Serendipity among the Pepper Trees

To: "Canberra Birds" <>
Subject: Serendipity among the Pepper Trees
From: "John Layton" <>
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2014 11:14:09 +1100

On  28 December while driving around on a grazing property near Wagga, I stopped near a clump of Pepper Trees Schinus molle growing around the ruins of a mud-brick hut, a favourite boyhood haunt where one often sneaked a cigarette. However, I don’t carry a pack of Lucky Strikes and Zippo anymore.


From about 10m I made out a whitish bird perched quietly among the foliage. At first I thought it was a  Sulphur-crested Cockatoo but the head was way too small. And the svelte body didn’t fit either. Besides the bill was minuscule for a cockatoo and there was no crest.

I brought the binos to bear but the foliage and a myriad of branchlets, combined with the stippling effect of their shadows, presented a challenge. Still I persisted. Had to, because Grey Goshawk! lurked at the back of my mind. As I scrutinised the bird I noted that the bill was yellow as were its feet and legs. When turned in profile the head was suggestive of a parrot’s. Tail was long and squared off. I focussed on the head again as the bird looked in my direction and noticed prominent red eyes – enough ambivalence!


Grey Goshawk! rocketed from the recesses of my mind and materialised among the branches right in front of me. Can’t see how it could have been anything else. I drove back to Wagga reassured that the serendipitous gods of birding had been with me that afternoon.


John Layton


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