Cairns Birdwing Male, Townsville, Queensland (© Magi Nams)

In early afternoon, our yard was lit with the electric-blue of Ulysses swallowtails winging erratically among  rustling palm leaves. Never have I managed to photograph one of these exquisite lepidopterans whose heart-rending beauty is like a glimpse of heaven.  Nor have I – until today – captured a Cairns birdwing with my camera. Just as I was lamenting to Vilis the fact that these broad-winged, green-and-black beauties refuse to remain stationary on their roosts long enough for me to photograph them, a male floated into sight outside our kitchen window, landed on a leaf, and hung there. We laughed at the delightful coincidence, and I crept outdoors, snapping photos as I approached the butterfly riding its leaf-boat on gentle wind-swells like some tropical harlequin on a thin, veined surfboard. Perhaps a future encounter will enable me to capture the birdwing’s emerald and charcoal upper wing surfaces.

Late in the afternoon, I strolled the parkway, drinking in welcome breezes that swirled through mild air beneath clotted, grey clouds brooding over Townsville. I was struck by the intensity of bird song and activity – bush stone-curlews wailing maniacally, galahs bobbing to each other on a wire, magpies carolling, mynas croaking, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes gliding mysteriously between trees, and yellow-throated miners attacking a little friarbird in a frenzy, knocking it to the pavement. Nectar-hunters – miners, rainbow lorikeets, and a suite of honeyeaters (brown, blue-faced, yellow) screeched and warbled from within the yellow-splotched canopies of street trees cluttered with flowers that hung like untidy tufts of loose, dyed wool. It all fit together – the brooding clouds, the agitated birds – and I wondered if I would awaken once again in the night to the sound of thunderous rain.

Today’s birds: mynas, peaceful doves, rainbow bee-eaters, bush stone-curlews, brown honeyeater, common koel, rainbow lorikeets, blue-winged kookaburra, white-breasted woodswallows, magpie-larks, pied imperial-pigeon, yellow honeyeaters, figbirds, Australian white ibises, masked lapwings, olive-backed oriole, little friarbird, blue-faced honeyeaters, great bowerbirds, Australian magpies, galahs, welcome swallows, red-tailed black-cockatoos, yellow-throated miners.

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