You are familiar with the habitat. You know what flora and fauna live there. You do not expect to see something new. Yet time and again you get that unexpected thrill.
“What’s that?” you ask yourself.
You instantly turn into a detective, a spy and try to creep up as close as you can, so you can identify this stranger. Your brain is trying to match what your eyes see with your knowledge bank of shapes, names and identifying characteristics. You don’t care what anyone else thinks of your strange behaviour. You are in the moment and the sight in front of you is all that matters.
The other day I spotted a strange bird in the distance. It looked a bit like a weka but wekas are not found in these parts so I crept closer. Luckily I had my camera at hand so I stopped every few meters and clicked.
Before I got close the bird disappeared but by then I had guessed what it might be. Still I needed to be sure and was impatient to get back and view the images on my laptop, where I could zoom in and enlarge the bird. My guess was right. It was a banded rail.
I’d never seen one in that part of the beach although I’d walked there many times. Banded rail like estuary habitats but avoid the open. This habitat had recently been cleared of mangrove trees, which would have offered this bird shelter and protection. Now the rail had a nest and young to feed so it was forced to venture into the open.
Early the next day at high tide, near that first sighting, I snuggled down amongst the rushes and sand tussock, waiting and watching. A pair of rail, very shy and timid broke cover to forage. I got some better photos and mentally added another species to the local population. It made my day!
I dream that one day I might unexpectedly spot another secretive bird, here in this familiar place and so I will not assume I have seen everything that calls these estuary margins home.
I hope you too, dear reader, will experience the thrill and joy of an unexpected encounter.