Return to 2006 Australia Trip


October 20, 2006 Ė 7:30 PM

And October 21, 2006

Near Narrogin, Western Australia


Wow, am I feeling good!  I didnít use the primitive shower at Nallan Station, and the shower at the motel in Northam had almost no hot water this morning.  I had a long, hot day, and I just got out of what was maybe the most satisfying shower I have ever had.  It really, really feels good to be clean again Ė I hadnít even tried to wash my hair in Northam this morning, with the lousy hot water flow.  I finished with cold water, and now I feel totally refreshed.  Iíve had a drink or two, too, and that might be adding to the overall feeling of well-being.


Not much to report for today, but Iím sure I will find something to go on about, as that is what I do.  The steak and eggs and toast breakfast at the Northam Motel this morning was okay.  I enjoyed it, and it kept me from being hungry until lunch time.


So, I checked out of the motel and hit the road to the south.  I stopped several times at various potential birding spots, but didnít have much luck with birds.  I did get the Striated Pardalote at one of my stops, a common bird, but one I had not seen yet on this trip.  It was a very pretty day, though, and the countryside was also very pleasant, rolling hills and farmland, mostly hay, I think.  I enjoyed the drive much more than the day before through the outback.  I had gotten a better night of sleep, too, and that no doubt helped.


As it approached noon, I was feeling a bit peckish, so I started looking for a bakery, to get a meat pie.  The first nice little town I tried didnít have anything, so I continued along.  The next one, also a very nice looking little town, only had a deli, but I was getting hungry, and I thought I might be able to get a sandwich.  As I approached it, though, I saw that the awning said ďPiesĒ on it, so my hopes got up.  It turned out that they made their own pies, and I got a beef pie and a bacon and cheese sausage roll.  (It is a good thing that my arteries donít clog up Ė just think of the cholesterol in a concoction made of bacon, cheese, sausage, and pastry.  The mind boggles, but it sure was good.  Very filling, too)  I also got a caramel slice there, and it was fantastic.  The pie and the sausage roll were not only absolutely delicious, they were both huge, as was the caramel slice.   I found a picnic area down the road and wolfed it all down.


The flies are just as annoying down here in the south as they were in the north.  Here they seem to have the larger ones that actually bite you, too, and draw blood.  I didnít seem to attract that kind up north.  Eventually this afternoon, I used some of the insect repellent stuff I had bought in Kalbarri, and it did seem to keep the flies off my legs and arms.  They still wanted to go for my face, but maybe that was because I put less on my face.  Or, maybe they just like my looks.


The reason I am staying for two nights here in Narrogin is to be able to bird in the Dryandra Forest, which is about 20 miles from the farm where I am staying.  I stopped by there this afternoon, to check it out, with the intention of going back as early as I can tomorrow morning for some serious birding (Ha!  Serious by my wimpy standards, that is).  I didnít find a lot of birds around this afternoon, but it was pretty hot and mid-afternoon is a poor time for birding.  I did see some Rainbow Bee-eaters, a Sacred Kingfisher, and a few other interesting birds, including a couple of small plain ones that I couldnít identify, but the only new one I saw was a Rufous Treecreeper.  That was one for my life list, so I added a grand total of two to my trip list today, and one to my life list.  I might have some pictures that are decent of the treecreeper Ė I havenít looked at them yet, but I took a number of them.  I doubt that I will get any more pictures up for a couple of days or more, and I donít know when this will get up.  Maybe tomorrow, I suppose, but we will have to wait and see.


So, I finally got out of Dryandra and headed for ďhomeĒ for the next two nights.  I had to stop in Narrogin to stock up on groceries, and that took a long time, partly because I had a hard time finding things, and partly because the checkout line was long.  I guess Thursday afternoon must be shopping day for local housewives, because they sure had their carts loaded.  I got some tuna and some Best Foods mayonnaise.  I am hungry for a tuna sandwich.  I got roast beef and ham and cheese, too, so I will have a lot of sandwiches in the next couple of days.


I got to my new digs about 5 oíclock, or maybe a little later.  It is a great place to be staying.  It is described as a cottage, but it is actually the original farmhouse, over a hundred years old.  It has been extensively remodeled and you would never guess its age except for the foot thick stone walls, which keep it nice and cool on hot days, like today.


