Friday, 3 January 2014

The road that leads nowhere

                            Brolgas dancing                          

Many years ago my wife attended a series of talks on bird watching run by an expert in the field. So enthusiastic was she that she went to weekend retreats looking for birds on deserted sea shores, impenetrable bush and even sewage farms where only the elite species gather.

It wasn’t long before I was roped in on this pastime and wide eyes and extreme quiet were necessary to go on such adventures together with drinking water, snacks, stout shoes, binoculars, hat, insect repellent, notebook, field book to Australian birds and of course a good measure of patience.

We each kept our own sightings list but hers was longer than mine as she had started well before me with guidance at her side. The lists kept were endless; sightings for all time, sightings for this year, for last year and the years before that. Birds seen in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland all had their own lists.

Visitors from abroad would often be taken on drives in the country to the real Australia on dirt roads that probably hadn’t seen any traffic since bullock wagons were the transport of choice. We would take a break by the roadside and just sit while the feathered inhabitants would realize that all was well and they could start fossicking for food again and we would have front row seats.

If we spoke it was in whispers and no more to the inhabitants than the susurration of the wind. There seemed to be a tacit agreement if we did not disturb them they would tell us their secrets. On a trip to Victoria we took the back roads and hunted for good sites to see birds. It was winter and many fields were flooded. Much to our surprise we came across a flock of birds far from what we thought was their native habitat in the Northern Territory. Brolgas are a species of Australian crane that loves to dance; and so they did.

                               Echidna checking for ants

Back in South Australia we found a conservation park that promised much but yielded few birds for us so after a fruitless search we returned to a clearing and sat down and had bite to eat and drink with our backs to the scrubby trees. Watchful always for snakes we listened for slithery sounds in the undergrowth. There were none so we ate our meal and as we did so we heard a movement in the bushes. Very quietly we turned to see an Echidna snuffling about not mindful of us at all, just busy looking for ants. He looked at us as if to say “Oh yes, the birds did say you were here looking for them, but they said they are not going to fly around in this heat just for you.”  With his long sticky tongue he slurped up a few more ants and then went on his way with barely a nod.

Another time we were in Queensland in a national park. We knew there was a lake in the middle of it so we walked a few kilometres there noted a few birds all of which we had seen before then trekked our way back to the car left under the trees.  There were a number of angry wardens there circling the vehicle. We had met their kind before Lace monitors were their name and they were opportunists knowing that vehicles meant food might be available. Leaving my wife hidden I approached from a different direction. I got into the car whilst they were checking their appearance in the nearside mirror. As soon as I started the engine they scattered and my wife was able to jump in as well.

Bird watching gave us a broader view of the environment, so remember if you take a road that leads nowhere you might have the time of your life and meet who really lives close by.

                              Lace Monitor looking for a free lunch







  1. My father is into bird-watching, although mostly on his rural property in New Mexico. It's not something that sounds very interesting on the surface, but I do find myself checking for new types of water fowl along the bayou now and then, so I can understand the appeal. It's especially wonderful when you can share an activity with someone you love.

  2. We don't have to go anywhere to see birds - they come to us. Our garden, surrounded on three sides by forest, is known as the birds Macdonald's. We are even getting birds that are rare to Finland come and feed here. No Lace Monitors, but with this unusually mild and warm winter we do have to be alert for early awakening, grumpy bears.

  3. Taking the untrodden path often leads to good long as we are watchful for those snakes in the grass..good to be Sunday Scribbling!

  4. Good advice. I always look at magpies as bonsai dinosaurs, as they walk around inspecting my garden.

  5. It seems you had a lot of fun on those bird watching adventures. I agree the road to nowhere can be full of adventure, but as I have already come across a lot of Lace Monitors in my travels I will now be looking for the gentler avian variety of species.

  6. Oh mercy! I’ve just read they can be over 6.8 feet! And their blunt-nosed arrowhead faces, creepy! It’s so nice, though, you’re so sweet to join in your wife’s interests many years ago, and now, to recount the tale ever so well and lovely as you do and always have done : )

  7. This sounds like such a peaceful way to spend a day! I tend to take the safe roads, but this does give me encouragement to try a different path!