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
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.
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.