Rainbowbird - There were some 30-40 rainbowbirds on this fenceline, all waiting for dragonflies to make the crossing over the flodplain.

Hold a dragonfly in your hands

22 November 2013

Hold a dragonfly in your hands. Its wings feel like paper. When they fly you can hear the flicking of the corner of a ream of crisp, virgin paper. I can hear a wad flying above me now, over my bird hide. An upturned woolpak supported by wooden stakes, a dinky little folding chair, and a few flaps cut into the sides that allow me to poke out a lens or scan for any visitors that approach from another side. I can see the occasional dragonfly across the floodplain ducking this way then that, up, down, across. Makes the modern helicopter look rather cumbersome.


My hide is positioned to face the dragonfly’s enemy, squadrons of rainbow birds lined up along the fence line. They come here late each afternoon to dust bath in a dried out buffalo wallow, but the dragonflies are great enough a temptation for some to give up their place in the bathroom queue. I see a dragonfly some 100 metres away and so do the rainbow birds. A small squadron takes off on another sortie, flashing jewels of copper, bronze and corrode. Moments later, mission accomplished, and they return to the bath queue, the successful pilot proudly parading the spoils to the radiant throng. Paper wings flitter to the ground. Perhaps they will rise again, unearthed from the mud, delicate fossils in another milennia.

127 - white-fronted chat

My real quarry here on the South Alligator floodplain is a poorly photographed bird, the yellow chat. A great little guy that usually hangs about the reeds at isolated water sources. All the chats are colourful, the others go by the names of orange, crimson, white-fronted, and gibber, who alas was not given such a colourful name. Though I reckon the white-fronted was short changed in the name department as well, should have been called the tuxedo chat.


It is now some years since I photographed the yellow chat but alas I’ve never seen the slides. They are still out there somewhere, stuck in the unprocessed film still out there in dark gooey corner of a post box in the Northern Territory, down behind a greasy bench at the post office motorcycle repair shop, or perhaps my little yellow friend is living in a vast vault at the Kodak factory, wedged between a million wedding photos in little yellow boxes with no return address.

Still I got to see some wonderful things along the way. A favourite morning was waking up in a tent pitched in the dark of the night before, only to see from my sleeping bag, the whistleducks waiting patiently for the warmth of the morning sun.


Well that was written some while ago, maybe its time for me to revisit my roots in the Australian outback.


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