The Gouldian Finch is a wondrous bird to sight, a pert 14-centimeter bundle with squat beak, bright yellow underneath on the front, a mix of green, red, black, purple on the head and face and back, different mixes of those colors. Not easy to find unless you’re in right place and, despite having done two inland trips up the length of the great continent of Australia, we’d never found ourselves in the right place.

One of the pleasures of eBird is the rapid percolation of news. In the weeks before we flew to Darwin, Gouldian Finches began to be inexplicably sighted in the city, something very rare indeed. You never get lifer birds in a city but this morning, we drove down Lee Point Road, parked among other birdwatchers’ cars, and headed inland between a new building site (a rapacious land grab opposed by many) and a caravan park. All those we met said they had dipped but we went a slightly different way and there, briefly roosting in a bare tree, were close to fifty of them. At first we couldn’t believe the sighting but then they moved down into grass right near us and they were unmistakeable. Gorgeously and diversely colored. Three minutes, that’s all we got, before the flock split, one heading east, one west.

A lifer and special somehow, a talisman of hope.

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