The music of

David Lumsdaine

The music of David Lumsdaine

Printer friendly version

Meunga Creek

to the Thorsburns

Meunga Creek is a tidal water flowing into the southern end of Rockingham Bay, opposite Hinchinbrook Island, North Queensland. It forms the southern boundary of the Edmund Kennedy National Park. Here, within a relatively small area, is a complex of tropical habitats whose diversity is reflected in its variety of fauna, and particularly, in the number of bird species and the richness of their songs. It has become particularly precious, since along with nearby Hinchinbrook Island, it is a small protected enclave in what is now a rapidly ‘developing’ area.

The recordings for this soundscape were made in September 1989, during the dry season. Nights were cool and mild, with heavy precipitation in the littoral rainforest areas but, after sunrise, the days quickly heated up. Frogs and insects – with the notable exception of mosquitoes – were generally silent but there was not an hour, day or night, when birds were not singing and the dawn choruses were especially vigorous. Most remarkable are the early-morning choirs: the White-tailed Nightjars with their simple and insistent ‘chop, chop’, and the Yellow Orioles and Black Butcherbirds with their equally insistent but more harmonious calls. The choirs form a background to the many beautiful soloists: the Rufous Whistler, the Brown Honeyeater, the Northern Fantail, the Grey Whistler and the Rufous Shrikethrush. The last is a somewhat later riser than the others, but once its song is heard it becomes one of the main threads of the vocal fabric. Singing alone, or in groups of three or four, it can be heard in every habitat.

The soundscape opens at 3.00 am with a view across the open areas to a melaleuca swamp. Bush Stone Curlew, Jungle Fowl and Brush Cuckoo can be heard calling in the far distance.

At 5.15, the Rufous Whistlers begin to weave their brilliant canons into the stillness of the night and within a few minutes the air is alive with song. We then follow the progress of the dawn chorus during a walk through the country north of Meunga Creek from the open woodland, where I camped, through the littoral rainforest and river mangroves to the beach.

Just after 6 o’clock the sun rises from the sea. Above the quiet lapping of the waves and the hum of mosquitoes, the Jungle Fowl and Brush Turkey can be heard busily scraping in the leaf litter. During the walk back to the camp, the choirs dissolve and the individual songs, though no less vigorous, become more intermittent.

The last song to enter the fabric of the tapestry is that of the Shining Flycatcher. Two of them echo one another’s soft piping and frog-like croaks. It is just after 9 o’clock and the level of vocal activity has settled into the more gentle rhythm of the day. The soundscape ends abruptly, leaving the songs in mid air.