Gracefully spotting Yellow-spotteds
Two honeyeaters in Tyto can bring birders to a serious identity crisis. Yellow-spotteds (Meliphaga notata) and Gracefuls (M. gracilis) are found in woodland and creek forest areas, mostly outside the hot pre-Wet and wettest months (November-March).
So in this saturated January I was a little surprised to first hear and then get poor pictures of this Yellow-spotted earlier in the week (before the rain really set in - again!). The hearing is almost everything, until the birds get into close range.
Yellow-spotteds offer a metallic rattling (feebly echoing 'machinegun' bursts from much larger - but seldom in Tyto - lookalike Lewin's Honeyeater (M lewinii)). Gracefuls, slightly smaller, with longer, slender bills, mostly give one repetitious 'tuk' (louder further north: can trick southerners into looking for 'tinking' Bell Miners).
But birds don't always call on command. And slight bill differences can be hard to spot. You could try and see whether the earmark is a rounded yellow triangle (Yellow-spotted) or merely rounded (Graceful). Good luck with that idea!
How to tell them apart? Well, both have a yellow gape streak, which points at the earmark. The Yellow-spotted streak points to the centre of the earmark, but in the Graceful it curves down and points to the bottom of the earmark. (Sorry, can't lay hands on Graceful picture: two oldies of mine just checked are Yellow-spotteds!)
It's obvious when pointed out, though not every guidebook gets it right. So that's my out for never having noticed. Many thanks to Tyto visionary and birder supreme John Young for showing me the difference.