Gouldian Finches, Pentacost River
May 28, 2015 accompanying images
We camp just below the ridge, the Cockburn Range our monumental backdrop,
as its quartzite cliffs turn to gold we scramble to catch the sun setting
the other side, bloodying the Pentacost River weaving north towards a gleaming
brushstroke exhaling a pale drift of smoke. Home Valley Station is burning off.
Following the river are puffs of grey smoke from a couple of four wheel drives
on the Gibb River Road, the dust hanging in the stillness of a Kimberley dry.
As day’s erased and a Kapok’s bare branches explode yellow flowers,
we stumble on a bird searched for in Kakadu a decade back, chucking colour
round a meagre bush in the slow glow of dusk. A male Gouldian, a red head
pleased with himself perhaps with five plain juveniles, but with no sense
of how his plumage swallows all available light and prisms concentrated colour.
A cold dawn cascades over Cockburn’s crust, the fire’s still burning,
a new regime destroying old Salmon Gums the finches use to nest in.
Even this vastness that looks like wilderness, we are managing to unravel.
A few egrets advertising whiter than white stand on precise reflections in
a river of salt water crocs colonised blue by the sky, the finches are gone.