It is an actual working farm (Eden Valley Farmstay), owned by Barbara and Jefferson.  It turns out that their daughter-in-law is having a baby tomorrow, and Barbara has gone off to Perth (maybe two hours away) to attend to that, and so Jefferson is tending to the cottage rental business, as well as the farm, presumably.  I get the idea that Barbara normally takes care of the cottage rental side of things.  As it turns out, I am glad I hadnít asked them to provide dinner and breakfast, although maybe Jefferson could have handled that, who knows?  Jeffersonís 100 year old mother also lives with them.  I havenít met her yet.


When I checked in, I asked about ice cubes, and Jefferson was able to give me a tray of tiny cubes Ė barely enough for one drink, but better than nothing.  Aussies just donít seem to get the concept of ice cubes, which is interesting since so much of the country is hot.  I havenít seen what I would call a full sized ice cube since I have been here.  So, I had a little drinkie, and then went up to the main house to see if I could get online.  Jefferson had warned me that since they are out in the country that it is a very slow dial up connection, but that they are getting satellite internet service next month. I thought I would give it a try, though.  Well, it was ok.  Slow, but very usable, unlike the connection from Nallan Station.  I read some emails and replied to one or two of them, then returned to my little cottage.


I sat out on the back verandah, overlooking the fields (paddocks) until it got too dark, then came in and had the fabulous shower I started this out with.  It is coming up on 8 oíclock now, and with that huge lunch and my drinks and mixed nuts, Iím not feeling very hungry, so Iím not sure what I am going to do about dinner.  Maybe I will just skip it, which is something Iím definitely not known for doing.  I am doing well staying on an early schedule, getting to bed between 9 and 10 most nights, and getting up at six or so usually.  That is great for the birds, and also great for beating the heat of the day.


I donít know yet what I am going to do on Sunday.  Iím waiting to hear back from Richard about whether he can find us a place to stay in Armadale, near Perth.  I think I already mentioned that we are trying to arrange to meet to do some birding on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, but I havenít heard back from him yet.  It is quite different for me to have an open night, not booked anywhere, and I am kind of enjoying the feeling of freedom that it gives me.  Iím glad I decided to skip the long day of driving to see Wave Rock.


Iím always looking for wildlife pictures to share, and today as I was driving through Dryandra Forest, there were a couple of kangaroos ahead of me who were ďhaving it onĒ, as they say, or at least, the male was trying.  But, before I could get my camera out (how rude would that have been?) a car came along from the other direction and scared them away.  Oh well, a picture that will have to exist only in the imagination and my memory.  The male kangaroo looked pretty silly hopping away with his equipment hanging out.


I guess thatís it for today.  I might add to this before I get it posted to the website, or I might not.  By the way, it is definitely cooler down here than in the north, but today was warmer than average, so it isnít exactly cold.  I think it is supposed to cool down in a couple of days.  Promises, promises.  Jefferson warned me that there are mosquitoes (mozzies) around, but this cottage has good screens on the doors and windows, and I havenít seen any inside.  I have gotten a couple of bites since being here, but so far, mozzies haven't been as big a problem as flies.


Saturday afternoon Ė


Well, I did go to bed last night without dinner and didnít miss it.  That pie and sausage roll at lunch must have carried me.  I got settled down about 9:30 and got right to sleep in the very comfortable queen sized bed.  I was awakened at about 12:30 by a sound that I couldnít identify at first.  Wind?  No, not really.  Then I realized it was rain on the metal roof.  A lovely thundershower, with a little lightning and thunder thrown in as well.  It only lasted for about 20 minutes unfortunately Ė they could really use the rain around here Ė it has been a dry year.


I didnít get away as early as I would have liked this morning, but I was out of here at 8, on my way to Dryandra, having had my breakfast and made myself a lunch.  I got to Dryandra about 8:25 and started to look for birds.  Not much luck.  It was quite windy, and that didnít help, but there just werenít any birds around.  I wonder if the dry year has diminished the number of birds at Dryandra, or if the wind was a factor.  The flies were as annoying as ever.  I sprayed my legs, which did keep them off, but I didnít want to put on the spray around my eyes, and it was my eyes they went for mostly.  If I stopped waving my hand in front of my face, then within 10 or 15 seconds, there would be one or more flies going for my eyes.  Extremely annoying.  To top it off, it was getting quite hot, despite the wind.


