The ‘White Winged Chough’ is truly symonomous with Dunmoochin. So many of the artists who have spent time here have experienced sense of connection with the local chough families. This bird has been the inspitration for paintings, prints, sculptures, songs and stories over many decades. The choughs fly through the bush squarking with a spine tingling, echoing, prehistoric call - which invokes within me a sense of awe and respect.
I have been incredibly fortunate to have also formed a connection with these majestic creatures. Upon first glance the chough initially apprears like a crow or a raven, yet they travel in families of several birds – a community – which look out for, preen, feed and protect each other. They have distinctive red eyes and flashes of white on their wings as they fly.
Since moving to Dunmoochin, the choughs come close to my cottage each morning waiting for the possible share of my museli or a handful of wild birdseed. I am absolutely honoured to have become so close to this particular cough community that I can recognise some of the individual personalities, but even more so to witness their sense of community, family and ‘working as a team’. I reflect on my own life as a human and experience a distant longing to return to the stability , simplicity and sense of belonging to tribal human community.
Shane Pugh, Clif’s son who has lived in the area since childhood, tells stories of watching one chough digging a shallow pit in the dust to lie in. Then one by one the rest of the choughs would take it in turns to jump on the buried chough – thus teasing out its feathers; using their claws to enhance a dust bath and preening. Truly remarkable!
About six weeks ago I noticed a nest high in a gum tree in the bush below my cottage. A pair of chough chicks could be seen over the edge of the mud nest rim. Initially I suspected that the chough I saw with the two chicks must have been their mother – but shortly after, another, then another, then another chough came to the nest to feed the chicks. They were ALL collecting food to take back to the nest!!!
This endered me to these beautiful birds even more deeply and I watched the commited chough family feed the two chicks continually. Over time the babies grew large enough to leave the nest.
Yesterday was that very day!!
I was witness to a small window of the miracle of nature….. in the wild. What an absolute treasure to have been privy to such a miracle. Observing this allowed me to imagine both the enormousness and the sense of vulnerability that these baby birds may have experienced on this monumental day. Watching the beautiful, patient cycles of nature reminded me of my connection to the very same cycles and source of life.
One can get so very lost in the fast paced hustle-bustle of modern society. Fear, impatience, disconnection, isolation, a need to control and a lack of trust in life are qualities that one sees on a daily basis within human society. All of these mundane concerns fade into the background when nature offers such beautiful gifts. When sitting observing this miraculous moment of nature, nothing else mattered. A conscious clarity was awakened.
A bit more about these beautiful creatures:
“White winged Choughs” are native to Australia and are one of just two surviving members of the family Corcoracidae
, the Australian mud-nest builders, and the only member of the genus Corcorax. Choughs are large, black birds — at about 45 cm only a little smaller than a raven or a little larger than a Magpie
— but have red eyes and a finer, slightly down-curved beak. In flight, the large white eye-patches in the wings are immediately obvious.
They were once common through the drier woodlands and open forests of south-eastern Australia, from near the South Australia - Western Australia border as far north as Townsville. Although still common in patches where good habitat survives, Choughs are weak flyers and do not cope well with habitat fragmentation, so many surviving populations are isolated and thus vulnerable.
Choughs are territorial and highly social, living in flocks of from about 4 up to about 20 birds, usually all the offspring of a single pair.
Nesting and breeding is communal, all members of the family helping to raise the young — a process that takes several years, as young birds must learn the art of finding food in the dry Australian bush.
The mud nest will be re-rendered to be used again the following season.
White-winged Choughs can often be seen on the fringes of urban areas if natural bush survives nearby. They can become quite tame and will venture into gardens regularly if conditions are suitable: they need trees for shelter nearby, leaf-litter to search for food in, and protection from domestic pets.