Sounds of the dry

It’s very dry out our way now. Our  garden has turned from every shade of green to every shade of green and brown. The tall native grasses have died back and deciduous trees have almost all dropped their leaves or are reddening; their trunks are skeletal, shrunken against the torch-dry landscape. Even the normally bright blue sky is tinted smoke brown. Serenity can be found in the wattle yellows and turkey bush pinks.

With the change in visual aesthetic has come a change in the audible aesthetic. A noticeable shift in bird species around my block, returns forgotten but familiar sounds to the day and night. Fairy martins soar silently overhead but grey-crowned babblers chatter sociably through the woodland. A rufous owl, possibly the same one who came last year, spends his nights whoo-whoooing loudly from the mature mahogany next to our house. The large-tailed nightjar has returned, adding his voice to the night shift. His endless tok tok tok is beautifully monotonous, a little like the pattering drop of mahogany leaves that sound ironically like raindrops falling onto our iron roof. Almost overnight spangled drongos have started up their rusty pipe call and the black butcherbirds’ whistling melody is a refreshing diversion.

These are some of the notes that will make up our soundtrack for the dry season months ahead. Our pleasure in them comes from the variety, the richness of species that come and go with the seasons. How much greater our appreciation when we think about the alternative: the tragic silence of birds.