Forest Bells

Eucalyptus Forest Scene

When I first heard them … bell-like tink calls coming from all around me in the dense understory of the eucalyptus forest at dusk, I thought I was hearing frogs, “Bell Frogs” was my guess. But when I described my experience to Carl later in the evening, he told me with considerable authority that the calls weren’t from frogs, but rather were from birds … Bell Miners (also called “Bellbirds”), to be exact:

The tink-notes of Bell Miners at dusk. Recorded by Lang Elliott 17 October 2012 on the western edge of the Watagan Mountains near Cessnock, New South Wales, Australia.

I had just driven up a long dirt road through farm country on the western slopes of the Watagan Mountains. Light was fading fast. I came to a gate, abandoned my car, and walked up a well-rutted road to the edge of the mountain forest. And that is where I found them, or rather “heard” them, tinkling away in froggy fashion.

This pristine soundscape is magical to my ears. I find the recording both relaxing and mesmerizing, with nearly continuous tink calls at varying distances set against the more subtle chatters and whistles of a variety of other birds (including a lyrebird singing in the distance toward the end).

What amazed me is that I didn’t see any of the callers. “Tinks” came at me from all around, both far and near, but I never once saw a sound-maker. How could these not be tiny frogs, well-camouflaged on understory stems and leaves? Really … how is this possible? I just can’t believe these sounds are made by birds.

photo of Bell Miner

The Bell Miner (Manorina-melanophrys) is a fairly common species in mountain eucalyptus forests from southeastern Queensland to Victoria. A small olive-green bird in the honeyeater family, it got its common name not from its bell-like call, but because (as I found on Wikipedia), it feeds “almost exclusively on the dome-like coverings of certain psyllid bugs, referred to as ‘bell lerps’, that feed on eucalyptus sap from the leaves.”

Bell Miners are highly gregarious and flocks of dozens are not uncommon. Their social life is complex, with pairs accompanied by non-breeders that help provide food for the young. I can’t help but wonder: “Do the tink notes constitute male territorial song, or are these primarily contact calls?” Given the Bell Miner’s social life, I think the latter. So all the calling at dusk might help members of the group stick together and roost at night in close proximity to one another.

Comments

  1. Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    • Actually, this is a WordPress site hosted by ZippyKid. I have operated several WordPress sites and have never had problems with hacking. Spamming is definitely a problem and the Akismet plugin basically takes care of that.

  2. thank you for bringing a little Australia to me 🙂

  3. Zack Frieben says:

    This is one amazing recording! It does sound bell-like. This makes me want to go to Australia.

  4. Lisa Rainsong says:

    Absolutely wonderful. I haven’t been able sit with my headphones and just listen until now, and it is such a delight.

  5. Magical. What a marvelous sound to be coming from birds. Crystal clear recording to boot.

  6. Zack Frieben says:

    Thanks Lang! I just got your comment. The Albert’s Lyrebird and the Superb Lyrebird are the only two species of lyrebirds.

  7. I just got your comment Lang. Thanks for telling me what kind of lyrebird it is. The Superb Lyrebird and the Albert’s Lyrebird are the only two species of lyrebirds.

  8. Thanks Lang! I just got your comment. The Superb Lyrebird and the Albert’s Lyrebird are the only two species of lyrebirds.

  9. Zack: It is a Superb Lyrebird. They sing mostly in the winter, but continue to sound off at lower intensity into spring. I recorded the Noisy Miner, while in Queensland. It has a prominent call that Aussies think sounds like “Go To Work!”.

  10. Hilary Tann says:

    Wonderful sounds! Thank you for these. I am fairly new to your website and I’m so enjoying your sound-views. I am a Welsh composer living in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate NY, USA. My music is influenced “by nature”. I sometimes find it difficult to describe what this means, but certainly, what you have recorded is very definitely “music of nature”. (hilarytann.com)

  11. Lang, The bell sounds are incredible!! And the way you describe your surrounding and sounds is most entertaining. I can’t wait to read your blog everyday! Love, your sister, Jackie

  12. Zack Frieben says:

    Amazing recording! I’ve heard recordings of a similar sounding bird called the Noisy Miner. It looks different than the Bell Miner, but its call sounds exactly like this. Wonderful recording. I do, in fact, hear the lyrebird in the background. Trick question: Is it a Superb Lyrebird or an Albert’s Lyrebird? I see that your soundscape blog pages are getting bigger.

    In three days, me and Mom, Dad, my sister, and her friend McKenzie will be in Chicago. While there, we’ll be looking for the Monk Parakeet, a parrot that has been accidentally introduced to Chicago. It is better known as the Quaker Parrot. They are now wild, and one particular spot to look for them is Hyde Park. All of us are going to stop by here and see if we can find any, even if there’s just one. It sounds weird for me to think that a parrot might be added to my life list. I won’t be visiting this website while I’m there, even though the hotel we’re staying at has computers. I hope when I’m back home I’ll see some great new blogs.

    Other things we’ll be doing is go to Amarind’s, the best Thai Restaurant in Chicago, go to the Willis Tower (or Sears Tower), and Savannah and McKenzie are going to a concert of a band called Circa Survive.

  13. bob mcguire bob mcguire says:

    Truly magical: Musical magical.

  14. wolfgang planz says:

    fantastic cristal clear recording of yet another miracle of nature ! Thank you so much !

  15. Marie Read says:

    Delightful and very soothing….

  16. wonderful sounds. I am so enjoying following you around Australia!

  17. Melanie Smith says:

    Beautiful. I love all the background sounds also. It is hard to believe that this is a bird!

  18. Mary Batcheller says:

    Sure sounds like frogs to me, too!

  19. David Marsh says:

    What an interesting recording….very relaxing….lots of background…..full of life. Thank you Lang. David.

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