Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae)


I recently spent a couple of weeks out in far Western NSW. It is vast, mostly flat and arid. It feels so Australian, whatever that is.

I wanted to spend some of the time while there taking photos of a few different subjects, one of which was the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). They are reasonably common particularly near water, but they tend to run when they see you. So, it wasn’t until the last few days that I managed to figure out a way to get them to hang around.`


They’re one of the tallest birds second to its relative the Ostrich but taller than another cousin the Cassowary. They are Ratites a group of birds defined by a lack of a keel, making flight impossible. In the photos you can see their wings – little stumps which hang down.


They can run at great speed and can cover large distances, sometimes taking seasonal migrations to follow water and food.

The males incubate the eggs. It takes 56 days in which the male doesn’t leave the nest losing up to 20% of its body weight. The father raises the young which takes about 18 months. Their success is dependent on conditions. So their population across the continent varies widely from year to year.

They eat anything. Plant material, seeds and fruit are supplemented with grasshoppers and other insects.


They aren’t threatened and there is some evidence that with increased pastoral activities and supply of water they are doing better that in the past.

Coastal emus on the other hand have all but disappeared. In New South Wales (NSW) they are listed as threatened.

So, my trick to get the emus to hang around so I could get these photographs was to sit on the ground. They are curious and come to investigate.



More information

The Tree of Life project has an excellent page on Emus, with very good references.

The definitive book on Ratites by someone who has done a lot of the suprisingly small amount of research on Emus

Davies, S. J. J. F., et al., eds. Bird Families of the World. Vol. 8, Ratites and Tinamous: Tinamidae, Rheidae, Dromaiidae, Casuariidae, Apterygidae, Struthionidae. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2002



Getting to know plant families, Rutaceae

Phebalium squamulosum
Phebalium squamulosum – Harold Reid Reserve, Middle Cove, Sydney

Another significant plant family in Australia and around Sydney is Rutaceae.

Correa alba
Correa alba at Bronte Sydney

So, It is one to learn. It’s fairly easily recognised, it usually features plants that have oil glands on the leaves, when they are crushed they provide an aroma. You can see the oil glands in many of the photos on this page.

All these leaves have oil glands, Pheballium, Eriostemon, Lime, Kaffir Lime, Zieria

Rutaceae also has beautifully arranged flowers.

Boronia falcifolia from Wallum Heath
Boronia falcifolia, from Wallum Heath at Red Rock, NSW

It is economically important because it includes Citrus and landscaping plants like Murraya. It is also conidered important in our understanding of Gondwana but I’ll come back to that.

Limes, Citrus aurantifolia
Citrus aurantifolia, Limes – note the oild glands in the leaves

Flowers are key to understanding and recognising plants. They are incredible organs, highly variable between families but often within families they are pretty consistent. If you can learn to recognise one flower in a family, you can recognise others.

Rutaceae’s flowers are what is considered ‘perfect’. They contain functioning male (stamens) and female (carpels) parts. As well, in Rutaceae they are arranged in a whorl. A whorl means each part is stepped so that it doesn’t overlap the part beneath it.

Crowea saligna, common in Sydney bushland
Crowea saligna – common in Sydney bushland

The flower parts from outside to inside are

Sepals – the leaf like protective bits that cover the growing bud.

Petals – the colourful bits sit above the sepals. In Rutaceae there are just about always 4 or 5 petals. These are radially symmetrical which is known as actinomorphic.

Phebalium squameum, it has 5 petals and 10 stamen
phebalium squamulosum – 5 petals and 10 stamen

Stamens – the male part. In Rutaceae there are either the same amount as petals or double. So if I see 4, 8, 5 or 10 stamens in flowers that are perfectly symmetrical I start thinking thinking Rutaceae. Of course, there are exceptions.

Carpels – the female part which contains the stigma which is adapted to accept only compatible pollen and is joined to the ovary by the style. The Correa alba photo above is the best for highlighting the carpel.

Zieria smithii
Zieria smithii – note the oil glands

Once you recognise the family then you can think about relationships between genera. How, for example, are Crowea, Boronia and Phebalium related to other Gondwanan genera like the South African genus Diosma (pictured below) or Calodendrum. Calodendrum a genus which means beautiful tree contains the gorgeous Cape Chestnut.

Diosma sp.

The Melbourne Botanic Gardens are using Rainforest and Sclerophyllous Rutaceae species in Australia and New Caledonia (also Gondwanan) to uncover relationships and clues to geological histories.

And of course, it can keep you thinking about the Citrus family which is thought to have its origins in China and has been cultivated for the past 4500 years.

