three-note; "oo-le-goo" (eg; 6.18...) plus descending rattles.
Paperbark Flyctacher - loud "Zwit!" (12.50, 12.54..), plus whistled "chew-ee, chew-ee..." or "seet-chew" (67.11...)
Other species are heard at various points throughout. Here are some of them:
Rainbow Bee-eaters - gentle trilling (group fly overhead at 4.50-5.10)
Magpie-Lark - loud, familiar calls (56.39)
White-gaped Honeyeater - arpeggio of loud notes (27.42, 40.04)
Little Corellas - throaty cries and moans (17.22, 63.47, 110.10...)
Willy Wagtail - well-known "sweet pretty creature" (16.17...)
Grey-crowned Babbler - loud, group chorus of "yahoo"s (not close) (51.58)
Little Friarbird - harsh, cackling calls (52.17, 66.29), and quick "chaow" contact calls throughout
Rufous Whistler - strong whistled song (9.21)
Double-bar Finch - nasal, relatively quiet calls; "neeah" (29.42, 29.47..)
White-browed Robin - strong, clear whistles (21.24)
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - single calls, richly textured and nasal (34.23... 34.31...)
Rainbow Lorikeets - typical lorikeet screeches, often in the distance (40.11, 11.46)
Black-backed Butcherbird - ringing, tonal notes (54.36..., 69.53, 72.45, 79.54)
Koel Cuckoo - rising notes, probably the female (distant 57.41)
Rufous-throated Honeyeater - twittering cycle of notes, usually softly in background (70.24, 81.54)
Northern Rosella - quick "chet!" flight calls (91.25, 94.22)
Little Cuckoo-shrike - similar call to the rosella, also given in flight (96.54), and pleasant churring (97.15, 108.06)
Brown Goshawk - "yipping" calls (96.21, 100.36, 102.36)
Crested Shrike-tit - soft contact calls (118.34...126.36...)
Red-tailed Black Cockatoos - way off in the distance (138.20...)
Mornington is a retired cattle property, now run for the conservation of natural ecosystems and wildlife. By removing cattle and other invasive species, the AWC are doing a marvellous job of restoring the landscape to its former glory. Cat eradication, control fire regimes and wildlife research are just some of the programs currently being enacted.
Mornington really is a special place. I say this partly because you can see the landscape restoration, but also because the soundscape is rich, diverse and vibrant. It is rare to get a morning birdsong chorus this dense, and it reflects a healthy environment where habitat niches are diverse.
This is the first recording we are making available from Mornington, with others to follow. Our thanks to the AWC for supporting our visit.