|The mournful Koel|
Every new year, here in Hong Kong, we know that spring has sprung because we hear the Koel calling out for his mate. And yes, it’s always a “he” calling, says my trusty Hong Kong Birds Guide.
The bird’s name is onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound of his spring mating call.
Ko-el, ko-el, koo-el, koo-el, kooo-el, kooo-el... about a dozen times each stanza (it that’s the right word), rising in intonation, as if he’s getting more and more desperate, where-oh-where is that lovely lady I pine for? Kooo-ellll.... And then a break, some minutes, ten or more perhaps, and then...
Ko-el, ko-el, koo-el, koo-el, kooo-el, kooo-ell...
We heard the call of the Koel last week, on Super Bowl Monday, here on 3 February, our doors open to the fine spring weather, 18 centigrade degrees and fine and clear and crisp.
And one of our SuperBowl guests -- a 49ers supporter, but we’ll forgive him -- noted the call. It’s rare that I have a guest interested in our birds, even if our yard is a haven for some of the 300-odd varieties we have in Hong Kong, an oasis, territory fought over by families of red-vented bulbuls, speckled doves, crested mynas, magpie robins, greater coucals, kingfishers, the lugubrious egret, hanging hungrily over our fishpond, eyeing off the latest batch of fingerlings.
So it was a bit of a surprise to have Jerry comment , when he heard the Koel, “Oh”, he said “that’s a bit early this year, isn’t it?”.
I said “yes, maybe. I’m not sure it’s usually this early.” And we agreed that, of course, if it was early, then it’s another global warming thing.
We looked up “Koel” in the Hong Kong Birds Guide, but it had nothing about when the male started his courting calls.
So, having turned 70 just recently*, I thought, why not be optimistic? Why not assume that I’ll be here enough more years to learn if indeed they were early this year, and to note the annual start of their kourting kall?
So, I’d doing that, and giving this a new label -- “Koel” -- with optimism.
*[Confucius, in the Analects, says 七十而從心所欲, qishi er congxin suoyu. “When you turn seventy you can go where your heart desires”]