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There I was, driving at a regulation (according to site rules) pace from the old Onslow town site past the causeway, when I came across a flock of brolgas, Grus rubicunda. These birds are famous for their mating dances and yet, here, like a herd of cattle, were about 30 of them slowly making their way through the spinifex. They were not so much fazed by my car; rather, when I excitedly leapt out, camera with long lens in my hand, they were definitely startled by my high visibility clothing (another site requirement). I noticed then that it was not all of them. Some were on watch, others grazing. So I got back in the car and drove closer. They really are like grazing bovines! Mooching along the flats, picking out the finest morsels. Through the passenger window I aimed camera again. So unmoved by my presence, their heads hardly left the pasture. Frustrated with the focus of the lens, then frustrated with my subject, I sounded the car’s horn. There, a response! Several heads bobbed up in alarm, and those heads were in unison in needing to know the source.
I was in a car. A 20th century invention for humans. A mode of transport so foreign to a brolga that I might have been from outer space. So it was that it struck me that I was inconspicuous in the vehicle because it was a vehicle. A bright yellow-shirted human at least looks like it could be a threat. Not a white box moving along the ground. When the box made a sound however, it catapulted into their consciousness. What a wonderful thing to observe – the contrast that we humans have created in the landscape through our dizzying technological advance. Photos taken, I moved on, smiling, having just witnessed a little slice of natural bird behaviour. My encounter with a ‘herd’ of brolga had lifted my day. I think it had made theirs interesting for a moment too, who knows?
Grus rubicunda, not dancing!

North western Australia. A marsh landscape. A place to be filled and developed. It is hard to describe the feelings I had here. Best put, I felt a sense of impending loss. A creek flows through the marshes and the fish and kangaroos go about their business. The hum of nature is barely perceptable. One day, this will be filled with sand and a giant industrial facility will take it’s place. It will never look like this again. Progress, progress, progress. Unavoidable. How then to reconcile what’s lost? I am still to decide.


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