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The Winding Road to Black Cockatoos

Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos

Australian roads are bereft of direction signs. They may be good on warnings but to get to the next town or city, you’d better know where it is relative to the sun. At least the effulgent orb is always available, unlike back home.

My ultimate destination was Albany. The Albany Highway, State Route 30, seemed like a reasonable bet. Towns on the way included Williams, Kojonup and Mount Barker. My route out of Armadale didn’t pass a single sign to any of these landmarks. Where the hell was I going?

I was at least heading south, away from the sun, but after a few clicks I clicked that 20 was the number of the route I was on, the road to Bunbury. I had to reconsult my map, which offered me a few back roads to regain the Albany Highway. I took ‘em, not least because they still promised to take me past Wungong Reservoir. I had originally noted that as an interesting detour.

I never got there as the detour to the detour became increasingly interesting, to the extent that I started bouncing down dirt tracks. This was not right. If the kangaroos had warned me about the wildlife, these roads were warning me about too much trust in the maps. I needed to stick to the main routes.

God knows where I finally hit Highway 30. The little adventure did, however, present me with lifer number 871 in a noisy flock of red-tailed black cockatoos. They form part of a different genus, Calyptorhynchus, within the family that includes corellas and sulphur-crested cockatoos. The –rhynchus bit derives from the birds’ beaks, which can bite off branches of marri, one of Western Australia’s large eucalypts. The red-tails will then hold the branch with their feet and chew its seeds. They look so cute doing it.

I got no such highlights back on the Highway – rather an overstatement for a two-lane blacktop with about one vehicle every five minutes, but a pleasure to drive nevertheless. The Monadnocks Conservation Reserve furnished a corridor of trees until agribusiness took over, stripping the land of its cover but also removing the danger of sudden ‘roos. I sped up. I was aiming for Narrogin overnight and my wanderings had left me wondering if I would get there.

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