My visitor was keen for me to show him the birds of Sydney. Finding and identifying the various species, even with the powerful binoculars that birdwatchers use, can be notoriously difficult when you’re in foreign climes.
“I have a wish list of only ten species,” he said. “The rest is up to you, but”, he emphasised, “I must see a king parrot. It’s my number one priority.”
“No problem – king parrots are everywhere,” I replied.
We quickly found most of his target birds. Those remaining – variegated wren, musk lorikeet and eastern spinebill took a little longer but by midday all that was left was the king parrot.
By mid afternoon with the total species seen approaching 80 – surely enough to satisfy the most avid tick hunter – we’d still not seen his number one priority and I was beginning to feel uneasy. Aren’t king parrots everywhere?
I tried a couple of parks with fruiting trees and patches of suitable bushland but with no success. Rainbow lorikeets and sulphur-crested cockatoos were all over. Even scalybreasted lorikeets. Surely they would do? But no, it had to be a king parrot.
The search continued. We saw crested shrike-tits, sittellas and square-tailed kites – birds that are not uncommon around Sydney but species you don’t see very often. However, no king parrots.
I was just about to call it a day when something flew over our heads and into a tree where we were able to obtain close views. King parrot. Success!
But no: this was only a female, a much duller bird. Apparently it had to be a male.
Eventually at the end of a long, tiring day I admitted defeat. But 82 species seen! And it wasn’t enough! To make matters worse I was asked if I knew anybody else who could help.
We drove silently back to my place. But then as I got out of the car- oh joy! I heard what I’d been listening for all day: a long whistle. I could hardly believe it – there on my house veranda was a king parrot: a magnificent male.
Phew! The visitor was delighted and my creaking reputation restored.