Wild Birds at Coffey’s Swamp
I went down to triple-check Peter Parent’s territory. It would be a fine fine thing if we could find him, and get the chicks back. No trace. No luck.
Next, I want to explain a thing: suppose you’re walking down a street that has a lane running off it at right angles. As you get close, you can see just a little of the mouth of the alley; but when you reach the alley, if you stick your head around the corner, you can suddenly see the whole length of it.
Say what? Well, as I move about, I frequently pass from an aisle of gums into an open space, or step from a block of scrub into open space. As I noted above, the scan-and-move mode is hard work. However, if you are coming from an aisle to a large space, it is good value because – being a large space – there’s likely to be something there.
So, this afternoon, after looking around P.P.’s patch, I moved patiently down an aisle of gums to Coffey’s fence-line. I then scan-and-moved patiently to the end of the aisle, schmoozed under a tree, and patiently started scanning. Here’s part of the view:
There are three wild birds in the paddock just visible on the right, and we’re going to observe them. Firstly, we sit stock still until the three birds drift behind the screen of young gums. Then we cross the ratty fence-line. From there, the gums down in the corner of the paddock screen our advance. The birds themselves have patiently grazed out to the centre of the paddock, so they won’t disappear if they are not disturbed. In five minutes, we are here:
After watching until we locate the birds, we patiently schmooze in under the tree. If this all seems a bit melodramatic, bear in mind that the whole plain is covered in grazing birds. If a single one of them sees me, they’ll all bolt. From under the tree, we can see:
You can’t see the birds in the photos, but with the binoculars, the observation is well worth while. There are three birds, one, perhaps a female, a big big beautiful bird of a slightly sandy colour. Two of the birds have a spat, and chase each other about. Even at that distance, I can hear the vocalisations – the first time I’ve ever seen wild birds really fussing.
The third bird, clearly disconcerted, is moving resolutely back and forth along the fence-line. It takes me a while to twig to what it is up to. I think that it is trying to cross the fence in my direction. After five minutes or so, I realise that it is already on my side of the fence, and wants to get back to its companions – but the fence is good quality, and it can’t cross it (Ahh! readers – but it knew to try at length!)
I watch with interest this emu-i.q. test. Eventually, the bird goes about a hundred yards further down, where there is an open gate, passes through it, and doubles back a couple of hundred yards to join its mates.
It’s not important that these birds were a good distance away. I have learned a very great deal in recent months, and one of those things is to just keep adding snippets of info together – rather like overlaying the transparent sheets that I described above.
So? Well, once again, we find wild birds gleefully grazing up to their ankles in water, sending up silver splashes as they chase one another about. Grass grows long and lush in other spots, but the wild birds do seem to like to graze by these swamps*.
[Greedy passed the window in front of Aisle Five and Aisle Seven. I not sure who’s the more disturbed. The two chicks are cheep-cheep-cheeping flat out. Greedy is standing outside – she can clearly hear the chicks – with a look of puzzlement on her face.]
Eventually, I did The Cheeky Thing – moved out into the open. I wanted to see if my guess about which way they’d go was correct: I thought they’d barrel into the island of scrub by the fence, and then cross through the fence back to my place. (Three of the fences in the paddock the emus are in are in good condition. It’s the fourth fence . . . ahem . . . my fence, that’s falling down.), When they saw me, they bolted into the scrub, and I lost them.
Then a very very tired and cold Supreme Emu turned for home, and crossed the fence by this swamp gum. It’s one of my favourites.
Then he was set upon by the Muirs Corellas, which are the only bird in the world that follows you around. If you’re walking through the bush, they’ll move from tree to tree above you while giving you an aural flogging. They do have one charming little vocalisation, but generally they make a truly awful ruckus. Here they are:
There was a lone wild bird standing up the top of the fence-line at this point. It must be a stone-deaf, because the corellas were on top of their form at that point. There was another lone wild bird in the house-clearing as I approached – well well well: a whole month’s supply of lone emus in just twenty minutes.
*I would give a great deal to go back in a time machine, and spend a single day observing Category Six birds around here: no fences, no local species yet denuded or rendered extinct, no introduced species, no water other than natural sources, and aboriginal Australians doing clever stuff to attract and spear the birds.
Edited by Tame Emu Guy - 8/23/12 at 5:18am