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Sunday, October 15, 2006 Ė 6 PM

Kalbarri still


Okay, these are coming hot and heavy, but I had an interesting day today, and I have the time tonight to write it up, so I will do so.


I was up at about 6 this morning, and I got myself all packed up, had breakfast, made myself a lunch, and was on the road by shortly after 7.  I went up to Meanarra Hill again, as planned, to see if early morning was any better for the birds.  Well, not really.  I had listened to the calls of the Southern Scrub-robin and the Redthroat in the car, on the way up there, and I did hear both calls while there, but never close by, and I never got a look.  I saw Singing Honeyeaters and Willy Wagtails, but that was it.  After about 45 minutes of walking around on various tracks, in the increasingly hot sun, I gave it up.  Then, as I was driving down the gravel road to the main road, I saw a bird fly low across the road and land in the low bushes on the right.  I stopped, and it flitted around for a minute or two, and I got my binoculars on it.  Redthroat!  I had a pretty good look, including a flash of the red-brown on its breast, indicating it was a male.  I got out of the car, but couldnít ever see it again.  But, while wandering around, seeing what I could see, I saw a tiny bird flitting around in a bush, and I got the binoculars on it and had a number of very good looks.  It was obviously a Thornbill, but there are about 8 or 10 different Thornbills, and 3 to 5 of them live in this area.  I tried to memorize some key features, and went back to the car and looked in the field guide.  I decided it was an Inland Thornbill, a Moderately Common bird here, but another lifer for me (in addition to the Redthroat).  The evidence was pretty conclusive, including the way it held its tail cocked, like a wren.  So, Meanarra Hill turned out to be pretty productive after all Ė two lifers.


It was only about 9 AM by then, so I decided to take the gravel road out to a couple of viewpoints of the Murchison River Gorge.  It was a total of about 55 Kms (34 miles) of quite corrugated gravel road, but what else was I going to do?  Iíll never be back this way again, and this is supposed to be one of the highlights of the area.


I asked the bloke at the entrance station about the road, and he said I should go about 60 km/hr (36 mph), to minimize the effects of the corrugations.  He said it would be worse at slower speeds.  It turned out he was exactly right.  I wouldnít have gone that fast if I hadnít asked him about it, but it worked out quite well at that speed.  Iím glad it wasnít my car, though, and Iím also glad that I spent a little more to rent a small four wheel drive SUV.  In addition to the corrugations, it was sandy in places, enough to make me slew around in the sand.  There were some 2 WD sedans out there, but most cars were SUVís.


The gorge was pretty tame by Western USA standards, but I saw it and took pictures.  What I didnít do was see any birds.  I didnít really give it much chance, as it was way too damn hot out there for me to walk around much.  At one of the view points, it was a kilometer (0.6 miles) round trip, and I punked out after about 5 minutes, as the trail started going downhill too fast for my taste.  I donít mind downhill, but I am old enough and bright enough to have figured out that downhill on the way there means uphill on the way back, and I called it quits.  Iím old and fat and out of shape, and I saw no reason to subject myself to a hard uphill return trip.


After an hour of driving on the jarring corrugated roads, not counting stopping times, I got back to the paved road, and it was a relief.  It was still only about 11 AM, and my new room wasnít supposed to be ready until noon or 1, so I went back to the coast and stopped several places.  I had my lunch at a place called Red Bluff Beach, near the water, and just as I was getting tucked in to my lunch (ham and cheese sandwich made by me and some potato chips, something I rarely allow myself), a tiny bird showed up at the waterís edge, maybe 40 feet out in front of me.  I jumped out of the car with my camera and binoculars and got some great looks and some good pictures of a Red-capped Plover.  Not a life list bird, but a good one for my trip list.  Iíll be putting up three pictures of the little guy, in Photos05.  I love the way this camera allows me to get closeups of little birds.


I finally went back to my lunch, and in a short while, another bird showed itself, again right out in front of me.  It turned out to be a Ruddy Turnstone, a bird I see in California sometimes, but another one for my trip list.  I chased it, taking pictures, and it turned out that there were a total of 8 of them nearby.  Pictures will be posted.


