You rarely see something so enchanting it seems like an illusion, but that’s how it was last spring. Outside, checking the blooming Bottle-brush trees, a red pompom zipped past me. Didn’t see much, the bird was so fast it blurred.
Tomato red, black eye-band, grey-white belly-the loveliest creature I’ve ever seen. I think. It didn’t keep still for a millisecond, so I couldn’t catch it entirely, just a touch of bright beauty as the bird flashed past.
I walked to the bottom of the garden where the Callistemon were blossoming. These whizzbang birds were completely focused on drinking, and had brilliant camouflage among red flowers.
The air was abuzz with bees and hazy with pollen. There were also more zippy red blobs with long curved beaks and pert grey tails.
I suffer from hay fever. The garden gives me watery eyes, a scratchy throat, itchy ears and runny nose. Staying out too long, gives me sneezing attacks so loud they’re like nose hurricanes.
I’d never seen Scarlet Honeyeaters before. They seemed like Australia’s answer to the hummingbird because they could sit in the air.
This hot red fluff-ball wouldn’t stop flitting, bouncing, bobbing, clinging and licking nectar until its attention was grabbed by a honey bee.
Just in front of my face, I had a bee and a bird watching the bee, both hovering in a blur of wings. Straight on, the bird’s dainty head looked quirky. It noticed me the moment the bee made a bee-line for my nose. We both jumped and Scarlet buzzed off.
This is the smallest of our honeyeaters at 10 to 11 cm, or a bit more than your longest finger.
The bird was upside-down, right side up but obscured, sideways, hovering, moving constantly. By the time I had one in focus it had shot through again.
If I stayed statue still, the Scarlet Honeyeaters didn’t notice me. Not being an edible flower full of nectar helped. I snapped off 50 photos, but 40 were a faint red/black blob where the bird flew away.
Meanwhile, my nose was tickling, prickling, building up to a gargantuan sneeze.
I wanted to stay in the magic; these birds were awesome.
The Scarlet O’Hara of birds, even though all the red ones were male. I saw stacks of females with a red blush on their chin, but they were harder to spot; plain olive-brown and indistinguishable in the foliage.
I’d never seen such active birds; they would drink anything under the table. Nonstop Crimson Honeyeaters. They were beautiful, they were entrancing, they were…ahh-choo.
It was the ta-dah moment when the dazzling assistant emerges from the magician’s box that’s been cut in half.
Sixteen red pompoms flew out of the bottle-brush. At least ten brown females went with them. Abracadabra. I laughed so hard I nearly choked, not realizing so many Scarlets were in there.
Then it was just me, the flowers and the bees.
With snotty nose and weeping eyes I was still a truly happy birder.
I glimpsed a thing
wild and free,
as lovely as can be.