General Non-Fiction posted March 7, 2019

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An Australian wildlife encounter.

The Cunning Currawong

by LisaMay

Several years ago, when I was travelling around Australia with my friend, Roger, some of the highlights of our outdoor life were provided by interactions with wildlife. One of the funniest encounters happened between Roger and a currawong at Edgar Dam camping ground in Tasmania’s remote South West National Park. 

Never heard of a currawong? The Tasmanian version is a dominant, medium-sized black bird, somewhat similar in appearance to a crow or raven. It has a strong, evil-looking beak and that, combined with their bright yellow eyes, can make for a rather sinister effect. 

We had pitched our tent and were the only ones at the camping ground. Perfect. All was peaceful, with soothing birdsong rippling through the trees as a harmonious backdrop. I was observing quietly, taking photographs of a small wallaby and her joey as they hopped about nearby. The evening light was soft and appealing. Tranquillity ruled. 

Then I became aware of a battle raging for supremacy. Roger was at the mercy of the opportunistic attentions of a bold currawong, which appeared to be targeting him. The bird was living dangerously: Roger was not amused. It came down to a clash of wills, with both determined to win.

Roger was cooking our dinner on an open fire, with some food and equipment laid out on a picnic table behind him. The currawong clearly figured that instead of hunting for its own dinner, it would have some of ours. Roger is a generous man, but he didn’t feel like sharing.

The main problem was that he had to be in two places at once, trying to defend the fireplace and the table, with the bird intent on snatching food. It was making such a nuisance of itself, sneaking in whenever Roger’s back was turned, that he armed himself with a switchy stick to flick as a deterrent. The feathered fiend had quick reflexes and always deftly side-stepped as the switch whistled close.

We managed to get dinner cooked and eaten without losing any. Score, Roger: 1, Bird: 0. 

Next morning it was back, ready to engage in the breakfast duel. This time it didn’t muck around -- in an impressively audacious fly-by it took the bacon clean off Roger’s fork as he was lifting it to his mouth! Later, we discovered that the bird played dirty. To add insult to theft, it had crapped down the side of Roger’s motorbike. You could say the score that morning was a whitewash.

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