Return to 2006 Australia Trip


October 26, 2006 – 7:15 PM

Stirling Range Retreat


I have time on my hands tonight, for maybe the first time on the trip, and there is no television here, so I will start the next Ramblings, and add to it later, most likely.


The internet connection over at the office was pretty fast, and I was able to plug their network cable right into my computer, so I uploaded Ramblings16 and Photos10 to the website.  It is interesting how internet connectivity has worked out at each place, as I have needed it.  Overall, it has been very good, although I do like it better when I have access from my room.  I won’t have that again, though, for almost a week.


Before I got online at the office, though, I visited the Café across the road, to see about getting an early lunch.  It was a pretty disappointing place, and I had some mediocre fish and chips – at least there were lots of chips, although no ketchup to have with them.  Having slaked my hunger, I then did the internet thing in the office.


By the time all that was done, it was after one o’clock, and I needed to decide what to do with the rest of the day.  I had seen just about all the species I could expect to see around here by then, but there is a place over the pass (where I am going tomorrow anyway) that has the good possibility of a couple or maybe even three more species, and it is only about 40 minutes away.  So, I got in the car and headed south, over the pass.  The weather was looking kind of threatening, but what else did I have to do?  The place I was going is Porongurup National Park, and the two target species were Red-eared Firetail and Red-winged Fairy-wren.  I should see the Fairy-wren somewhere, but the Firetail is liable to be hard to see, so I went looking today.


When I got to Porongurup NP, though, it had started to drizzle.  I waited in the car a while, but it didn’t seem to be letting up.  I dozed in the car, and then I got out and spent some time sitting at a picnic table under cover.  I could see some good habitat for birds, but the drizzle, which turned to light rain now and then, seemed to keep the birds out of sight.  It was a lovely place, and it was a nice temperature, and I enjoyed the light rain, both the sound and the sight of it.  But, no birds to speak of, and no sniff of my target species.  Eventually, I gave up and drove back over the pass to the northern side of the mountains, where there hadn’t been any rain, although it was cool and cloudy.  I’ll probably stop at Porongurup NP again tomorrow, if it isn’t raining, as it will be almost right on my way to Albany, where I am staying next.


It was still only about four o’clock when I got back (too soon to start drinking), so I went out in quest of the Square-tailed Kite nest that Vicky had shown me yesterday.  I wandered around in the general area for 30 or 40 minutes, but couldn’t locate it again.  I did see male and female Scarlet Robins and four lovely Regent Parrots, along with some other birds, but I couldn’t find the kite nest.  When I was ready to give up, I got turned around, I guess, and ended up taking a long way back to the car.  The exercise was good for me, though.  I was motivated to march right along by the thought of beer and rum back at my chalet.


I did partake of said beer and rum, and eventually had my humble dinner – the canned Irish stew and canned corn, mixed together.  Better than it sounds, but not exactly gourmet or up to recent standards.  Still, it will get me through the night.


This is just about the halfway point of my trip.  It feels like I have been gone for a very long time, and maybe I have overdone it by planning a 6 ½ week trip.  If so, it is completely in keeping with my secondary motto, “anything worth doing is worth overdoing”, sometimes rendered as “too much is never enough”.  From a birding standpoint, it is going to be really tough to add very many more species to my trip list or life list, other than maybe 10 I should be able to add in Tasmania, if I am lucky.  I have 206 species now, and I figure I will be lucky to get to 225, with about 21 days left in the trip.  That is less than one per day for the rest of the trip, and I could conceivably get ten in one day on Bruny Island in Tasmania.  A good birder would get at least 12 that day.


So, from here on out, I guess I should be concentrating more on sightseeing and photography, rather than adding more species to my list.  I have a lot of interesting sounding places to go still, and I am looking forward to seeing them.  I can spend more time trying to get good bird pictures, too.  I don’t have any more long days of driving here in Western Australia, and I like that idea, too.  So, the trip rolls on…


Saturday, October 28, 2006 – 3 PM

Woody Grange Chalets, near Albany


I had forgotten that I hadn’t ever posted what is above, so I will tack this on to it, and try to put it up on the website tonight.  Not a lot of exciting stuff to add, but I have a couple of good days to report.


I checked my email Friday morning at the Stirling Range Retreat, and I got on the road by about 9 o’clock.  My first stop was Porongurup National Park, where I had been the afternoon before in the rain.  This time it was sunny and beautiful.  I wandered around the picnic area and a little way up a couple of the trails, and there were quite a few birds around.  I got good pictures of male and female Golden Whistlers, a recently fledged Rufous Creecreeper being fed by a parent, and a Kookaburra up in a tree.  I also scored on one of my target birds – Red-winged Fairy-wren.  I got good looks at both males and females.  Another lifer.  It was really a pleasant place, and I hung around for a couple of hours.


