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Friday, November 03, 2006 Ė 3:30 PM

Perth, Western Australia


Taking up where I left off last time (like a soap opera), I got Ramblings20 up to the website at the internet place in Dunsborough, and headed for Perth.  I tried for birds north of Bunbury, but never found anything very interesting.  Oh yes, there was one interesting birding thing.  I had gone to a reserve or park or something, north of Bunbury, looking for birds and a place to eat my lunch (ham and cheese sandwich and potato chips this time), and saw an Osprey in a tall dead tree, next to a nest.  I couldnít get a good angle for a picture, and I didnít much want to stick around there anyway.  There was a sign warning that the mosquitoes there sometimes had Ross River Fever, or some scary sounding name like that.  I wasnít so much afraid of the disease as I was of mozzie bites in general.  I have had some on the trip Ė mosquitoes have always liked me Ė and I didnít want any more.  It was a swampy estuary, and looked like a perfect place for mozzies to hang out, so moved on and ended up eating my lunch in a roadside rest area.  In that same general area I did add one species to my trip list, the Swamp Harrier.  It is interesting that I hadnít seen one before this, as they are common and easy to identify.


It seemed to take forever to get into Perth.  I didnít take the freeway because I had decided to stop at Alfred Cove, just south of Perth, and I knew I could find it by staying on the surface road into town.  It sure was slow, though.  I did stop at Alfred Cove, but the only birds around were the usual suspects Ė nothing very interesting, even for picture taking.


So, I headed out for the Aarn House B&B, the same place I stayed last time, described in Ramblings05 (but Iím sure you knew that, since you have been reading so faithfully and have kept careful notes).  I got here about 4:30, and no one was around, the place locked up tight.  I sat out in front, on a nice little bench in the garden, and reviewed some things I needed to review.


When no one had shown up by a little after five, I ventured out into the rush hour traffic in search of a telephone booth.  I had two phone numbers to try.  I found a phone booth easily, fortunately, and called.  I got Hilary, the woman who owns the place, with her husband, Jim.  She had forgotten to tell me where the key was, so she told me.  When I got back to the house, Jim had come home anyway, so all was well.


All was well except for the ice thing that I keep going on about.  The little refrigerator in my room had an ice tray (small), but it was empty.  I asked Jim, and they donít have such things as ice cubes in their own refrigerator, but he checked the other two unoccupied rooms.  Both had ice trays, but both were empty.  So, I had my drinkies warm again.  Maybe I will get used to it, eventually.  I have gone on and on about it, mostly as a joke, but it is interesting that Aussies just donít seem to do the ice thing like Americans do.  I imagine it is their British roots Ė the Poms donít use ice much either, in my experience.  I filled my little tray, so tonight I can have some ice, anyway.


I ordered Chinese food from the same place I had ordered it from three weeks ago.  It was just as good this time, and I again got enough for two (or more) meals, so Iíll have Chinese again tonight.  This place has a great guest kitchenette (without an ice tray in the refrigerator) and guest lounge, so I can heat up my leftovers and have a fine meal here.  Suits me just fine.


By the time I got here yesterday, through all the suburban and city traffic, I was really tired of driving.  I normally really enjoy driving, and I canít remember ever getting this tired of it before, but I sure am sick of it now.  Probably just another sign of my advancing age.  I have driven more than 3000 miles here in Western Australia, in the last three weeks, and the thought of more long hours on the road turns me off.


So, I started thinking about my Tasmania plans.  The birds I want to see are in the south, near the capital, Hobart.   My plan called for me to drive north to Cradle Mountain, mainly for the mountain scenery, as well as the opportunity to see the countryside along the way, there and back (different routes planned).  But, it is a four hour drive each way, and I had planned two nights in Cradle Mountain Ė really just one day of rest between the two days of driving.  When I was planning the trip, four hours of driving seemed very mild, not a problem at all, but at this stage, after the last three weeks, it just didnít appeal to me at all.  The final straw was when I checked the weather for Cradle Mountain and found that 65% of the days it rains there, this time of year, and is cold to boot.  The chances of a clear day are less than one in ten, on average.


So, I decided that I get lots of mountain scenery in California every year when we go to Yosemite, and I could pass on the Tasmanian mountains.  I have moved one of my nights, and I will need to find places to stay for two other nights, but I plan to stay in the south now.  I think I will add a day to my stay on Bruny Island, which is where I hope to see most, if not all, of the Tassie endemics.  This will give me some slack in case of weather issues or poor birding luck (skill).  Then, there are a couple of other choices for the other night.  I wonít decide until I am there, probably.  This goes completely against my normal practice of having everything planned ahead of time, but it feels good right now, so that is now my plan.  Iíll lose a deposit on the Cradle Mountain place, but it was the most expensive place on my trip, and Iíll make up most of it by spending less on petrol, anyway.


I have pretty much stayed in today, with one walk along the Swan River, which is only a few blocks from here.  I took some pictures, so I will put up a small Photos15.  I posted Photos14 a little while ago, and Iíll try to get Photos15 up by tonight, along with this Ramblings.


