I’ve been teaching at a school in a village in the mountains. It takes about an hour to get there and another to travel home again. But even at the coldest time of the year, going to work meant I witnessed extraordinary things.
Parking in the lane way beside the school, I spot a Crimson Rosella. It was holding a piece of fruit in its claw and wouldn’t let go. Not when I drove past, not when I got out of the car, pointed my phone at it or walked closer. The bird was intent on finishing breakfast; it was gorging.
I have Crimson Rosellas at my house. They are pretty, they chatter rather than chirp and are good to see. But this bird, and the second Rosella who joined it, were the brightest Crimson’s I’ve seen. Their plumage is richer, deeper and fuller than those on the farm.
Maybe it’s because this is the Mountain Lowry of Australia’s Great Dividing Range. The school where I taught was at the edge of those mountains; the natural home of Crimson Rosellas.
There is a hilltop where it’s too dangerous to stop for photos. Breathtaking, as the car swings over the crest a 180-degree view of the high country opens up. It’s like some glossy centrefold in a travel brochure.
Over that hilltop I see mountains behind the mountains behind the mountains, fading to grey. The range blends in with the pale grey-blue winter sky until I can’t discern where earth finishes and the atmosphere begins.
In the last fortnight, morning temperatures have ranged from minus 2 degrees to plus 8 degrees. Frosts, fogs, an icy windscreen, mists and wispy low cloud cover greets each school day.
About to enter the school grounds, I watch the red parrot eat. The way it holds the food in an upturned claw is amazing. Juice of the fruit sprays out as the Crimson watches me watching it. Scoffing as much food in as short a time as possible, the Rosella is pigging out.
Another Lowry arrives. This one is shy of me and sticks to the shadows to devour a thistle. It waits another minute before creeping over to snatch its own fruit.
The two gloriously crimson birds choke down more fruit at a rapid rate. Neither can eat fast enough, their beaks are covered.
It’s one of my best birding moments in months, but I need to get to class. I leave the car park reluctantly, glancing back at the two beauties behind me.
I almost skip through the school gate to teach children with huge personalities and even bigger hearts. I’m in a good place for another day of learning.
Happy to be on my way to work and for the opportunity to see two Crimson Rosellas gobbling breakfast like there is no tomorrow.