I drove around to several places that had been recommended for birding, and I wandered around in the bush for an hour in one place, but hardly got a sniff of any birds, not even many calls close enough to look for the birds.  Some Striated Pardalotes, a couple of Dusky Woodswallows, a Wedge-tailed Eagle that flew over low, Rainbow Bee-eaters, another Rufous Treecreeper, and some Australian Ringnecks (parrots).  Nothing new.  I was getting quite discouraged, and the damn flies had me about ready to throw in the towel.


I gave up on walking around in the heat and flies, and drove around on some of the dirt roads in the forest.  It would have been a lot better if I could have gotten a map of the place, as there were a lot of roads, intersecting and curving around.  They were out of maps, though, so I had to settle for a quick sketch I made of one.  I only had to turn back once, though, and while I drove around in the air conditioned car, I did see a bird a couple of times, so I would get lout and try to get a look at it.


I was ready to give it up and concede that Dryandra had completely defeated me, but before I left, I stopped and had my tuna and cheese sandwich, an apple, and a Diet Coke at a picnic table that showed up just at the right time.  That refreshed me, so I drove around some more.  Suddenly I saw a bird fly up from the ground that was obviously something I had not seen here before.  I stopped the car and the bird obligingly landed near the top of a nearby tree.  I got out and had a look, and saw the yellow underside of a parrot Ė definitely something I hadnít seen before.  I got a look from the side and saw the blue edge to the wing, and realized that I had at least gotten one life list bird for the day Ė elegant Parrot.  After I had a good long look, I even tried for some pictures.  They were pretty distant, so I donít expect much of them, but maybe the bird will at least be identifiable.


So, that was the high point of the day Ė one bird for my lists.  I drove around a little more, and then headed back to town about 1 PM, definitely beaten by the birds on this day.  At least I wasnít shut out.  I stopped in town at the Tourist Information place, and was able to check my email.  I had a replay from Richard, and it sounds like we are set for tomorrow up at Wungong Gorge and nearby Bungedore Park (sp?).  He got us a couple of rooms at a B&B in Armadale, which is quite close to the two birding spots.  He has a golf game scheduled for tomorrow, and wonít be able to get there until almost 4 oíclock, but I will get there about noon I think, and do some birding on my own, then meet him at the B&B at four.  We will bird until dark, I think, then try again in the morning, until about 11 or noon, when we both will have to leave.  It seems kind of crazy to drive back an hour and a half to bird for a few hours, but I am looking forward to it a lot.  It will be very interesting to see what we can see in those few hours.  The birds we will see are all ones I could see other places, but the way my birding luck (and skills) has been going, Iíll be glad to get a few of them under my belt.


With this change, I am going to end up doing just about as much driving as if I had gone to see Wave Rock, but the long day of driving is delayed a day, giving me more time to recover from my long drive south, and it will be worth it anyway, to be able to bird with an Aussie birder for a few hours.


So, it is hot here this afternoon (of course Ė everywhere I go in Australia is always hot, it seems).  It was 88 degrees F out on the back verandah a little while ago, 84 in the kitchen at the back of the cottage, and 75 here in the living room (with the foot-thick stone walls).  I have to type with the computer on a chair here, but for 9 degrees cooler, it is worth it.  In a little while, I will go over to the main house and see if I can get online to put this up on the website.


After that, I will come back here and work on pictures.  Iím eager to see how some of the bird pics came out (Rufous Treecreeper and Elegant Parrot, mostly).  I donít know when I will get more pictures up Ė it could be several days still.  Internet access in the country places I am staying isnít all that great, and it takes a fair bit of time to upload a batch of pictures at a slow dial up connection rate.  I donít like to tie up my hostsí phone lines or sit in their houses for long stretches of time, so weíll just have to see how it goes.  Once I get the next batch processed and ready for upload, Iím sure I will find some way to get them up.


So, that is my latest report. 


Barry Downunder on the farm (and still hot)


PS Ė Jefferson wasnít there when I went over, so I wandered around the yard, seeing what birds there might be.  There is a gang of Red Wattlebirds that are probably keeping most birds away, but there was also a pair of small honeyeaters who turned out to be Brown Honeyeaters, a species I have seen before on this trip.  Then another small honeyeater flew in, and to my surprise, it was a Brown-headed Honeyeater Ė a new one for my trip list.  So, the trip list actually goes up by two today.

Iíll try again in a few minutes to see if I can get this off.