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.