Waiting for wildlife

When I first started looking for birds and animals I assumed you just wandered around hopefully. Then I was given some sound advice: sit down and let the wildlife come to you.

So I took a camping chair and sat down in the bush and waited. It worked. It’s true that patience and time are required. At the time I didn’t have much of either; but now I seem to have both.

I recall once, in northern Queensland, sitting by a small pond, waiting for a platypus to show up: I’d been told that it was a regular visitor.

After ten minutes or so the local birds accepted my presence: perceiving no threat, monarch flycatchers, red-browed finches and yellow robins came down for a bathe or a drink.

A yellow oriole called from a nearby tree. Paradise kingfishers – a dazzle of blue and orange with ridiculously long white tail streamers – appeared. Blue-winged kookaburras, similar to our laughing kookaburra, sat on a branch above my head giving me a chance to observe the differences between the two species. Most obvious was the call: a series of grunts, squeaks and wheezes which culminated in a bizarre squawking.

An orange-footed scrubfowl, a relative of Sydney’s brush-turkeys, wandered past and a cuckoo landed on a log.

There was the thump-thump of an approaching wallaby. Above all this clamour I heard a rustling in the undergrowth. I held my breath and waited. A long nose appeared – just a couple of metres away. An echidna – or spiny ant-eater – was probing the ground with its snout, presumably eating up the large ants I’d just been studying. I kept perfectly still and the creature came even closer. I continued to remain motionless, allowing a few ants to crawl across my legs towards their fate.

After ten absorbing minutes the echidna moved off and I resumed my vigil. More birds appeared. An odd miaow and a flutter of wings announced the arrival of a catbird. A lizard scurried past.

I never did see the platypus, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter.

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