Friday, 10 December 2010

Moments in Chaco Time: Plagues or Rabbles

The first indicators are the green mesh nets pinned to the front of the oncoming pick-ups and lorries. We’ve seen this before in northern Queensland: prelude to a swarm, a plague of locusts. Now comes a few vehicles with bug spattered windscreens, we suspect that they can’t be very far off. A few large, very large grasshoppers are crouched at the side of the road, possibly the scouts for an avenging foraging army? It’s only then that a few small butterflies start to drift in the wind, out from the bush alongside our road. What starts as a few, soon multiplies into thousands. Not a swarm or a plague but a rabble or a kaleidescope of butterflies. As the occasional passing truck ploughs through them, they are scattered in the swirling slipstream, many are left tattered and torn, in the wake of the behemoth , others end up in the radiator grille, like they are pinned in a lepidopterist’s display drawer. Slowly they drift to the side of the road like albinoed autumnal leaves. We encounter this same phenomenon on consecutive day, always around the same time, so I guess that it‘s a temperature dependent occurrence. As for the grasshoppers, they don‘t evolve from swarm to plague, neither do they hang around to be photographed, they can jump faster than my camera‘s top shutter rating, which is a pity as they have exquisitely patterned fishnet tights on their legs.