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: 1933 - 1954), Saturday 21 October 1933, page 21
Pictures of the Australian Land
Very Voice of
the lonely bush mother the forest surrounding and plain a seemed sombre, deserted place, dreary and depressing. There was a strange appeal in it all, but sometimes felt overpowered she by the sameness,
and antics, their dancing and bowing and capering, but the wild crying could be heard miles away. the To courting birds themselves these were cries of delight, but to ears human voice was no bush so suggestive of sadness.
of older lives that brooding lives alien to her If the kind. And own days were cheerless the ghostly, nights were owing chiefly to the curlew. There was fear in her no feeling, only a somewhat unhealthy tendency, born of too much solitude, to iv imagination play when at night the weird cry rang out like the very voice of loneliness and desolation.
phase passed, and presently the curlews were about in married couples. One pair nested in the the paddock near house. Early in September two eggs were laid on the ground near the stump of o stringybark, without any sign of a nest. They were quite exposed, but entirely safe, for they were even more cleverly designed for invisibility than the birds themselves. The ground round about was covered with dead gumleaves, and bits of bark, and the two a dull yellowish eggs were colour,
knew the bird well, for though It was night wanderer strictly not nocturnal. It was large and plover like, silent and shy by day, and able with their outline to disappear before broken one's very up by eyes. blotches of dark grey and She called it the mottled the ghost bird or brown. Some other ground birds like bird. Sometimes banshee out the on plovers and dotterels laid eggs which open grass she would idly attempt to it could approach one, but easily outrun her, and if she took her off eyes the tall grey shape it for a moment seemed to fade ouÇ altogether. In spite were very hard to find, but unlike them of its size the indeterminate and the curlew grey did not have to find a mottled *, spot plumage made blend almost which suited the colour scheme of the uncannily wit", its surroundings. It went eggs. one better .than that; it
change. That the beginning was of their courtship season, and then at night they began to hold great "assemblies. The trysting-place was a wide clearing she knew in the bush about half a mile away, and the there all
curlews of the district seemed to meet to hold high revelry. It was both song and dance. On moonlit nights especially the '.ndemoni*im would be appalling. It was the wild corroboree ol the banshes birds. In her heart the lonely bush woman, lying wide-eyed at home, knew that joy was elemental the keynote out there; that there was nothing sinister evil about it. or But the eldrlch as screams the bush, rang through now singly, now many together in unchorus, Imagination earthly would run riot. It was a saturnalia of maddened it was fiends; a frenzied festival of a maenads, of Walpurgls Night witches, a carnival of shrieking banShe did not shees. the spectral see forms gathered there in the moonlight, their leaps and antics, their
made the eggs suit the surroundings. The eggs were always camouflaged, but they would bu predominantly light or dark, greenish or yellow-
reddish whether the
or brown, according to country inhabited by the pair wore grassy or sandy, of red soil or of brown. It'was the only bird in Australia with this astonishing power. it happened, As the eggs were discovered by one of the boys, but that was by accident.
not even know that the cur lews were nesting, till one evening he saw a strange performance in the paddock. The school pony was quietly grazing along towards the old stump when a bird suddenly appeared from nowhere and began executing an indignant dance a few feet in front of its nose. Its mate at the same time flew right in the animal's face. not They were afraid of their eggs being seen, but of being trodden upon. The astonished pony reared and then galloped off to the other end of the paddock. They had successfully turned him back. The boy understood, and at once began a long search at
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at once began a long search at that spot, going over and the over ground. The curlews attempted no "broken wing" ruse, but walked away quietly, confident that no mere human could find the eggs. He had given it up as hopeless when he happened to drop his penknife, and, stooping to pick it up, he his hand found almost touching
the eggs. He rushed bush mother
but they were to be disap-' pointed. They could not find the spot again, though they searched till dusk.
Inside with the news. The and the younger chilout, led proudly by the dis-
that a watchful eye was kept the curlews. The eggs were not found, but one some day disone covered that two chicks'were running with the old ones. The children wanted for one a pet, so the whole family turned out. The parent birds strutted about the paddock like giant ground larks, picking up insects, and the lanky chicks followed little with darting runs. quieter They were than most young birds at meals, for there in the open deadly danger always threatens from above. The bush mother and her children carefully all from approached sides, and the birds grouped themselves together In the centre with stretched necks, watching. At a signal the children rushed forward» shouting instructions to one another, and immediately the four birds all ran in different directions. Then the pursuers found themselves standing nonplussed. Not a bird had taken to the wing-they were of that-but sure all had completely vanished. A thorough search began. One babv curlew, stretched at full length, with neck extended, did not budge even when the bush mother it. walked over It remained there as still as a stone while the eldest boy came along, bent double as lie examined every square foot. There was a squawk and a flutter-the boy had trodden upon the bird without seeing it. all They rushed to the spot,'and the baby curlew was captured, more frightened than hurt. The children had secured their pet.