My namesake, the Bush Stone Curlew, cannot be described as a flashy bird. It is very plain and prefers to go unnoticed (that works in describing me too). Just to look at one, you would never think it was anything special. (Also appropriate for me!)
At the time, I was working on an independent study project on a desert island off the coast of Australia. The goal was to get 160 hours of field surveys done in three weeks, and then to write a 50 page paper and do a presentation three days after that. I was sleeping in various backpacker’s at the time, and doing maybe 40-50 km of survey transects per day.
I wanted to collect as much data as was physically possible, so I continued to do surveys during the day and spent the nights working the the paper. After a couple of sleepless nights spent typing and doing research in the island’s dingy old library, my stress levels were pretty high.
I decided, at 2 am, that I needed to go for a run. Right. Now.
So I went. I dropped everything and sprinted out the door. The problem was that it was black as pitch outside. There were no streetlights on the island, and without a moon, there was very little light to see by. I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face.
But, still, I ran. I ran down a steep hill and around the bend, my feet remembering the transects I had walked so many times, although I was effectively blind. I remember thinking how easy it would have been just to take a wrong step and to fall into a ditch full of lawyer-cane and break a leg. But I kept running…until…
These white bars started flashing across my vision! I recoiled and threw my arms up to protect myself…my body’s reflex was as if something was flying at my face.
My first thought was that I was hallucinating from exhaustion.
My second thought was that I had fallen and hit my head.
But then, as the bars kept flashing, I heard a flutter of wings and then the distinctive and eerie wailing of the curlew.
You see, the curlews have these fairly nondescript white wing bars. But the curlews have a defensive display where they flap their big wings, showing off those bars. During the day, they are not noticeable. BUT, at night, in the inky darkness…they make quite the impression.