by Donnie Hayden
© 2014, all rights reserved
I only thought we were in the country until we actually went into the country. It was a nice ride from Camden to Picton, New South Wales, Australia about 16 miles. We saw rolling hills and cows and sheep much like anyplace I have ever seen. If not for driving on the right side of the car and on the left side of the road, it all looked similar to anything I’ve ever seen. On occasion there would be a sign that read, “Stay in line unless overtaking,” meaning the center lane was for passing ONLY. Somehow, before we leave, I will snap a picture of the road sign for Kangaroo Crossing. But again, everything seemed quite the same. WOW, was I about to be surprised!
Our destination was the Razorback Inn, a quaint out-of-the-way place to eat that was established in 1849.
The eatery is now run by a Christian Commune called, ‘Common Ground.’ They make their own clothes, live in the area, and run the restaurant including making all the food from scratch and natural and wholesome ingredients. A s delicious as the food was and as charming as the place was, this was not the most memorable experience, of this experience to me. It was in fact, the Bell Birds. Yes, that is what you read, what I wrote and what was meant! And as the name implies, the birds have some association with bells because, however they make this sound, they sound exactly like bells!!!!!!
The Bell Bird or the Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys), commonly known as the Bellbird, is a colonial honeyeater found in southeastern Australia. The common name refers to their bell-like call. “Miner” is an old alternative spelling of the word “myna” and is shared with other members of the genus Manerina. The birds feed almost exclusively on the dome-like coverings of certain psyllid bugs, referred to as “bell lerps,” that feed on ucalyptus sap from the leaves. The “bell lerps” make these domes from their own honeydew secretions in order to protect themselves from predators and the environment.
Bell miners live in large, complex social groups. Within each group there are subgroups consisting of several breeding pairs, but also including a number of birds who are not currently breeding. The non-breeders help in providing food for the young in all the nests in the subgroup, even though they are not necessarily closely related to them. The birds defend their colony area communally aggressively, excluding most other passerine species. They do this in order to protect their territory from other insect-eating birds that would eat the bell lerps on which they feed. Whenever the local forests die back due to increased lerp psyllid infestations, bell miners undergo a population boom.
The sound is beautiful and quite enchanting. It is difficult to believe that you are hearing these sounds and that they are made by birds. Adding to this difficulty is their size. They are so small and so fast, it is almost next to impossible to see them in the trees and capture them with a camera. The following pictures of the Bellbird are not mine. I was able to capture their unimaginable and unbelievable sound, but I found a wonderful video on Youtube, so I will use this to share with you.