Finally I moved on, heading for my next home away from home, the Woody Grange Chalets.  The “chalets” are four two-bedroom cabins on an 80 acre piece of rural property, just outside of Albany, which is a good sized town, as Aussie towns go.  I haven’t actually been into Albany yet, and I don’t know the population, but I think it is the biggest town in the Southwest of Western Australia.  The four cabins are situated about halfway back on the property.  They are several hundred yards for the house, and they look out over green pastures with trees in the background.  Very, very pretty, and very, very peaceful.  The cabins are maybe 100 yards apart, and I have only seen one car so far – I think only one of the other cabins was occupied last night, and there has been no sign of anyone today.


My chalet is very nicely furnished and very comfortable.  The water is wonderful!  What a relief, after the terrible water at the Stirling Range Retreat.  The water was so bad there, I couldn’t even bear to take a shower in it.  Not only did it taste and smell terrible, it felt kind of oily.  Besides being much more comfortable, in a much prettier setting, this place just “feels” better.  I’m completely alone here, so it isn’t a matter of human companionship – I just like being here more than being at the last place.  I won’t see anywhere near as many new birds here, though.


I got here about 1 o’clock, but no one was around, so I went off and got a hot meat pie for lunch and found a nice place to eat it, along with a couple of apricot-coconut slices.  It was kangaroo this time, something I don’t think I ever had on my last two trips to Oz.  It tasted pretty much like beef, maybe a bit blander, but it was an excellent crust on the pie, and it was very good overall.  The only thing that would have made it better is if they had had chicken, but everything was beef (or kangaroo).


I visited one of the “must see” birding sites near Albany then, and it was very disappointing with respect to birds.  It is on the coast, and it was very windy, which might have held the birds down, I suppose.  It is Two People’s Bay National Park, and specifically Little Beach at the park.  Little Beach is one of the most beautiful little coves I have ever seen, but almost no birds around.  It would have been worth going there just to see the bay and the beach, so I was glad I had gone.


There are three southwest Western Australia bird species that everyone wants to see, but are very difficult to see.  They call them the “skulkers”, because they spend most of their time on the ground, in very deep brush.  They are the Noisy Scrub-bird, the Western Bristlebird, and the Western Whipbird.  I didn’t expect to see any of them, but you are supposed to be able to at least hear them, so I repeatedly listened to the CD of bird calls that I have, so I would recognize their calls.  To get an idea of how hard they are to see, the instructions for finding a Noisy Scrub-bird is to wander around in the bush until you hear one, then get close and sit for several hours, hoping to see it scuttle across an open spot.  I’m afraid I’m not quite that dedicated a birder.  One guy who responded to my request for information about birding here sent me a trip report, and he heard one (at dawn, the best time for difficult birds), and crawled around in the undergrowth for half an hour or more, and finally saw it.  The warning I saw about ticks would have been enough to keep me from crawling around in the bush, not to mention the idea of being out there at dawn.


The bird I did want to see was the Red-eared Firetail, though.  They aren’t exactly common, but if you go to the right places, you are supposed to be able to see them.  Well, I have been going to the right places, but haven’t had a sniff of one yet.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.


After Two People’s Bay, I came back here to Woody Grange (that sounds to me like it ought to be the name of a football coach) to check in.  The college age daughter of the owners was covering for her parents, who seem to be away, I don’t know for how long.  She showed me my chalet, and I arranged to go over to the house to use their phone line to connect to the internet, at about 6:30 or 7.  She also directed me to a supermarket, and I went out and got some groceries in.


It was a relief to get back to a place with a big supermarket.  I got a hot, cooked chicken, some frozen au gratin potatoes, and some chunky frozen vegetables (carrots, green beans, and broccoli) for dinner – a much better dinner than I had had since the Fitzgerald River B&B.  I got ham, roast beef, and cheese for sandwiches, and that covered breakfasts and lunches for a couple of days.  Also some apples and some oranges.


After my humble dinner, I went over to the house and checked my email.  It was a pretty slow connection, and I don’t think I am going to be able to take the time to upload a batch of pictures form here, but I ought to be able to get this up tonight.  If I get pictures processed, I might look in Albany for some kind of Internet café where I could upload the next batch of pictures.  First I will have to process the pictures, though.


