spent a few days over New Year on a nicely secluded cattle property in the
Tumbarumba district. Beautifully cool, showery mornings, and on clear
afternoons we could see Kosciuszko from the kitchen window. Brats teamed up
with other horse mad delinquents and spent their days tearing through the bush
like wild Cossacks, returning for meals wet, muddy, ravenous and utterly
disgraceful. During one re-fuelling stop they reported a flock of birds issuing
from the corrugated iron chimney of a tumbledown hut occupied by a eucalyptus
distiller back in the 1940s.
looked like little grey wraiths ascending into the overcast ambience,”
stated an eloquent girl child.
kinda birds were they?” I said, ignoring the eloquence.
were probably someone’s pet pigeons gone feral,” I said as the
curmudgeonly side of me surfaced.
stated the ineloquent girl child, skipping nimbly out of swatting range.
morning come the 6 o’clock radio news, a Grey Shrike-thrush alighted on
the veranda railing and sang for its breakfast of crushed cornflakes. Perhaps
the marketing department at Kellogg could do something with this. I’ve
occasionally seen the odd GS-t regularly drooping into country houses for a
handout previously. In an apple orchard 50m from the homestead Flame
Robins seemed resident. I understand they will disappear by end of March when
they move down country to spend the cooler months further west. One afternoon I
counted 26 Little Ravens fossicking about. I was able to identify them visually
and aurally. At first I thought they were eating windfalls but no, seemed
to be after live prey. After they moved on I poked about in the damp grass with
a stick and disturbed a number of large shiny brown crickets. Hmm.
evening about sunset we watched an Australian Hobby circling around a dam, also
noticed a few dragonflies helicoptering about as well. Every few moments the
hobby speared off to a dead tree some distance away but even through the binos
we lost sight of it as it landed due to distance and position of the sun. But
suddenly it was back over the water.
but it’s quick,” I said.
respect, I suggest you look again and you may conclude there is a pair of
hobbies present,” a flippant young thing said. She was right too. A dark
dragonfly with cream and green markings alighted on waterside reeds and
the didactic, entomological junior brat informed us it was, “an
Australian Duskhawker, it’s widespread and crepuscular so that’s why
we see it about at this time of day.”
one afternoon when skies cleared and the day warmed quickly I saw four
Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring, two were juveniles. A first-timer for everyone was
an Olive Whistler that called from a slender dead sapling poking out of a clump
of tea tree shrubs, but just as we were enjoying million dollar views it dived
into the shrubbery and continued calling but didn’t reappear.
John K. Layton.