Monday, September 26, 2011

Serpentine bird

Everywhere you look on the Daintree River are sinuous lines, no straight edges. Mangrove roots and trees and vines tangle together. Green tree snakes tangle themselves around branches like tiny garden hoses. And the Great-billed Heron has a neck like a serpent, with a life of its own.

Great-billed Heron, Daintree River, Queensland, Australia
This is Australia's biggest heron, and then its bill is over-sized in proportion to the rest of its body. Shy, skulky birds, they lurk, standing like statues, waiting to stab passing fish.

We had all but given up hope of seeing this bird after a couple of hours on the river. We'd had Wompoo Fruit Dove making their spooky wollocky-wom-pooo call, Papuan Frogmouth so much like tree bark, Little Kingfisher flitting, impossible to photograph. But no Great-billed Heron, until in the gathering gloom, what seemed like one of the muddy, twisted tree roots unfurled great wings.

The photos I took where you can see the bird in all its plumage somehow don't capture the essence of the bird. Sometimes truth gets lost in the details. It's in silhouette that you can see its Great-billed Heron-ness. That gigantic bill, that snaky neck, the predator crouching like a cat.

Sunset, Daintree River, Queensland, Australia

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