Oh yes, one other little story.  When I was here in Perth three weeks ago, I met up with a local birder by the name of Peter.  He has been following my travels since then, and I have asked him several questions about bird identification.  I got an email from him last night that corrected one of my bird IDís in Photos13 (what I had called a Brown Falcon was actually a Nankeen Kestrel.  The website has been corrected now), and the email also raised some points about the bird I had not been able to identify in Augusta, shown in Photos13 as simply ďWaderĒ.


I went back to my two field guides and guessed that the bird was a Great Knot, maybe, and following Peterís advice, I put together a folder of pictures on the website of the bird (the folder is called Unknown Wader).   I then wrote an email to Birding-aus, the Aussie birdwatching mailing list that I subscribe to and read every day, asking for identification help.  I had three answers within twenty minutes!  Amazing.  They all said Great Knot, as I had guessed, after Peterís comments.  A fourth one agreeing came in a little later.  So, Great Knot it is Ė I added a bird to my trip list (I saw the species on my 2002 trip, so it wasnít a lifer) while I sat in my bedroom in Perth.  Not bad.  Thanks, Peter.


Iím dreading packing up all my stuff into four bags, for the plane flights to Tasmania tomorrow.  Iíll have to face that this evening.  My flight leaves at 10:10 tomorrow morning, but I am still running on an early schedule, and the domestic airport is only about five minutes away from here, so that should be okay.  With the time change, though, and the layover time in Melbourne, I wonít get to my motel tomorrow night until about ten PM, Hobart time.


It is hot here in Perth.  It is 82 degrees here in the guest kitchenette where I am typing this.  Iím going to go back to my bedroom, even though I have to put the computer on the bed and perch on a chair, because I can run the a/c in there, and get it down to 72 or so, which is much better than 82 for me.


Iíll see if I can think of anything else to add to this, and get it up this evening.  It is 1 or 2 in the morning back home now, anyway, so there is no rush.  My hordes of fans back home will have this to entertain them when they get up in the morning (Friday morning there).


OK, Iíve moved back into my room and turned the a/c back on.  I remembered that I wanted to comment on some of the pictures recently.  I usually end up writing my Ramblings for a given time period before I look at my pictures for that same time period, so I miss the chance to comment on some of the pictures.


In Photos14, I thought some of the pictures of the fairy-wrens and the White-breasted Robin at the nursery I stopped at came out very well.  Seeing the fairy-wrens on the womanís hand shows how small and delicate they are, not to mention colorful (the males). 


The Helmeted Guinea Fowl have got to be just about the ugliest birds in the world, donít they?  Interesting, perhaps, but u-u-u-g-l-y.  I wonder if these were living wild on their own, or if they belong to someone, but just wander far from home. 


In picture 2943, you can see one of my hot meat pies and a caramel slice, in case you wondered what those delicacies look like, after hearing me go on about them all the time.  I just realized I should have gotten some pictures of the tiny ice cubes I have run across.  Ice cubes, internet connections, hot meat pies, and caramel slices Ė those seem to be recurring themes for me, donít they?  And, sometimes, birds.


I wish I could have gotten pictures of the whales breaching, when I was at Sugarloaf Rock.  All I got were some fins.  The problem is that there is a delay in taking a digital picture.  Some of it is due to time to focus, but even if you pre-focus, you have to find your subject and press the button, and even then there is a slight delay after that, before the picture is taken.  I missed all the breaches, unfortunately, but they looked pretty spectacular when they came out of the water about halfway, then flopped back in again, with a big splash.  I read that it is Humpback Whales that are migrating south now off the coast of WA, so that is presumably what these were.


Today I got a number of pictures of Darters, a cormorant-like bird that seems to be common on the river near here.  They have an incredibly long neck, which is not always stuck all the way out.  They twist it around into amazing shapes.  They dive for fish, and when they come to the surface to breathe and look around, they only stick their head and neck out of the water, so it looks really strange.  They are called snake-birds by some people, and I can see why.  I saw one today that had caught quite a large fish, and she went to the shore to get it down.  I wanted to get a picture of her with it, but she wolfed it down too fast, despite its size.  They just swallow them whole.  This fish was a lot bigger around than the Darterís neck.  The ones I got pictures of today were all females or juveniles ones Ė the males are a glossy black color.


I just marked up a Western Australia bird list, and I reckon I saw 140 species here in WA.  Not a very impressive total, but Iím satisfied with it.  I did it almost all on my own, and I had a really great time doing it.  My trip list stands at 216 species now, and 43 of those are life list birds.  Iím hoping to add ten or fifteen more in Tassie, and maybe 5 or 6 more in the Melbourne area the week after that.  So, if I could get to 236 species for the trip, that would be great.  I think that would beat each of my other two trips, which were shorter, of course.


Well, it is 6 PM here now, and I spent practically the whole day here in my room, doing computer things.  It feels good to be caught up, finally.  Iíll post this and Photos15, and then I will be fully caught up.  It was also nice to spend a day in the air conditioned comfort of my room Ė it is too damn hot out there for me.  Yahoo says the high today was 82, but it felt a lot hotter than that to me out there.  The 72 degrees here in my room is much more comfortable for me.  The forecasted highs in Hobart for the next four days range from 57 to 62 degrees, with no rain.  Sounds wonderful to me!


The next report should be from Tasmania, God Willing And The Creek Donít Rise.


Barry Downunder, about to go even farther downunder