by Janine Duffy
Mungo in late November is hot. By 11.30am walking outside is unattractive, no matter how captivating the big mob of Emus look in the heat shimmer. The historic rough-sawn bulk of the Mungo Woolshed promises relief, so I duck inside.
Just above my head, a Welcome Swallow dismisses me with a glance. Elegant and haughty, swallows are creatures of the air, not of the land. Humans, it seems, are nothing more to them than builders of convenient eaves for swallow nest sites.
I scan the large room. No wonder the swallow seemed calm. The Mungo woolshed is full of swallows. I see thirty on the ceiling braces of one alcove. Each rafter holds a swallow, and every few minutes a soft blue blur reveals another swallow entering.
Welcome Swallows are high speed aerial acrobats. They fly endlessly without tiring, sometimes completing figures-of-eight around your legs as you walk across a park. Mostly when you see them flying they are hunting – the small insects they prey on are invisible to our eyes, but the swallow’s acrobatic manoevres are the hunter in pursuit.
But the middle of the day in The Outback is hot. Even the insects seek shade (have you ever walked into an Outback dunny* on a hot day to find it full of flies? They get hot too!) Perhaps the swallows find it hard to hunt in very high temperatures and take a siesta in the shady timber woolshed.
The Mungo Woolshed may have been built for humans to make money from wool, but it has another purpose now. Its the Mungo Swallow-shed.
Visit the wildlife and heritage of Mungo National Park with us on our 4 day Mungo Outback Journey
*dunny: an outhouse toilet