South West Female
By the time it was light enough to read a newspaper headline, I was kneeling on my camper’s mat, a half a mile to the South West of the house-clearing, auditing wild emus.
Not a success, readers, but a good start: there is a female almost exactly – done to about two hundred yards – from where I have said I’ve heard S.W.F. answering my birds – but let’s back up:
it’s not as death-defying as it sounds. I’m used to leaving the farm-house well before dawn. It wasn’t too cold – though I was dressed like the Michelin Man. Anyone familiar with the bush knows that there’s always more light than there seems. You just need to let your eyes adjust. Moreover, I was travelling on the electricity right-of-way, open ground, and pretty even. One fence to negotiate.
So, I stepped into the darkness well before first light, and started enjoyed myself from the outset. Firstly, to my surprise, only one of the two females here was vocalising – not the territorial exchanges I’m interested in, but the normal pre-dawn/dawn strings of booms. I spent ten minutes listening, just to be sure:
Emu Number One: a female, fifty yards into the gums on the South West side. Felicity, I think.
Emu Number Two: a male that uttered a couple of quiet and brief replies to the female’s calls. Not more than forty or fifty yards from the female.
Emu Number Three: Boy Emu: I smelt him!
Then, I went a couple of hundred yards further, unrolled my camper’s mat, and lay in the dark for ten minutes. Kurrawongs were calling. Emu Number One was quietly and repeatedly calling in short ‘strings.’ (Felicity’s strings of calls are usually shorter. That’s why I think it was her.)
Then, I walked the half mile to a spot that I had figured is just short of S.W.F.’s actual location (and I’d be already on her turf). There, I rolled out my mat, opened a little bottle of coffee, and sat and listened – pretty cool, guys! By this time, it was light enough to see the silhouettes of the kookaburras sitting on the electricity pole in front of me. Several had occupied the cross-bar, and wouldn’t let their mate on. It flew around in a frustrated circle, and alighted on a wire, where I could see it working hard – its tail going up and down – to keep its balance.
Almost immediately, I heard two more emus:
Emu Number Four: male, North West of my position, called quietly and briefly and close; but the direction is a little hard to pin. A vector of about sixty degrees is about right, at a distance of -- ?? plus or minus a hundred yards.
Emu Number Five: as above, but South West of my position.
Then I heard a female:
Emu Number Six: female. Quiet and brief – just a ‘gluk’ or two, actually, but definitely female.
At that point, readers, I had – in theory – to wait until the greedy guts birds at my place had finished the half ration I’d left on the ground, and undertake their morning territorial booms.
It didn’t happen, though. I heard all three emus again, briefly. I watched early morning kangaroos boxing, and saw and heard a range of other birds. Eventually, though, I was too cold and tired, and I headed back . . . and saw a really wild emu standing a hundred yards from the house.
Could it be that my birds don’t bother with the territorial calls if there are wild males to schmooze with? We might try again next Sunday. Perhaps I just came back too early.
Here are a couple of pictures. Yesterday, near the Top Corner, I realised that there’s a patch of sand by the fence. Can anyone figure out what the second photo is of? Be patient. It's a hard one.