Catalan Kookaburras

Walking through the Morton National Park, on the eastern end of Australia, I prick my ears to the strange symphony coming from the trees. The ranger told me to listen out for this peculiar song of the bush. It sounds oddly familiar.

On the grassy highland plains where I grew up, the laughing would start at dusk. The legends say that they’ve always got a joke on their minds, and when they finish the day’s hunt, all it takes is for one of them to start laughing before the rest join in. They’re a happy bunch.

They live out here too according to the park ranger, but they’re a little different. The scientists call them Dacelo novaeguineae. Their race is catalaneae. We lay-people call them Catalan Kookaburras.

They told me to concentrate my search around the old ruins of a hut. The man that lived there was known only as Rodrigo, “the last king of the Goths.” No one knew his real name – only that he came from Spain. No one knew why he was living in the bush either. Some said he was prospecting for gold. Others said he’d been in exile for the last thousand years after being defeated by Muslim invaders from Africa.

What this man definitely did was to play flamenco on his guitar, serenading the plants and birds and singing to the stars.

Biologists and musicologists alike have since studied the strange effects that this thousand-year-old Gothic king had on the local ecosystem. These kookaburras laugh in the key of A minor, in the form of a Malagueña.

I record the harmony on my recorder, I breathe in the moist air and I dance the fandango before heading back to camp. Next week it’s off to Gippsland to watch the earthworms write Shakespeare.



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