Eriostemon australasius
Eriostemon australasius, near Wooli, Yuraygir National Park


What’s for dinner? Some things I ate, July 2013

A street in Bankstown with lots of signs in Vietnamese

We went to the Bankstown Bites food Fair. This was interesting and fun. Bankstown in Sydney’s western suburbs, is positioning itself as a food destination. It is culturally mixed with strong Vietnamese and Lebanese/Arabic communities. The local Council runs the festival with food stalls and themed tours of restaurants and shops. We went on the Saigon tour. If you are going to find out about local cultures and their food, participation in these kinds of events is a good intro.


I am food obsessed. I love to eat and over the past few years I have begun to love to cook. However, I seem to have a memory like a sieve. I forget what I have cooked or eaten, so I decided to start keeping an occasional record (below) of some of the things I am eating.


Tuscan sage chicken with soft polenta.

A great meal, browned chicken, then cooked with wine, sage leaves and dry-cured olives. Tastes great the next day. We love polenta though it is only recently that we have started to cook with it. We are concerned about its healthiness. Served with steamed cauliflower and baked sweet potato. Inexpensive and easy to cook.

The recipe came from “Winter Cooking’, a Penguin collection of recipes p.281.


We ate some sweets with a black coffee at Sweets of Lebanon, Bankstown. A great cultural and interesting culinary experience. We will return. Wish I could remember the name of the cheese slice eaten as a sweet. Fantastic!


Caramel Salmon

This tastes better than it sounds. Chinese inspired, a lightly browned salmon pieces and a sweet soy and onion sauce. This is a regular at our dinner table. Salmon is the only expense, 600 gms cost $22.

Recipe from ‘Everyday’ – Bill Granger p144.

English Spinach, chinese style

We served this with an English Spinach, chinese style with a garlic and chicken stock sauce, an adaption from a Snow-pea recipe.

Recipe from ‘My China’ – Kylie Kwong p446.


Gnocci with braised veal and parmesan

This wasn’t too bad. I am keen on Gnocci and will have to make my own one day. I don’t think the veal shanks I bought were great. The butcher is important.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 132


Penne with Zuccini, Broccolini and Cauliflower

A Neil Perry classic, though not everyone (the kids for example), likes it. You cook some garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes and salt then add the vegetables and slowly braise. Add it to the pasta, it is wonderful.

Neil Perry’s recipe book is really good, not only are there many good recipes, but he gives an interesting and informative overview of the dish and then a few permutations on the idea.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 128


Florentine Roast Pork

Basically a roast dinner of pork shoulder seasoned with rosemary and garlic. Daughter and friend loved it. We didn’t think it was much to write home (blog) about. Pork is great value.

The taste for white wine necessitated opening an old 2000 Petaluma Riesling, probably past its prime but still fantastic.

Recipe from “Winter Cooking’, a Penguin collection of recipes p.304.


A couple of other Neil Perry past recipe’s

A simple tomato sauce

I never would’ve believed that this recipe would be any good, but it is great! I have done a bit of camping this month and it is easy to cook while camping and still tastes good. But, it is a recipe for any time and it goes really well alongside some sausages or bbq’ed meat.

It is olive oil, salt, chilli flakes, sugar, lots of garlic add a can of tomatoes and that’s it. Brilliant.

This recipe is from ‘Rockpool’ Neil Perry, p219


Spaghetti Vongole

This is also a wonderful recipe of a classic Italian dish. I have cooked it with prawns, pipis and clams – getting the clam out of the shell with the wine based sauce is a great eating experience.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 117


Asian Chicken

We definitely cook this recipe once a month if not once a week. An Asian friend of my mother-in-law gave us this when my wife, Karen was recovering from the birth of our first child and we have been cooking it ever since.

Cut up a whole chicken into pieces, brown lightly in peanut oil. Add garlic and ginger and some Shao Hsing wine, add some water to cover, bring to the boil and then simmer until cooked. A wonderful, if simple, meal that we are thankful for. I added some soy sauce to the sauce before serving which worked well. We often serve this with some steamed peas.


Another pasta dish, Simple easy and tasty.

Angel hair pasta with smoked trout, rocket, chilli and lemon

This is a recipe from the internet that I particularly like. Usually I use a smoked rainbow trout, 300gms or so, but this time I bought a quite oily smoked fish which didn’t work as well.


I also joined a tour of a local Chinese supermarket conducted by a Malaysian born Cantonese woman, Meow. Afterwards we cooked wontons, noodles and chinese mushrooms at her house. Yum!


Admitting to the occasional use of the packet mix for a Beef Rendang, we couldn’t resist an easy meal using beef skirt. Not bad, better the second night! Where we served it with fried tofu, a firm tofu coated with corn flour and salt and pepper and served with a mirin and soy sauce dressing, okra, a cucumber and peanut salad and our own chicken eggs, soft boiled.

I am interested in the role that food can play in building community relationships. The Willoughby local government area in which I live has a large chinese community in its most populated suburb, Chatswood. so far there a few opportunities for us all to mix. But, the food in Chatswood, as in Bankstown is very enticing. An exploration of it, offers the chance to mix together.