Seat 12A—Down Under
Frequently I participate on the BIRD FORUM and just as frequently I hear of someone birding from an airplane or at an airport. So, given that I just landed in Brisbane after a 13+ hour flight, my mind turned to looking out the window, with nothing special in mind, after all I am a man and am allowed to ‘unthink’ like a man should and does. The act of ‘unthinking’ is natural as most men find themselves in this Zenish practice on a normal basis.
As the plane sat on the tarmac waiting to pull into a gate, my window which was not particularly scratched or foggy though, presented to me off in the distance with a nice white wading bird. But sadly there was a harsh sun which provided a poor backdrop to even ID the thing. But thru that window I noticed a small white hump moving in between the green areas on the tarmac as we taxied to the terminal.. …..All right, I finally get my chance to bird from the plane and my first bird ID in Australia. There I was, sitting in seat 12A doing what I love to do…bird. None-the-less this appeared to be a tough call, if not an impossible call until…the bird turned and offered me a silhouette. Viola, a spoonbill. Shouldn’t be too hard eh? A white spoonbill with a light colored bill and legs …bird number 1 from seat 12A.
The second sighting of note (other than Myna’s and starlings, ravens and crows) came that very same day as my son-in-law was driving the car he used to pick me up, back to his sister down the road from downtown Melbourne. Standing outside talking to his sister Monica, this loud squawking sound began to reverberate from down the street and appeared to close in on us. Demonstrating keen athletic birding my neck turned like an owl and followed this bird in flight from one end to the other. This flash of white darted by at eye level screeching it’s way out of site. That was ah…ah….yeah…that was a pretty quick glimpse…Let’s see features…features…Well it was white. It screeched like a parrot and appeared to have a flat face so I am guessing parrot. There was no color other than white, no long feather dangling from behind, no crest, nada…zero, zilch….But I was going to find out what this bird was.
Now, you know how it is when given an ID in the field and attempt to match up that ID to the those wonderful images in the field guide. One goes into the book knowing full well that in your mind, you know exactly what you saw. Yepper….it was “x and X’ but usually once in the field guide you quickly learn of the features you ‘should have found’ in the field in order to correctly ID the bird in the Field Guide. Those are two entirely different things…. So I decided to take bird number 1 from seat 12A first. I quickly turned to wading birds and found that there are only two spoonbills in Australia. Both are ‘white’ in color but one has a yellow bill and legs while the other is decorated with a black bill and legs. Wow, couldn’t get much easier that that as I saw no black so a positive ID it was…the Yellow-billed Spoonbill. Now on to the second ID; white parrot like birds. Again, there were two possibilities; the Little Corella and the Long Billed Corella. Hmmmm…no way did I see the bird in a quick ‘fly by’ to determine whether it has a long bill or just a regular bill as besides from that while the Long Billed Corella had a hint of pink below its chin, there was no way I picked up on either of those features in that dart-thru. So the end results for bird number 2 were totally inconclusive. Oh well, I have been there before so just mark it up in the “I think” category. One needs to pull away from that frustrated point and just move on thinking that I will see that bird again. .End of day 1…