Monday, 13 October 2008

The noise you never forget

Koala habitat - our backyard
Koala habitat - our backyard
From koalawrangler's gallery.

Just after my partner and I had turned in for the night, a curious sound had us sitting bolt upright in the bed.

"What is it?"
"I don't know!"
"It sounds like..."
"It could be..."
"...a koala!

We jumped out of bed and ran outside. It was a koala mating call, all right. But we realised the noise wasn't coming from directly outside the room (which is how it sounded), but was actually issuing from a cluster of tall gums in the reserve beyond our neighbour's house (between the pine and the pink flowering tree in the above photo). "On a still night", the Qld government site reminds us, "the call can be heard almost a kilometre away".

What sounded at first like one koala quickly became two as the jittery "eeh eeh" of the female joined forces with the alien grunt-snort of the male. (You can hear the sounds I'm talking about on this video - not sure where it was taken.

It should have come as no surprise to a seasoned koalawrangler. The NSW government fact sheet on koalas tells us:

"This usually happens between September and January, when the trees ring with a wide range of mating noises. Koala mating songs range from the pig-like grunts and growls of the males, to the high pitched trembling sounds of the females."
Of course, I'd heard the sound many times at the hospital as males in the close confines of ICU assert their macho prowess (it was often accompanied by trashing their unit); but until we moved to a part of Port Macquarie with that is surrounded by protected habitat, the pleasure of having our sleep disturbed by these night-time rituals was denied us.

So we stood outside in our jammies listening to this grunting and eeh-eeh!-ing gradually decrease. Then we returned to bed. Little did we realise that this was not the last we'd heard of it, however; the trees continued to ring with the male koala song throughout the night...every hour, it seemed!

I wonder what this is what we have to look forward to at our new address? If more joeys are the result of such a cacophony, I'm all for it.

There are many wild koalas available for adoption here including Hospital resident koala Bonny Fire's joey, Bonny Blaze.