DISCOVERING THE SPUR-WING PLOVER

A spur-wing plover. Image by Rose Frankcombe (click any photo to enlarge)

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Dear diary,

What a beginning to the day it was. The phone rang - early... I missed the call. Then it rang again later and I managed to catch it. There was a garbled voice on the line which I didn't recognise, so I had to ask him to repeat what he'd just said, managing to catch a couple of breaking words.

Now I need to explain, dear diary, how early morning callers, or callers of any kind, save for the mailman who delivers on week days, or the Saturday morning newspaper deliverer, or indeed the council workers who have been grading our road for a couple of days, but they're only sighted on a multiple year basis, so they don't count as regular - and oh of course, I almost forgot, the dreaded meter man, well, 'he's' not so dreaded as the account that follows his visit is... What I'm trying to say dear diary is, deliveries, apart from the ones mentioned, are an absolute rarity in this little place tucked under the hills far from the bright lights of suburbia - and here was someone wanting to know if he was on the right road - at 7.00 a.m... 7.00 a.m. ! I ask you...

Spur-wing plover. Image by Rose Frankcombe

Mind you, little diary, a frisson of excitement did course through my veins upon realising there was a delivery coming. I didn't know which one it was, as... come closer, let me whisper...

I bought some things online...

Did you hear that? Yes, I had indulged, and another one of the packages was imminent... Package number 2...

Spur-wing plover. Image by Rose Frankcombe

Having signed the electronic gizmo for him the freight service-man was again on his way while I lugged the huge box indoors... It was like Christmas - come early and no tree... My fingernails were ripping into the packaging tape (no time for niceties, dear diary, can't keep a gal away from a box of goodies by wasting time looking for scissors... Oh no siree... And anyway, the tape was easy enough to tear...). As usual I digress...

Well, diary, box open and within lay an Aladdin's treasure trove - my telephoto lens, my tripod, my cleaning puffer thingy, the bottle of cleaning agent, little cloths, a brush - cotton buds - and a bag to keep much of it in! ... it was a box full of delights - and the timing couldn't be better, because today I had the time to go off for a little practice run ... click, click... And birds were what I sought... More seabirds if possible...

Spur-wing plover. Note: the yellow protrusion on the wing in this image is the spur. Image by Rose Frankcombe

Well wouldn't you know it, diary dear... Where were they? Not anywhere I looked today... Oh yes, there was a 'big' surprise - my second only in my whole life sighting of a fire-tail finch, at Green's Beach, near someone's letterbox. I aimed the lens in its direction - and would you believe it, diary dearest, the lens was too, too powerful and too, too close to pick up this tiny little bird. Lesson One learnt... However, the weeny little finch did hang around long enough for me to admire its flash of red rump before it flitted off to delight someone else... The last time I saw a fire-tail finch, and I can pinpoint it was in 2002, in late September, because it was the time I got news my mother had passed away, and as I was reeling from the news I looked out the window to where a fine mist was spraying from the hose and all kinds of little birds were taking delight in its coolness due to a summer drought - and there among the many and varied was a fire-tail finch, thus an indelible memory was created.

A circuit back the way we had come, diary dear, and into the esplanade where lately the surety of seeing at least a flock of resting pied oystercatchers was null and void... The tide was out and only a distant few could be seen. Not what I had imagined, more's the pity, so next time I'll check the tide-chart in the newspaper before venturing back, as I think the day's work must be done for pied oystercatchers once the tide returns, then they bathe or rest on the banks of dry seaweed...

Spur-wing plover. Image by Rose Frankcombe

A lame plover would have to do... I don't mean he was a 'lame' plover - I mean he really was a lame plover, with a limp, poor bird... He was my first real practice with the new lens but still I wasn't satisfied... I wanted more, but more was not available. Birds! Birds! Birds! Where are you...

Then I got an idea that maybe I could find some pink galahs that were at times prevalent along the river, screeching about and gathering on overhead electricity wires running along the streets of the little hamlets dotted along its banks. Yes, pink galahs would be the go today... Ha, ha, diary dear, I know what you're thinking, and maybe there's a little truth in what's unspoken here...

Nope. Not too many galahs about today, so what... what, dear diary can I capture...

Well it turns out the best shoot of the day was a pair of plovers along another esplanade. They were just standing about, all fluffed up or preening away and were not at all afraid of the car as it pulled to a halt.

Down came the window and out went the lens, a minor adjustment of the focus - and then I was away. I'd got my catch for the day... Spur-wing plovers, or masked lapwings - or masked plovers, take your pick, diary, they are one in the same as far as I know. And they're such a ubiquitous bird, common, seen in the most reckless of places with chicks. I'll never follow their reasoning in their choices of nesting places... But again I digress...

Being of the common variety I suppose most people don't take too much notice of the humble plover - until they decide to make an aerial bombardment against a trespasser in their rightful territory, then it's all hell breaking loose and a comedy-drama playing out as a hapless victim makes for cover away from that dreaded spur on the wing... Oh, yes, diary, caution has to be taken not to be struck by the spur... Nasty, nasty...

However, today, my little friend, it was a benign interaction between avian and human, with each eyeing the other suspiciously and curiously. And who takes too much notice of a plover anyway. Yes, of course, there's always a cursory glance at them, and perhaps even a passing word of admiration at their smooth lines and wonderful plumage colour combinations. Who'd have thought of beige, black, white and golden yellow - with red legs thrown in for good measure...

Spur-wing plover. Image Rose Frankcombe

And having now had the experience of a closer encounter courtesy of the new camera lens, and finding and seeing the Venetian mask on the bird's face, with my thoughts turning to gondolas and dandies in soft pale-satin brocade, fine hose and buckled shoes - and buxom ladies in tight-bodice dresses - with pursed lips, rouged cheeks, a 'beauty spot' and ornate white wigs - and all because I've seen a plover in close-up... What do you make of that, my diary...

So on this entry page are some of the images I gathered today, for you, dear diary and for all who care to open these pages and share the moments. Please enjoy the plover and perhaps, just perhaps, you, too, may see this common bird in a very different light...

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Spur-wing plover. Image by Rose Frankcombe

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