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An Adventure of the Vocal Quartet

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A children’s story from Fraser Island (K’gari)

By John Sinclair

Cheeky was the leader of the Vocal Quartet, four birds of different species that had a special bond of friendship on K’gari (Fraser Island).  Cheeky was her nick-name.  When she hatched, her parents had pretentiously named her Wunda Willowie Wantima White-cheeked Honeyeater, but Cheeky was a rebel and decided a simpler straightforward name was what she wanted.

Vocal Quartet
The Vocal Quartet Cheeky (White-cheeked Honeyeater), Scarlet (Scarlet Honeyeater), Louie (Lewin’s Honeyeater) and Brownie (Brown Honeyeater)

Cheeky’s feathered friends also had simple easily understood names.  Scarlet was a dazzlingly red Scarlet Honeyeater, Brownie was an ordinary Brown Honeyeater who sang very sweet songs and Louie, who had a machinegun like loud stutter, was a Lewin’s Honeyeater.

An old couple had built a house on a dune overlooking the beach so that they could look out and see the ocean and hear the waves breaking and the birds singing.  This happened to also be Vocal Quartet’s little patch of K’gari.

The Vocal Quartet weren’t the only birds to flit about the house on the dune.  A pair of Grey Shrike-thrushes moved in to make their nest on a shelf on the back verandah.  Rainbow Bee-eaters darted around swooping up insects in the air and Willy Wagtails were fluttering closer to the ground catching small insects and a small squadron of Bar-shouldered doves seemed to be forever carrying out parade ground drill in the bare and mown ground around the house.  But there were lots of other avian and human visitors as well to keep the old couple company.

It was a sad day when the old man who was sick left the island and never returned.  The Vocal Quartet cheered up when Beryl, who they had come to know well, returned without him.  She was sad and lonely.

“We should do something to cheer Beryl up,” Cheeky announced.  “We have to sing louder close to the house on the dune and flash our feathers whenever she might see us,” she added.

They did and soon Beryl began to mourn less and started to cheer up.  She became busy again with her indoor garden that occupied every niche of the house on the dunes and resumed her oil painting.  She was so pleased to see the birds, that she put out a bird bath for them below the tank stand.  It wasn’t only the Vocal Quartet that made use of that.  Many other birds came to bathe and play and splash away and the house on the dune returned to being a happy place again.

One day though, Cheeky noticed a small rusty mark on the water tank.  That was a sign that the tank needed to be fixed and that if it wasn’t, the tank, Beryl, and the bird bath would run out of water.

Soon, the Quartet noted that water was beginning to slowly ooze out from that rusty patch.

“We need to alert Beryl now because she can’t fix this on her own.  She needs human help to replace the tank before it rusts out,” Cheeky said.

“But, but, but, but, but!  How do we let her know?” asked Louie with a stutter.

“When she is sitting in the sun on the back verandah painting as she does most afternoons we need to put on a performance for her that will attract her attention.  Once we have that, we will draw it to the growing rusty, leaky part of the tank,” Cheeky explained.

And they did.  Scarlet had the star role, but Brownie sang Peter, Peter, Peter like an angel as he had never sung before.  Louie tried to outgun them with his machinegun stutter when his turn came.  All the time, Cheeky was flitting and chirping around directing the attention-grabbing action.

Beryl paused from working on her painting of Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora) enthralled by the performances and noticed what they were trying to tell her about the rusty tank.

“I hadn’t noticed that before.  I must get that fixed,” Beryl said aloud.

She did and so the Beryl, the birds and the house on the dune didn’t run out of water and they all continued to enjoy their happier lives on K’gari together.

A children’s story by John Sinclair from Talinga, K’gari 2018

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