Our Bushland Diary

Friday, October 9, 2009

kangaroo talk

Another long walk in the bush this week has given me some surprising new experiences about wildlife.  I was lucky enough to see two of our largest indigenous animals, the Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) and Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), doing stuff that these animals generally do. This is quite amazing, considering that I was only a stone's throw from suburbia.

The emu was walking along a footpath, looking wistfully through a fence at a small bushland reserve on the other side.  I could almost hear the little cogs turning, as it tried to work out how to get into the bushland.  The emu went up and down the fenceline, at a casual pace, paused for some photos taken by a smiling woman and her astonished children on a stroll, then wandered further north.  As there is lots of nice bushland further north, I feel I don't have to worry too much about the welfare of this magnificent big bird.  I followed its example and headed north.

Beautiful banksia woodlands, a big open wetland of sedges and hundreds of other different plants, and some big Melaleucas awaited.  I rested in the shade of a massive Melaleuca preissiana for a few minutes.  Then I headed further north along a sandy track for about 2km, until I reached the northern boundary of the bush reserve.  Kangaroos every few hundred metres, kangaroo scats, kangaroo prints in the sand, signs where kangaroos had nibbled plants.  It was as if I was on the home territory of the large furry macropods.  I was startled when a big male 'roo bounded out about 20m in front of me, and started "vocalizing" (the scientific term) or "making a loud noise that sounded like an angry woman roaring" (my description).  Did I say startled?  I quietly made my way behind a dense shrub and listened to the amazing sounds.  I tried to remember if there were any reports of male Western Greys harassing solo bushwalkers.  Nope.  Eastern Greys, yes, but not Western Greys.  Finally, I'd had enough of the animal blocking my path, so I made what I hoped sounded like a dog noise, and the 'roo bounded away.  Phew.

It's easy to think that kangaroos are silent creatures, but it's just not true.  (Neither are emus, for that matter.)  I have often heard the distress call of joeys when they have wandered too far from the safety of mum's pouch and are feeling threatened by my presence; it sounds like a short choking cough.  Very much like the noise made by a cat trying to rid itself of a hairball!  This is sometimes accompanied by a nervous flick of the joey's little tail.  The mother responds with a soft click, I think, and joey scampers away.  I would love to try recording these sounds, but don't want to carry too much equipment on my adventures.  (I think this would require at least a shot-gun microphone, a pair of headphones and a good digital recorder.....and the camera, as well, of course.)

Sadly, my camera is awaiting repairs, so I have nothing to show from my long walk besides this blog.

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