I wonder then what's going on to have them sometimes neither appear nor call,
yet other times carry on as though you weren't even there.
We found photographing them challenging, but not impossible. We both have
manual focus lenses, and manual focusing is probably advisable when they're
jumping in and out of vegetation. We just kept firing away till we got a
reasonable picture. The male in the tree was a fairly easy but distant target.
The female was very difficult, she stayed in cover much more, and scurried
quickly from clump to clump, so even my sharpest shot has grass in the
From: Chris Sanderson
Sent: Wednesday, 13 October 2010 4:31 PM
To: Peter Shute
Cc: Tim Dolby; Jeremy Weiss;
Subject: Mallee trip report
Glad to hear you had such success on your trip. Yes, your description of
Mallee Emu-wren behaviour sounds quite typical of some of my better encounters
with the species. I've never had huge amounts of luck with photographs as they
are very good at keeping tufts of grass, branches and the like between you and
them. However, sometimes you can be lucky and they emerge onto dead branches
to sing. I would definitely say hearing their calls is critical to finding
them. They are insectivorous so feeding in low shrubs is pretty common when
they feel safe, and they maintain home territories of reasonable size, so 30m
of movement would definitely not be unusual. I recall seeing birds move
distances of over 100m before though it's always hard to keep track of such
things in the mallee. There was a girl doing banding studies of birds at
Nowingi, I've lost track of her but perhaps someone on the forum knows the
results she came up with? I know establishing territory size was one of the
outcomes of the study.
On Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 2:41 PM, Peter Shute
I thought I'd continue this thread now that I'm back from a trip to the Mallee
with Bill Stent on the weekend. Not only did we see a Malleefowl at Bronzewing,
and a Red-lored Whistler on Honeymoon Hut Track (see my Birdlines for
10/10/10), but we also did well with Mallee Emu-wren at Nowingi Track (see
Bill's Birdline for 7/10/10).
On previous trips we've not even heard any, this time we had a couple in sight
for 30 minutes. I was under the impression that if you do see them, it's
usually brief, and that even with playback they won't stay out long. But we had
a male and a female sitting on triodia clumps, hopping around on the ground and
on fallen branches, even sitting in a tree at head height a few times. Bill
could hear others around us, but I found that I could only hear the loudest of
their calls, so that might explain why I've never heard them before.
At the time we were under the impression that we'd come across them while they
were out feeding, but now I'm wondering if we just happened to be standing
right next to a nest, and that it was actually a distraction display. We didn't
use any playback while they were in sight, and had only played about 5 seconds
on my phone, maybe a couple of minutes before we came across them, 50m away
from the spot. The female was much more timid than the male, as we had great
difficulty getting any photos, but it came much closer than the male, to within
4 or 5m. The male was staying much further away, sometimes 15m or more.
Has anyone else seen them behave like this? We did think at the time that they
appeared to be feeding. What do they eat? Would they normally look for it in a
tree 2m off the ground?
After we moved away, the birds were still visible, and there was one - not sure
if it was one of the two, at the time I thought we'd found some more - moving
ahead of us for quite a long way. I was under the impression that this species
is very sedentary, not moving more than a few metres from its bush, but this
one must have been moving over a distance of perhaps 30 or 40m. If they do
often move this far then if think that anyone walking along behind could easily
get the impression that they were seeing quite a few birds, not just one.
Perhaps this is at least a partial explanation for the reports of "almost
having to kick them out of the way".
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