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The bush has a thousand eyes

A walk in our bush is rarely without incident. It can seem dry, desiccated, without life, but you're generally being watched by something. And if you're silent and observant there's a chance you can watch it back. Or hear it as it bounds, slithers or flies away at your approach. Other creatures just seem to ignore you - like the young Echidna who waddled along towards me outside my house, sniffed at my sandals, decided I wasn't full of ants and therefore of no interest, and waddled off.

The nights here, as the song goes, have a thousand eyes and a head torch is all you need to catch them. Tiny jewel flashes from ground spiders or the more insistent glow of sugar gliders and phascogales.

But some creatures remain elusive: beautifully camouflaged and as still as statues they watch you as you pass by, oblivious to their existence. I have been here for two years now and though I have heard the intoxicating call of the White-Throated Nightjar and the distinctive "hoot hoot" of a Powerful Owl, I've never seen either. That is until last Saturday.

We were out walking and my partner was watching the flight of a Scarlet robin. It happened to fly between us and a large tree and something drew her attention to the background. Suddenly she grabbed my arm and said (using the common vernacular) "Oh My God!". There, sitting on a large low branch, not 15 meters away was a Powerful Owl, its two huge yellow eyes staring back at us with intense indifference. Hanging from one of its talons was a limp ring-tail possum. We sat and watched it for a few minutes. It stared back at us as still as if it had been painted. I managed to get a photo on my phone then we left it to sleep.

It would have been so easy to miss.

I doubt that I'll ever see a White-throated Nightjar but I'm content with that. Just to know they're out there and to hear that wonderful call in summer, on a warm night when the moon is full is enough for me.

Richard Laurie

Richard is a recently joined Member of the Co-op.

This is the first in a series on living with wildlife.


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