Trouble is, I’m not quite sure what the drama was about, but it certainly was heartfelt. I was writing in my study when I became aware of the kerfuffle unfolding – birds in a panic. Not just one, but dozens. Alarm calls among passerines (those small garden birds) are pretty well universally recognised between the species. There’s an obvious advantage to this.
The interesting thing about birds is that an alarm call often brings birds in, rather than scares them off. Especially the males they want to see what’s happening. And often, if the danger is one common to them all, they will cooperate to get rid of it. If you’ve ever seen a cat cowering in a tree under a united attack, you’ll know what I mean.
So, being a sticky beak – even if my mouth parts don’t fit the metaphor – I went to see what was happening. Unfortunately for my curiosity, it was all taking place high in the foliage and I’ve no idea what was there that was so alarming.
The oddest thing was that the state of complete consternation went on for about an hour, which is far longer than, say, the sight of a snake or a cat usually elicits. There were three female Asian Koels at the top of the avocado tree obviously fascinated by what was going on (casing
the joint a nest?), so I did wonder if it was them. They are related to the cuckoos and lay their eggs in crow nests, so it was possible that other birds recognise the generic cuckoo and take offence. But then, none the alarmed birds were in the avocado or made any attempt to chase them off.
There were at least four Black-naped Orioles too, flying in an out to take a look. They are predators of eggs and young, but once again, the other birds ignored them.
Perhaps it was my resident Common Palm Civets that were the cause of the alarm, although I couldn’t see them.
The birds making the most noise were male and female Oriental Magpie-Robins – ten or more of them! – and a similar number of Yellow-vented Bulbuls. They were joined from time to time by Common Ioras, Ashy Tailorbirds and Olive-backed Sunbirds.
There may have been other species as well, as birds were fluttering in and out all the time.
I guess it will have to remain a mystery.
More adventures start for me tomorrow…but more about that later.