Winter Birds

Winter, we in Queensland are prone to say flippantly, was on a Tuesday this year. On this auspicious of this year, i.e. the day winter chose to appropriate for its purposes, the maximum temperature fell a shade short of 18 C. In Tasmania or Victoria, such an outcome would sound positively balmy. But here, where the Tropic of Capricorn crosses the east coat of Australia, it is the deepest that winter shall usually get.

I love winter. It is my favorite season. Summer, by comparison, is a ruthless bully, bringing with it cyclones (a.k.a. hurricanes), electrical storms, floods, and unbearable humidity. Bringing with it any foul thing the elements can throw at us. Winter, on the other hand, is steady as she goes. It brings stability, a gentle coolness, pastel colours, and clear fresh air in which sound carries forever.

And birds.

Birds, for me, are a constant joy. I often wonder if they weren’t put on earth just to jolly up our congenitally morose species. Here in Capricornia, if I am permitted to name just a few varieties, there are pelicans (as per the photo), sea eagles, oyster catchers, black cockatoos, tawny frogmouths, magpies, and butcher birds. And, of course, kookaburras, darling birds.

All seem to be glad it is winter.

Walking on the beach in late afternoon, with Janet’s adult son for company, I (and he) sit ourselves down on an obliging rock to watch the tide come in, taking on the form of a flurry of turbulent wavelets. We are both dressed in identical black. A pair of seagulls watch us with the curiosity that seems innate in all birds.

The next afternoon, we repeat this routine. A pair of seagulls watch us as before.

Are they the same pair? Geoff asks.

How would we know? I reply.

And I imagine the seagulls having their own seagull conversation in which they discuss us humans.

Are they the same pair? says one.

How would we know? the other replies.