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Roadkill of the Week: Robert Adamson’s reflections on the death of two Tawny Frogmouths

I was wondering where she came from, when she held out a bag and said “I went home to get this bag, I will take them away and see they have a proper burial.” She said “You know what, you are the only one who stopped; after so many cars that sped by, some even hitting the other dead bird.” She went on the explain that when the female had been knocked down, the male flew onto the road and tried to help her somehow. Then as she watched, the male Tawny was knocked down by another car coming the other way.

This is a guest post by the poet Robert Adamson, who has previously provided his thoughts on death and birds in a post on the terrible murder of a White Goshawk here.

Sometimes it is the smallest things that matter most.

A recent event bought to mind a very upsetting episode I had with a pair of Tawny Frogmouths the Christmas before last.

I was driving along the old Pacific Highway alongside the Hawkesbury River at Mooney Mooney when I saw a dead bird on the middle of the road. I pulled the car over and walked over to where the bird was laying; a Tawny who had been hit by a car and had died there on the road.

I picked up the bird, it was still warm, and carried it to the side of the road. Then among fallen gum leaves I noticed another frogmouth, also dead, near some paperbarks. I placed the bird I had in my hands beside the other dead one and stood there wondering what on earth had happened.

Then I looked around and there was a young aboriginal girl standing behind me, she was wearing a white dress and seemed quite shy. I’ve lived here most of my life and had never seen or meet her before this.

I was wondering where she came from, when she held out a bag and said “I went home to get this bag, I will take them away and see they have a proper burial.” She said “You know what, you are the only one who stopped; after so many cars that sped by, some even hitting the other dead bird.” She went on the explain that when the female had been knocked down, the male flew onto the road and tried to help her somehow. Then as she watched, the male Tawny was knocked down by another car coming the other way.

The young girl took one of the birds to the side of the road and placed it on a bed of fallen leaves and then went off to get the bag (it was an old onion bag). This whole scene took only a few minutes.

We placed both the birds into the bag and the girl stood up and walked off towards Mooney Point Road.

I stood there with a very strange feeling I couldn’t work out. I was deeply shaken but the girl had somehow made it easier for me to cope. It really was was the strangest thing.

I went home with the milk I had gone to buy. Our house was full of people and family for Christmas. I tried to tell Juno what had happened but it seemed so out of context, as if it was from some other dimension, and anyway Juno had her hands full with getting Christmas lunch ready and being the host with many others demanding her attention.

I went into my study and closed the door and sat there quietly for half an hour or so, I went over every detail of what happened. I didn’t say before it all happened in the middle of the day.

This episode – that doesn’t seem the right word – has never left my mind.

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  • 1
    Fnarf
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Very sad. Thank you for stopping. I love Tawny Frogmouths; I’ve never seen one in the wild, though we have a couple in our zoo here in Seattle, and I’ve seen one in a wildlife park in Tasmania. I did get to see a wedge-tailed eagle in the wild there, which was quite exciting. Tawnies are my favorite Australian bird. I’d love to see your Northern Territory someday if I get the chance.

  • 2
    Madonna
    Posted January 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this story.
    I love owls ♥ and hate road kill due to careless drivers.

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