There I was, driving at a regulation (according to site rules) pace from the old Onslow town site past the causeway, when I came across a flock of brolgas, Grus rubicunda. These birds are famous for their mating dances and yet, here, like a herd of cattle, were about 30 of them slowly making their way through the spinifex. They were not so much fazed by my car; rather, when I excitedly leapt out, camera with long lens in my hand, they were definitely startled by my high visibility clothing (another site requirement). I noticed then that it was not all of them. Some were on watch, others grazing. So I got back in the car and drove closer. They really are like grazing bovines! Mooching along the flats, picking out the finest morsels. Through the passenger window I aimed camera again. So unmoved by my presence, their heads hardly left the pasture. Frustrated with the focus of the lens, then frustrated with my subject, I sounded the car’s horn. There, a response! Several heads bobbed up in alarm, and those heads were in unison in needing to know the source.
I was in a car. A 20th century invention for humans. A mode of transport so foreign to a brolga that I might have been from outer space. So it was that it struck me that I was inconspicuous in the vehicle because it was a vehicle. A bright yellow-shirted human at least looks like it could be a threat. Not a white box moving along the ground. When the box made a sound however, it catapulted into their consciousness. What a wonderful thing to observe – the contrast that we humans have created in the landscape through our dizzying technological advance. Photos taken, I moved on, smiling, having just witnessed a little slice of natural bird behaviour. My encounter with a ‘herd’ of brolga had lifted my day. I think it had made theirs interesting for a moment too, who knows?
Grus rubicunda, not dancing!