OK readers, hands up if you’ve ever seen an Echidna train. If you have then count yourself as fortunate indeed, as can one of our readers, David Tuck of Clydesdale.
Around Newstead now is the time when Echidnas emerge from their winter slumber and start looking for mates. Both males and females give off a strong, musky odour during the mating season, secreting a glossy liquid believed to be an aphrodisiac. During courtship the males locate and pursue females. Trains of up to 10 males, often with the youngest and smallest male at the end of the queue, may follow a single female in a courtship ritual that may last for up to four weeks; the duration of the courtship period varies with location. During this time, they forage for food together, and the train often changes composition, as some males leave and other join the pursuit (see Wikipedia for details).
I’ve once seen a train of seven individuals, and have heard of even larger congregations. It is a wondrous sight.
And while we’re on the subject of trains (groan) I’ll take the liberty of reminding those who may be interested about the Grand Opening of the Newstead Community Arts Hub, formerly the Newstead Railway Station, now magnificently restored. It’s on this Saturday at 3pm – it would be great to see you there!