Return to 2006 Australia Trip
Wednesday, October 11, 2006 – 8:30AM
I had better write again now and get caught up, before I start forgetting things that happened. I have about an hour and a half, as I am having a rental car delivered here to my B&B at 10.
Monday started early, and local birder Keith picked me up at 6:30. We put in a long, long day of birding, with great success, although we also missed a number of birds that he expected that we would see.
The first place we went was called Wheeny Creek, up in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. The main target species there were Gang-gang Cockatoos and superb Lyrebird. We dipped on the Gang-gangs, but had a really wonderful look at a pair of Lyrebirds. We watched the male scrabbling around in the leaf litter for several minutes, at a very close distance. That was exciting, but the biggest excitement of the day for me came a few minutes later, when we spotted a Pacific Baza, a beautiful hawk with a goofy topknot on the back of his head. I had always wanted to see one, and finally I did. It hung around in the trees overhead, and we got long looks at it, flying from branch to branch, perched, and eating beetles it was catching on the trees. Naturally, I had left my camera in the car! After that, I carried the camera with me, but didn’t get any kind of an opportunity like that again, of course.
We went to a number of other places, and the list of birds we saw kept mounting up. Nothing really rare, but a good steady pace of interesting birds. I only saw one other lifer that day, some Channel-billed Cuckoos flying over. The ironic thing was that we kept missing out on the birds we were specifically looking for, but continued to see other interesting ones, wherever we went.
We missed the following six species, despite the fact that Keith had seen them all the day before, in the same locations we were looking in: Gang-gang Cockatoos, Chestnut-rumped Heathwren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Dollarbird, Shining Bronze-cuckoo, and Golden-headed Cisticola. Still, even with those misses, when we finally called it a day as it was getting dark, about 6 PM, I had seen 101 different species for the day – a truly outstanding total for me. Keith saw several more, and he heard a half dozen more than that, so his count for the day was 112 (he counts ones he only hears but doesn’t see).
Keith is really excellent at identifying the birds’ calls, and he can also imitate many of them. I have mentioned before that Aussie birding relies much more on identifying the calls of the birds than American birding does. When you hear something that you want to see, then you look for it, and it really helps to know what you are looking for. The day with Keith really brought it home to me how bad I am at this type of birding, since I don’t know the calls. Fortunately, most of the fun for me is traveling around, finding specific parks or birding sites, and looking for the birds. I’m not especially fixated on the numbers that I see, although it may seem different, reading these Ramblings. I do like to count what I see, but the numbers are much less important that just being out and about, finding my way around in a slightly strange (to me) land.
Another highlight of the day for me was an amazingly good, long look at an Eastern Whipbird. You hear them all day, and even I can identify their very distinctive, very loud call, but they are always down in some bushes and are very shy about showing themselves. In the afternoon we got onto one on the ground, scrabbling around feeding, and watched it from very close range for a couple of minutes. They are a beautiful bird, with a very full tail and a crest on the head. Black and white and very elegant looking, to my eyes. It was a real treat to see one so well.
We had our morning tea and our lunch out in the bush, of course. Keith had nice camp chairs in the car. I had a meat pie and a sausage roll for my lunch – my favorite Aussie lunch.
At the end of the day, I was desperate enough for ice to have in my drinks that night that we stopped at a little convenience store and I bought a 5 kg bag of ice (11 pounds of ice). I only used a tiny fraction of it, but it sure was nice to have all the ice I wanted for a change. That night I had fish and chips again, from the same place, since it was so good. This time I let it cool a bit first, and ate it on my deck overlooking the Hawkesbury River. I went to bed early that night, after that long day of birding.
