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Childhood memories

The original note.

This note was written in 1944, when I was 10

"Today I was exploring a track near the falls when I heard first a series of squawks followed by the laugh of a kookaburra, then the notes of some type of wren, then the sound of a circular saw, after that a whipbirds crack and then the whole procedure again. After a long while scrambling through the bracken I came so close that I could hear the bird scratching and the tail swishing through the air. After a few minutes I came across the bird scratching for grubs with a bird exactly like a yellow robin only brown all over following the mimic.

The lyre bird eyed me suspiciously and imitated some birds but did not perform, but went on scratching and suddenly jumped onto a stump, lifted his tail straight up spread it out and started to dance and mimicked several birds and animals squawking and clicking its beak and looking at me between times. After several minutes he lowered his tail and ran away. Incident[al]ly two other lyre birds were performing nearby".

Roger Riordan 15.7.1944

[Presumably I was so excited when I got home from this adventure that my father told me to write the story down before I forgot.]

The falls would be the Olinda Falls, which I discovered in my first adventure in 1942. The second bird mentioned would be a female yellow robin. They were very tame, and would often follow close behind a lyre bird, darting in whenever some tempting morsel was uncovered. They always took a close interest if anyone - or anything - was digging, and would even sit on the spade watching for grubs while you dug.

Watching lyre birds was a difficult and often frustrating exercise. They would usually be quite a way off the track, through bracken and/or thick scrub. Their hearing was good, and the crack of a breaking twig could frighten them away.

Lyre birds were very common then. One morning, from one spot in Sherbrooke, I could hear seven performing at the same time.

A bit later on (perhaps in the 50s or early 60s) a number of them used to hang round the car park near Sherbrooke Lodge, and some of them would take cheese from your hand. Since then the dogs and/or the foxes have multiplied, and I think that lyre birds have virtually disappeared from the Dandenongs.

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019

My first lyrebird