In the late afternoon I came across a lyrebird, a male, with a spectacular, perfect tail. He was trotting along a path ahead of me, fossicking for food a little, but it turned out that he was making his way to a stream, one with a pool.
He climbed into the pool and began cleaning himself, very thoroughly. (This group of photos are video screenshots.) He had a process, a routine.
He’d dunk his head…
… then stretch his wings out partially,
.. and go into a series of whole-body shimmers and shakes.
Water flew everywhere. Then he’d pause, and go through the sequence again.
He did this for several minutes, and then got out and moved up to a log next to the stream. There, also quite throughly, he dried himself off. He ran his long feathers firmly through his beak, one by one. (We’re back with photos rather than video frames now.)
After this, when I thought he was done, he went straight back to to the pool and had another bath, just like the first.
When he left the second time, he didn’t pause on the log, but trotted past, looking me up and down –”you might give some thought to doing this yourself.”
He went a little way, left the path and made his way into a tree. There, he began a period of more elaborate grooming. I watched through a cleft in a tree from some distance away, careful not to disturb.
After all this, he went across the path into a different stand of trees.
The path runs along a cliff over the Jamieson Valley. Along the path are patches of casuarina trees (“she-oaks”). These are flowering plants, but they don’t have ordinary leaves. In their place are tiny stems – “branchlets” – that look like pine needles. They drop these in thousands, forming a pillowy surface on the ground.
The lyrebird clambered up on one slanting trunk, then after a while came down and chose another, right on the edge of the cliff. I followed, treading carefully over the soft surface.
Once he was settled on his second tree trunk, he was out over the cliff, with a drop of hundreds of feet below, and the pillow of casuarina stems beneath our feet was like a cloud. I didn’t get too close – you don’t really know what’s under your feet, as you take another step forward. I climbed a little way up my own tree.
We stood on the edge of our cloud and he, in the way only lyrebirds can, started to sing.
Here are couple of videos of the bath.