I was too tired to write anything last night or work on pictures, so I watched some TV and got to bed about ten.  I was up this morning about 5:30, and I had a shower (finally – I couldn’t stand the water at the Striling Range Retreat), had breakfast and packed myself a lunch.  I was out of here about 7:30, headed for the next “must see” birding place around here, and another one where the three skulkers live (and also the Red-eared Firetail).  I listened to the CD of the skulkers’ calls on the way, so I would be ready to recognize them.  This next place is called Cheyne Beach, and it is about 40 minutes away from where I am staying near Albany.


Well, Cheyne Beach is a pretty place, too, but I didn’t have much luck with birds.  I heard no calls from any of the skulkers, in about 45 minutes of rambling around the caravan park periphery, where they are supposed to be.  No signs of firetails, either, or much of anything else, except New Holland Honeyeaters.


So, I went down to the beach to see if anything was there.  As it turned out, I actually added two birds to my trip list at the beach, but they are both easy ones that I will see a number of times, now that I am going to be on the coast a bit – Sooty Oystercatcher and Red-necked Stint.  I got pictures of both of them, using the tele-extender on my camera and the tripod, for a total of 20X optical zoom.  I haven’t looked at them on the computer yet, to see how they turned out.  I also took a whole bunch of hand-held 12X zoom pictures of an Eastern Reef Egret – dark morph, like the one I had taken pictures of in Kalbarri.  I’ll be interested to see how they come out, especially one in which it was flying.  I took a lot of ocean pictures, too, because I love the ocean, and Cheyne Beach was very photogenic.


After about two hours there, I still hadn’t seen or heard any signs of the firetail, so headed back toward Albany.  I decided to visit Two People’s Bay again, and to have my lunch there.  It was again windy, even more so than yesterday, but I had my lunch in a pleasant shaded picnic area, out of the wind.  I took a couple of pictures of a Magpie that wanted to share my lunch, and I tried a couple of shots of a black skink that came around, but I don’t know if they will turn out or not.  It was about 15 inches long.  Again, no sign or sounds of the firetail or any of the skulkers.


Next I visited several places where there are mudflats, where a couple of rivers hit the ocean, but there wasn’t much around, and no birds of interest close enough to identify.  It was getting on for 2 o’clock, and I was getting sleepy, partly due to the shorter-than-usual night’s sleep I had had last night, so I came back here to my chalet.  I had a short nap and felt revived, and now I am sitting out on my verandah typing this, on an absolutely lovely day.  I would say it is in the mid-70’s, with a nice cooling breeze blowing.  If I were hiking around out in the sun, I would be hot, but here in the shade, it is lovely.  I doubt that I will venture out again this afternoon.  I’ll finish this off, then work on my pictures.  By that time it will be time to start drinking and seeing about dinner.  Tonight I will have the rest of the roast chicken, more of the frozen vegetables, and a can of baked beans.  Maybe I will watch some TV, if I can find something Aussie.  Last night it was all American or British TV, other than the news.  I guess I did watch some kind of Aussie soap opera about young people for a while.  I had no idea what was going on, but I love to listen to the accents and observe the social customs.


I have a couple of minor wounds I am trying to get healed up.  Several days ago I caught my right index finger in a screen door and tore a little strip of skin off, just below the fingernail.  I keep banging it on things, and it hasn’t completely healed yet.  Then, yesterday I stepped on a stick and it came up and gouged my other leg – took a hunk of skin out and scraped some more off.  I got some kind of “antiseptic” cream at the grocery store yesterday and applied it to both of them, and covered them with band aids.  The finger is pretty good, but the leg looks ugly.  I think it is on the mend, though.


I have two more nights here in Albany, then a series of one-night stands until I get back to Perth next Thursday.  Tomorrow I think I will explore more sea coast, around Albany.  If I see any new birds for my list, they probably won’t be very exciting ones, but I love the ocean, and I’ll enjoy the sightseeing.  Maybe I will find some opportunities for bird photography, too, even if the birds aren’t exciting ones.  I’d like to do more with the tele-extender and the tripod, because I want to learn the capabilities of that combination.


So, I’m feeling good, enjoying the adventures, and just rambling along.


Barry Downunder


PS – I just had a visit from the skink that lives in the rockery by my verandah.  It is about 18 inches long, I would say.  I had left my camera in the house, but manage to sneak in and get it in time to try a couple of shots.  We’ll see if one comes out.  At the same time, I had a visit from the female Western Spinebill that has been flitting around here, with her mate.  I got a really good close view of her, through the binoculars.  A very pretty little bird, the smallest of the honeyeaters, I think.  Earlier I had a good view of her mate, and the male is really a lovely colored bird – caramel brown, black, and white.  The excitement just never ends.  I can just see everyone stifling yawns at the thought of the excitement of visits from a skink and a tiny bird.  I like it a lot, though.  To each his own.