Where are all the Emus?
Recently we began another road trip, once again visiting family in Sydney. From home in Murray Bridge, South Australia, it is just over 1300 kilometres or about 14 hours actual travelling time. Whenever we stop, I try to jot down a list of all of the birds I see or hear. When it is my wife’s turn to drive, I am able to concentrate on the birds I see as we are driving along, listing them in my notebook as I see the birds. Sometimes, if I see something unusual, or noteworthy, I will even ask my wife to note this in my notebook when I am driving. She is great that way – and she even points out birds I may have missed.
On all of our trips over to Sydney, I particularly enjoy crossing the Hay Plains between the towns of Balranald and Hay. To most people, this is a dreary, featureless plain covered by saltbush. We find it endlessly fascinating, watching the subtle changes in vegetation as well as the birdlife along the way. On this trip, we saw quite a few birds of prey, something which is not surprising due to the frequent encounters with roadkill. Many kangaroos, rabbits and foxes are killed by the hundreds of trucks traversing this route day and night. We saw plenty of Black Kites, Black-shouldered Kites and Nankeen Kestrels but no Wedge-tailed Eagles which is surprising.
Of particular note, however, was the lack of Emus. Normally we see dozens of this species, sometimes more than a hundred, often in small, loose flocks of 5 to 10 birds. Occasionally, we even see a male Emu followed by a group of up to a dozen immature birds. (The male incubates the eggs and cares for the young for up to 6 months after hatching.)
This time the grand total of Emus was one. In fact, it was the only Emu for the entire 1300km journey.
I cannot account for the absence of Emus on this trip. Perhaps there was no food for them near the road, or they are nesting away from the road. Maybe we will see more on our return trip in three weeks’ time.
- Emu article on Birds in Backyards site – plenty more information about this species.
- Young Emus
- Emu at Adelaide Zoo
- Baby Emus come to drink
- Do Emus Swim?
Emu at Dubbo Zoo
It is always good to see an Emu, one of Australia’s iconic birds while travelling around this wonderful country of ours. There have been many times when we have seen literally hundreds of these large birds in the one place. At other times we only see them singly, or in small loose flocks up to a dozen or so.
When travelling from home in Murray Bridge, South Australia to visit family in Sydney we are always on the lookout as we travel across the Hay Plains. Sometimes we see none at all; on other occasions we have seen hundreds, including many young birds following their father. (The male hatches the eggs and cares for the young for about their first 18 months of life.)
The bird in the photo above was a single individual on the side of the road we travelled through the open range zoo, the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo in central New South Wales. I don’t know if this bird is a captive bird making up a part of the display of animals in the zoo, or if it is a wild bird that has adapted to the easy life inside the zoo perimeter. Whatever the situation, it was quite at ease in its environment and not at all concerned about our car driving along just a few metres away.
On the road again
We are on the road again – once again to Sydney so we can spend time with the grandchildren during the school holidays. Such a hard life.
I haven’t been able to add much here on this site in recent weeks. Between my wife and I we seem to have been on the road so many times in recent weeks in order to keep doctors’ and specialists’ appointments, most of them in Adelaide about 80km from home. Now we have a 4 week window we had blocked out on our calendar to undertake this current trip to Sydney. While most of our time will be spent with the family, I am sure that I will get a few opportunities to do some birding. I also have had a few good sightings at home in recent weeks that I must write about too.
I am writing this from our cabin in a caravan park in Hay in far western New South Wales, just over 700 kilometres from Sydney, another day’s journey to go. Just west of Hay we traversed the Hay Plain, a long, extremely flat landscape dominated by saltbush and little else. Usually the birding on this stretch of road is very interesting, and I often ask my wife to drive that section – so I can watch out for and record the birds I see going along.
Today was a little disappointing. Usually we see dozens of birds of prey: eagles, hawks, kestrels and kites. Today the count for the 135km stretch was a solitary Nankeen Kestrel. To make up for this poor showing I saw the following species:
- Australian Ravens
- White-necked Heron
- Little Egret
- Dozens of Emus
- Australian Magpie
- Magpie Lark
- Pied Butcherbird
It’s not a great long list, but it was enough to more or less keep me happy.
Birding at 100kph on the Hay Plains
My wife and I have just returned from a road trip to Sydney to visit family. Grandchildren can be so persuasive; “We insist you come to stay with us,” said Mr Nearly Five Years Old.
We didn’t get to do much birding because of the wet weather, and the fact that I came down with a severe case of bronchitis while there; as I write this I’m still in the throes of that dreaded lurgy. (“Cough! Cough!”)
While we have flown over to Sydney on several occasions – it’s nearly 1400km each way – we prefer to drive because we enjoy the passing scenery, flora and fauna and the birds, of course. Yes, it’s tiring travelling non-stop for two full days, but we take it in turns to drive. When I’m at the wheel my wife records the birds I see and can identify along the road. Identification can be challenging when hurtling along at 100kph on a busy highway. And when it’s my wife’s turn to drive I can give a little more attention to what is flying around, or sitting on the roadside – or even on the road itself.
I usually try to arrange to be the passenger when we are crossing the Hay Plains between the towns of Balranald and Hay in far western New South Wales. This long stretch of road has huge expanses of grassland and saltbush with only the occasional tree until the last 20km just east of Balranald. Usually the birding along the 130km road is excellent with plenty of birds of prey. On this trip however, I saw few birds other than Emus.
Usually I count on seeing perhaps up to ten or a dozen Emus along this road, but on this occasion I estimate there were between 50 and 80. I didn’t count them but one loose flock alone numbered around 20. as for the rest there were numerous groups of two, three or four. It was certainly the most I can ever remember seeing on this stretch of road, one we’ve travelled on many occasions when travelling to Sydney to visit family. (Now that we have grandchildren there as an added incentive, we are travelling over there up to three times annually.)
- Birding on the Hay Plains – articles from my archives
Crested Pigeons, Adelaide Zoo
Adelaide Zoo has an excellent collection of birds, both Australian and non-Australian birds. In addition to those kept in aviaries, there is a thriving population of local birds which come in to feed in the animal enclosures.
Crested Pigeons are in evidence everywhere and on this occasion I managed a few good shots of some. This is generally very easy for they move quite unafraid amongst the zoo visitors. Those shown on today’s photos were feeding in the Emu enclosure, along with a few Spotted Turtledoves for good measure.