In northern Tasmania we encountered the raven-like Black Currawong, a cousin to the Grey Currawong we had seen in Sydney. The bill is heavier and longer, the body leaner with some white on the end of its tail. They hung around the lodge and picnic areas in search of meals like our crows and jays do at home.
We had a free day at Cradle Mountain National Park. I felt at home again with the hiking trails and thick stands of trees, though all were eucalypts, varieties of the large eucalyptus family, not the firs I am used to seeing in the Northwest. That day, I had hiked a steep trail to a ridge where the wind was so fierce I feared being blown off. After returning to the lake where I had begun, I took a downhill trail to Lake Lilla. At the lake, the trail turned up the side of the bowl that cradled this lovely place. by the time I reached Wombat Pond I was winded and ready for an excuse to rest.
A section of board walk, used to protect slick or fragile places on the trail, curved around the little pond. I sat down near a sign that warned hikers not to leave the raised walkway or risk damaging the fragile tussock grass. My feet dangled over the drying mud. I dug in my bag for an energy bar and pulled out one I had never tried. I peeled back the wrapper and took a bite. It was delicious. I savored the pleasant lemony taste and anticipated the pleasure of the rest of the bar when, whump, it was yanked from my fist. The thief whacked me in the face with his wing, which I took as a personal insult. The currawong flew a short distance into the tussock grass and dropped his prize in the damp mud.
My lunch! If I chased him I would have to leave the boardwalk. Forbidden. But there he was, ten feet away pecking at my energy bar. Did he eye me, daring me to jump after him? Before I could respond, the bird picked up the bar and flew off leaving the wrapper to blow into the grass.
I really did not want the bar after he had worked it over, though I begrudged him the tasty morsel. We had been warned not to feed the wildlife. The two hikers just coming down the hill were concentrating on the steep steps and had missed this embarrassing attack but I felt guilty anyway. I wasn’t feeding wildlife, not on purpose, but someone else must have done so or the currawong would not have known to skulk up behind an innocent hiker and snatch whatever was in her unsuspecting hand.
I stepped off the boardwalk, walking only on the mud, recovered the wrapper and placed it conscientiously in my pack before withdrawing the next bar. This time, I held on tight and watched the trees.