Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Elusive Golden Oriole

Heard but not seen
male Golden Oriole

The Eurasian Golden Oriole, (Oriolus oriolus) or rigogolo in Italian, winters in Africa and passes through Europe in the summer.
A few years ago a birdwatching visitor reported a fleeting sighting of a yellow and black bird he imagined to be a Golden Oriole in the fields below Le Ripe. 

dowdier female

The news excited us since the bird is rarely seen these days although friends near Panzano have been lucky enough to glimpse yellow flashes in their woods.

This photo demonstrates how tricky it is to distinguish the bird from surrounding vegetation

Some days ago I heard a distinctive birdsong in the woods above the house. I have no idea why it occurred to me that this might be the Golden Oriole. Perhaps it was because the song was so particular. It might have been a melodious parrot call, for someone brought up in Australia like me.
Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking.

I tried to stalk the singer but it moved further off as I approached and since I did not want to frighten it away and it was fairly unlikely that I would see it without binoculars, I desisted.

Instead I memorized the song by imitating it with my rather feeble whistle. It was a sweet-sounding warble, or, in the words of Wikipedia: a beautiful fluting weela-wee-ooo ...unmistakable once heard. I headed for the internet where birdsongs have been lovingly recorded for the common good. There I discovered to my great satisfaction that the mystery song was indeed produced by this striking bird.

We have heard the Golden Oriole on subsequent occasions at Le Ripe. We hope it stays with us for a while. This year there have been no jays and few magpies, which must be encouraging for more timid birds. They may be enjoying our cherries which I do not regret: rather a Golden Oriole in the garden than a basket of cherries in the hand.

For scientific information the Wikipedia link is here.

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