Flight of the wedge-tailed eagle

By Simon Cherriman 7 November 2013
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Simon Cherriman gives us an update about filming wedge-tailed eagles in the outback, on this AG Society sponsored project.

Simon Cherriman gives us his update about filming wedge-tailed eagles in the outback, on this AG Society sponsored project.

two weeks in the Murchison region of Western Australia filming wildlife for the next part of our film ‘A Wedged Tale’. It was an amazing place to be again: vast landscape, rich colours in the late afternoon winter sun and different cloud patterns with each sunset.

We watched animals around us going about their business. We saw a goanna digging into the dry earth in search of a feed and a kestrel whizzing after woodswallows at breakneck speed. A fox came and sniffed our empty baked-bean tins on several occasions.

The stars at night were… well… just like those of which Banjo Patterson wrote in his bush ballad ‘Clancy of the Overflow’, where he described the “wondrous glory of the everlasting stars” to be seen at night in the outback. And greeting us each night, in the middle of the everlasting stars, at the heart of the Milky Way, was Waitch, the emu of Aboriginal Dreamtime. Have you seen him? He’s a big fella drawn out in the shape of stars. Take a look sometime and drift with him into the Dreaming when he was created.

We later spent hours chasing feral goats across the scrub. Why? It’s complicated, but let’s just say its in the script and you’ll have to see the film. One thing to note: goats can run bloody fast and I don’t recommend catching them by hand.

My nostril-hairs did their absolute best to filter thick, dust-filled air inside the cramped caves through which I crawled in search of non-existent bats. We saw quail-thrushes that scuttled away secretly and avoided my camera. I also encountered a strong easterly breeze which did not avoid my camera and proceeded to blow over my tripod, smashing glass and doing wonders at enhancing my creative vocabulary. Yes, it was only the lens filter which broke and yes, the lens and camera are both still OK.

The real mission was to search for a very sentimental buck-knife which I lost here in 2008 during some rock-wallaby surveys. I’d taken the knife and belt off so I could squeeze into a rock cave and then absent-mindedly left them there, without realising this until back in Perth. The knife had an eagle engraved on the blade and was a gift from my parents from Canada, so quite a treasure to me.

Anyway, most people said “you’ll never find that if it’s been there for two years” but the good news was that, amazingly, I found it. (Actually someone else spotted it). It had done very well to survive the elements for two years in the Aussie sun. A bit of oil and brasso and the thing looks new.  The crazy thing was, at the moment of finding the knife an eagle appeared above me and circled for about 15 minutes, just as the wind dropped and the birdsong seemed to cease. Amazing – just one of those moments. A symbol? A sign? I don’t know, but these eagles of mine are good at appearing at those moments, continuing to fill me with inspiration.

Plans are now in progress for the last major bush stint for this film: a week at Yongamia (the mountains of the Stirling Ranges); and the Porongorup (the tall forests of the Porongorup Ranges). We aim to film some epic mountain scenes and some even more epic tree climbing scenes. That’s all the info I can disclose for now.

For more information about the film A Wedged Tale, by Adam Hermans and Simon Cherriman, visit www.awedgedtale.com.