A small flock of ruddy turnstones land on the jetty as another humid day drags itself awake. Scuttling up the faded planks these tubby waders move way too fast for the tropics. When one pecks at an insect they all barrel in to investigate. If one runs up the jetty towards the shack, they all run, then stop abruptly, look confused, and stare vacantly out to sea.

Outside the bedroom window a great egret’s beak clinks metallically against the side of a bowl. She’s drinking, and as she throws her head back a little of the water trickles down her throat, the rest splashes onto the sun-stroked balustrade and disappears instantly.

Ceiling fan blades slice into thick air. Rolling onto my side I cling to the moment, slowly breathing in a mixture of wet mangrove and hot coral sand. Like feathered mice, yellow-billed least terns squeak from the roof, as small waves lick salt from the storm-weathered pilings below. 

The egret ruffles her feathers and stares through the window. Head-on she’s all beak and piercing yellow eyes. If I open the backdoor she’ll hobble straight in. A neighbour fixed her broken leg but her trust in humans may yet be her downfall.

Low horizon clouds dissolve treacle-like into the sea and the whump, whump, whump of a lobster boat engine pulsates through the wooden walls of the shack.

“You making coffee?”.

As I get up the turnstones erupt into another petty squabble, then take white-striped flight, circling the bay.