“Is it still here?”
“Nah, it flew off a few minutes ago.”
Every day it was the same. Most people seeking elusive green Neophema’s at Melaleuca are twitching for an orange-bellied parrot (OBP). I saw orange-bellied parrots daily, both on the tables, and hanging around in the trees around the rangers’s hut. I was over OBPs. My particular object of desire was their special friend, the less gushed over blue-winged parrot (Neophema chrysostoma).
A single blue-wing had been observed hanging out with the OBP’s (Melaleuca’s original VIB’s), scoffing free bird seed with the best of them. I thought I may have seen it on the first day I arrived, but not being clear on the differences between male, female and juvenile OBPs, I’d just assumed it was a wishy-washy female or juvenile. Over the next few weeks, after looking at other people’s photos, I came to realise that what I’d actually been looking at was likely to have been the blue-wing, but wasn’t sure that counted as an honest-to-goodness sighting.
I’ve come to think of blue wings as the “favourite t-shirt” version of the OBP – you know, the t-shirt you’ve had for ten years, that’s been through the washing machine so many times that it’s hard to tell what the original colour was? One of the OBP volunteers described the blue wing as looking like an OBP that’d had a run in with some bleach. They are a more olive green, in contrast to the OBP’s grassy tones.
Blue-wing parrots are migrants to Tasmania, coming here to breed, and are listed as endangered. This one appeared to have hooked up with the very closely related OBP mob, as their own little inter-species Friend With Benefits. I don’t want to cast nasturtiums on this sole bird’s intentions on the orange-bellies, but I’m not sure it was just after the free bird food.
“You seen the blue wing today, Bob?”
“Penny said it was over at the house feed table earlier, but I believe it just left.”
Days, then weeks passed, and I started to suspect that the blue wing was actively avoiding me. What had I done to upset it? Had word of my ground parrot favouritism gotten out?
It came to my last evening at Melaleuca. I still hadn’t seen the bloody blue wing. On my bike ride to dinner at Melaleuca South, I’d run into someone playing an Alpenhorn on the airstrip, and seen a rare horseshoe vortex cloud, and thought these were auspicious omens for blue-wing spotting at the hide with Bob, who was doing his last shift as an OBP volunteer.
Of course, once I’d arrived, Bob informed me that the blue-wing was nowhere to be seen. Typical. I sat with him for the last half hour of his shift, before cycling off in a huff to Melaleuca South for dinner.
The new volunteers were there, as well as Qug and Penny, and I was so excited, I fell over my bike remarkably spectacularly from a standing start. After a brief sook on the ground, I’d just been settled inside on a chair near the scope with a glass of wine (from a bottle!) when a mob parrots, who’d been hanging backlit in a nearby eucalypt, descended on the table.
“Look! It’s the blue wing!” And so it was.
Vacuuming up birdseed with its orange-bellied mates was the quasi-mythical solo blue-wing of Melaleuca. I suspect it saw my undignified bike accident and felt sorry for me.