After finishing my lunch, I drove back up the road to the Red Bluff Caravan Park (caravan is the Aussie word for house trailer).  I had read several trip reports that indicated this was a good place for birds.  It was the middle of the day, the absolute worst time for birding, but I thought I might as well check it out.  I bought an ice cream bar at the little shop they ran, and asked if they would mind if I wandered around looking for birds.  No worries, mate, that would be fine.


I didnít see anything new for my list there, but I did get some pictures of Galahs that I like.  One of them had its crest erect, which I donít see very often, although Galahs are quite common, all over Australia.  I also tried for a long time to get a good picture of a male Rufous Whistler, but never did get a good one.  I will post an out of focus one, just because it is the best I got.  They move around too much, and I could never quite really catch it.


So, I was ready to check into my studio unit that they were supposed to have for me, but on the way there, I stopped a couple of places to scan the rocky beaches for an Eastern Reef Egret, a bird that should be around, but one that I had never actually seen.


Well, at the second or third place I stopped, just as I was ready to give it up, damned if one didnít fly in and land about 80 or 100 feet from me!  It was a ďgrey morphĒ Ė they also come in a white morph version.  I got a ďrecordĒ photo, and then another one as it took off, but it didnít fly far, and I got out of the car and stalked it.  I got a whole series of interesting pictures, some of which I will be posting soon in Photos05.  I am very pleased with them, as a whole.  And, it was the third lifer of the day.  Only five more birds for the trip list, which is now up to 164 species.  They get harder and hard as you go along, as you already have most of the common species.  From now on, five new ones is going to be a good day, I think.


So, I stopped at the ďsupermarketĒ and got a pack of Diet Coke and a frozen lasagna for dinner, then went and checked back in to the Kalbarri Seafront Villas.  This time I was in a studio unit, which is what I thought I had originally booked (see Ramblings07).  These are newer and I actually like it better than the one-bedroom unit I had last night.


I did my laundry for the first time on the trip, and that went smoothly.  I was really overheated when I got here, so I took a shower, finishing off with pure ďcoldĒ water, which isnít all that cold.  The a/c in these new, smaller units is more effective, and I have it down to 69 degrees in here now, which is feeling kind of cold.  I will probably open up soon, which will warm it up a little, but the outside air will feel good, I think.


I have noticed that my forehead is getting pretty sunburned, so I guess I will have to get some sunblock and use it.  I got some the last time I was here, but forgot to bring it.  I havenít used my fly spray yet.  My sunglasses keep them out of my eyes, and I have endured them so far.  I head inland next, and they might get a whole lot worse there.  I will need some sunblock inland, too.  There are supposed to be all kinds of great inland birds where I am heading in two days, but Iím not very optimistic about seeing many of them, since I am such a heat wimp and I am such a terrible birder.  But, it will still be fun to see the countryside, and maybe I will see a few, so I am looking forward to it.  That should just about be the last of my hot weather, too, so I will be glad when that part of the trip is over.


So, that is my report for today.  Tomorrow I will stop at a couple of sightseeing/birding sites on the way back to Greengables Lodge near Geraldton, and then the next day I head out into the great Outback.  Iím booked to stay on a station (ranch) out there, and internet access is liable to be problematical, so if I donít post anything tomorrow night, it could be several days before I get anything else up.  Or, maybe it will be easier than I think.  We will know in the fullness of time.


Aussie beach holiday places are interesting.  There are campers and backpackers and families staying in caravan parks, motels, and holiday units.  Holiday units (meaning you have a kitchen) are more popular than in the states, and motels are less common here.  More people camp here, or have caravans (trailers), I think.  You donít see the massive Recreational Vehicles that are the size of busses here.  There are some smaller ones, but mostly people have modest sized trailers.  School holidays are over now, so I expect to see fewer trailers on the road and less traffic in general.


So, there is another rambling report.  Now to get it up to the website, and also get Photos05 up.  The adventure continues.


Barry Downunder