At 5:15 a.m., moisture glistened on Townsville lawns, and cloud vied with blue sky overhead. Cycling hard, I rode the Ross River Parkway, exchanging dawn greetings with other parkway users whom I months ago nicknamed the ‘Ross River Knights’ – the cyclists riding, runners jogging, and walkers exercising their dogs, all before the temperature ramps up after sunrise.
White-gaped honeyeaters sputtered in riverside shrubs, mynas muttered, and Australian white ibises – my avian sheep – foraged on parkway lawns. Fiddle-leaf fig leaves in haphazard profusion on the ground gave evidence of an earlier feeding foray by red-tailed black-cockatoos. My ears collected the mournful carols of Australian magpies, comforting coos of peaceful doves, and raucous squeals and squawks of rainbow lorikeets. At Aplin’s Weir, a rushing curtain of water spilled over the concrete barrier, swirled into a white torrent, and surged over and past blocky, red boulders on which fishos had perched with rods in hand, angling for barra in the early months of 2010. Little corellas perched like elongated, tufted white blossoms on a backyard fence in Annandale, and rock doves stood equally spaced in a line on the roof of the house belonging to that fence.
I heard the rolling, burred calls of rainbow bee-eaters and recalled that I had once thought to present a selection of Australian Avian Awards for Aussie birds which caught my fancy in a big way and lingered in my imagination. Here, then, are my choices: Most Beautiful – Rainbow Bee-eater; Most Majestic – Wedge-tailed Eagle; Most Endangered – Southern Cassowary; Most Evocative – Laughing Kookaburra; Most Inspiring – Red-tailed Black-cockatoo; Most Haunting – Bush Stone-curlew; Most Elegant – Australasian Darter; and Most Endearingly and Gorgeously Obnoxious – Rainbow Lorikeet. Check them out below.
While I cycled, Vilis skated in the parkway, both of us soaking up the lush essence of summer in the tropics before returning to Lindsay Street and again diving into packing luggage and cleaning our rental house. We stole a half-hour to visit a John Boyle pottery exhibit and purchased one of his bowls glazed in rich, deep red and blue – colours of the desert. Later, we took an hour to sup at a Chinese food buffet with pavlova – that Aussie/Kiwi favourite – for dessert. The house, now nearly empty, echoed with our voices, but as our penultimate night in Australia settled in, a pot pourri of sounds invaded it – the staccato ‘chuck-chuck-chucks‘ of Asian house geckos, the mad wails of bush stone-curlews, the pounding drumbeat of torrential rain on metal roof. This was the tropics. In the Wet. This was Australia.