Tuesday (yesterday) was also a long, long day, but this one was a long, long traveling day. Not nearly as pleasurable as a long day of birding. I got on the road to the airport before 8 o’clock, and it was good that I started early. I got off the Motorway by accident at a toll booth – somehow I was supposed to cut back onto the Motorway, but I missed whatever route I was supposed to take. I needed petrol (gas) anyway, so I wandered around in a mostly residential area for ten or fifteen minutes before finally finding a gas station. They were lined up to by gas, so that took another ten or fifteen minutes. Then the two guys in the gas station had no clue how to get back on the Motorway, and the only directions they could give me to the airport involved many miles of surface street driving. Fortunately, while following their directions, I happened on a sign to the airport via the Motorway, so I got back on track.
I was in plenty of time for my 12:20 PM flight, so after I turned in the car and got checked in, I went to the Qantas club lounge. I knew I wasn’t entitled to go in there – it is for members and people traveling first class or business class that day on Qantas, and within Australia, I’m flying coach, or Economy, as they call it. But, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. The woman on the desk explained that I wasn’t really entitled to go in, but she said it was okay just for this one time, so I got to wait in a much more comfortable environment. They had some little snacks, including ham, bread, and cheese, and some nice cakes, so I had a light lunch while waiting. I also used their computers to check my email and send a couple of emails.
The cross country flight to the West Coast was 4 ˝ hours. I did have an aisle seat with extra leg room, but the plane was pretty full and I had a guy next to me. I could barely squeeze my fat hips into the narrow coach seat. I survived it, although it was boring and not particularly comfortable. At least it was a smooth flight, so I didn’t have any of the motion sickness I felt on the long flight into Sydney.
Once I arrived here in Perth, I called the B&B where I am staying, and the woman came and picked me up. I have a car being delivered this morning – oh, I guess I mentioned that already.
The Aarn House B&B is very nice. It was purpose-built to be a 4 guest room B&B. The rooms are quite large, and each has its own bathroom, which is very nice, with a huge tiled walk-in shower stall. The air conditioning is excellent, and my room has a network cable, connected to some kind of high speed internet connection, so I can sit in my own room and go online without messing with dial up. I have my own phone in my room as well, which is very unusual for a B&B. There is also a shared guest lounge with sofas and chairs, and a very nice little kitchen area for the guests to use. I am actually typing this at the table in the kitchen area, because I don’t have a desk in my room. To use the computer in there, I have sit on a chair and put the computer on the bed. Oh yes, a nice king-size bed, too. I think the house is only about 4 years old, and it is spotless.
This morning I was up before six (the two hour time change helped keep me on an early schedule), and I walked down to the river Swan, which is about three or four blocks away. It was very pretty out this morning, but now a rain shower has come through, and it is windy out there as well. I saw a few new birds on my walk this morning, but they were all common ones for this area. Still, one of them was a life list bird for me, the Laughing Turtle-dove.
This afternoon at 4 o’clock, a local birder is supposed to come by here, and we will do a couple hours of late afternoon birding, if the weather will permit it. He will be able to give me a lot of advice about the rest of my Western Australian stay, I expect.
OK, that catches me on the travelogue part of this. I don’t really have any other pithy observations today. It occurred to me in looking back at the last Ramblings that Aussies who read this might think I am being overly critical of them (my comments about the way that the motel was run), and I’m sorry if I offended anyone. I love the Aussies – their national character is very appealing to me, and that is one of the reasons I keep coming back here. They are very friendly, open, and generous – and very direct, generally. Directness is something I appreciate.
I guess I’ll go back to my room now and get this up on the website and see if anyone has sent me any email, in response to my plea in the last Ramblings. I did put up some more pictures last night (Photos02). Keith and I were so busy chasing after birds that I didn’t take many pictures that day, and yesterday was just a marathon travel day. I want to check tomorrow’s weather forecast for Perth, too, so I can plan what to do tomorrow. There is an island that I would like to go to (Rottnest Island), but not if the weather is going to be like this. I don’t do well on boats anyway, and certainly not in wind and rain. Especially wind, since that makes waves, and that makes a boat very uncomfortable for me and my delicate stomach.
I need to decide where to go today, until 4 PM, too.
Western Australia, here I come!
Barry Downunder and West now