Lockdown walk No 19. A bird pilgrimage by Colleen Keating

Bird pilgrimage

they walk the lake fringe
amidst its shore’s rehabitation

the susurrus of the lapping tide
a gentle background rhythm

to the chatter of a willy–wag tail
and magpie warble

they listen
after the whoo-crack of the whip bird

laugh together
when the female doesn’t answers her cheepcheep

they take a less worn track
through a forest of swamp oaks

come upon a landcare effort
at planting a stand of banksia
now wild with flickers of candle-fire

he was the first to spot
the honeyeater curled on a candle cone

she was the first to hear fairy wrens
chirping in the bristly heath

he spots the first one dart
low across dun grasses
so quick only visible swaying
is her first view and then she sees them

she says they are a burst of cobalt sky
he says blue shot in a shiny black cloak

and admires the aegis for the harem of
smaller brown females

 

they find an open grassy spot
warm curved encounter with
trunks of swamp oaks
upon which to lean their backs

little did they know
they had chosen the home

of a butcher bird family
who flew down to join their picnic

she listens to their song
he observes variance of colour

males, females, juveniles
and their glossy beaks

when they both struggle up to walk back
their attention returns to the lake

she admires the elegance of the black swans
he notices how the pelican looks so stately

she points out the swans’ flounce
as they bottom-up to feed
in the sea grasses
he admires the spoonbills way of grazing

 

seeing a large darter
with black wings hanging out
he calls it Dracula of the lake

she calls him a shag on the rock
and they both laugh

 

when cormorants dive
it becomes fun to guess
their resurface spots

they both sign with delight
at the family of ducklings passing
chaperoned so closely by mum and dad duck
he quotes Wordsworh’s ninth sonnet
“who put budding courage to the test”
i just stand in wonder

he points out a white–faced heron
she notices a few more
and a white egret

together they admire the elegance
of the herons stalking in the sea grasses
mindfully step by step

reminded of conscious walking
heads high
backs straight
they walk slowly home
hand in hand
to the willy–wag tail chitter

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