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Tuesday, November 07, 2006 Ė 7 PM

Bruny Island, Tasmania

 

Today was one of the great ones.  One for the gods, as I like to say.  One of those days that you wonder how you ever deserved.

 

I wasnít up until after 7 today, so maybe I am moving back to my slovenly ways of home, with respect to early rising.  I had my humble breakfast (egg and bacon pie, half a ham and cheese sandwich, and an orange) and made myself a lunch (roast beef and cheese sandwich and potato chips).  I didnít get out of here until after nine, and by then it was raining pretty good.

 

I drove down to Alonnah, which seems to be the main settlement here, as it has the police station, the library, and the school.  It doesnít have a store, although it does have the only bar I have seen on the island.  That is where the telecenter is, too.  It is obviously some kind of government subsidized or owned internet access place, obviously with the intention of getting country Australia online.  The place I accessed the internet in Cue, Western Australia was the same kind of place.  I had been told that they opened at 2 PM today, and when I stopped there about 10, it was locked up, with no mention of opening hours.

 

If you will remember, my goals for today were to go to the southern end of the island, to Cape Bruny, and to try to see the Dusky Robin and the Strong-billed Honeyeater.  With the rain and wind, seeing birds seemed unlikely, but I still wanted to go the end of the road.  It was coming down hard enough when I was in Alonnah (which is on the way to the end of the road) that I decided not to head out on the dirt/gravel road to the cape, which is about 11 miles south of Alonnah.

 

Instead, I sat in the car and enjoyed the rain and the sea, and then after a while, I headed back to Adventure Bay, where I again enjoyed the rain and the sea.  About 10:30, it started to clear, and the rain let up.  I saw two interesting groups of people in Adventure Bay, about that time.  The first group was all decked out in rain gear and daypacks, and they were setting out up the beach for a trek to the point beyond Adventure Bay.  They seemed to be having a great time, and the rain was light by then, but I thought to myself that it takes all kinds of people to make a world.  Hiking along a beach in the rain isnít one of the things I am likely to ever do, although maybe when I was younger and thinner, I might have done so.  The other group was getting out of a small bus or large van, maybe 12 or 15 people, and they were going out onto a dock, where a small boat was pulling in to pick them up.  That is another thing that I will not be doing, getting into a small boat in stormy seas, with the wind blowing strongly and the rain still falling.  The boat might have been big enough to have a little covering, but it was pretty open, as I remember.  Those people were laughing and seemed to be having a great time, too, so more power to them.  Not my cup of tea, however.  This was the sheltered side of the island, but it was still windy out there.

 

Encouraged by the brightening skies and the lessening of rain, I headed back to Alonnah, on the road to Cape Bruny.  I went through Alonnah about 11, and the rain had just about stopped, and the sun was starting to show through the clouds, so I headed out on the road to the cape.  AS I said earlier, it is only about 11 miles of good dirt/gravel road.

 

The weather kept improving, although the wind continued, which would be a problem for birding, but the sun was showing more and more, and the day was looking good.  The rain had put a layer of mud on the dirt/gravel road, so I took it easy, and was glad for my 4WD vehicle.  I stopped a couple of places along the way, to take pictures and try for birds, but the wind kept the birding poor.  Sightseeing was great, though.

 

It was really a beautiful drive, with spectacular views of the ocean from time to time.  I eventually got down to where you had to decide to go to Cape Bruny or to Jetty Beach.  I had read that Jetty Beach was a place to see Dusky Robins, so I took that road first.  It was only about two miles long, but it was truly a one-lane road, with only a few places where you might pass a car coming at you.  The speed limit was 20 KM/hr, which is only 12 miles per hour, so that gives you the idea.  I was lucky, and didnít meet another car, either going in or coming out again.  I saw two cars when I was at Jetty Beach, so I wasnít the only one out there today, but I was lucky not to meet anyone on the narrow road.

 

At Jetty Beach, I adventurously took the fork that said it was for boat launching only, and it dumped me right on the beach in the sand, and I was again glad for my 4WD vehicle.  It was a beautiful beach, so I took a picture, and climbed back up a road that I sure wouldnít have wanted to climb in a regular 2 WD car.  I had my lunch at the picnic/camping area there.  It was windy but beautiful.  Then, as I was eating my lunch, a bird flew down onto a post, and hung around for about a minute or two.  I got the binoculars on it, and darned if it wasnít a Dusky Robin.  Endemic number 9 out of 12, and another lifer, of course.  A group of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos came through, too, and I tried for pictures, but didnít get any.  I had seen them in the Hawkesbury with Keith, but they are great birds, so it was still good to see them.  So, I actually had a bird for the day, and a lifer/endemic to boot.

 

(As I was writing this, I heard a thud at the window right next to me, and saw that a Kookaburra had plunged into the window.  He bounced off and got up and flew away, so I guess he was okay. He flew into a nearby tree and proceeded to give a long kookaburra call, maybe complaining, or maybe rejoicing his survival, I donít know.  Iím glad he wasnít hurt, anyway.)

 

Next I made my way back over the one-lane road and up to the Cape Bruny lighthouse.  The scenery was absolutely spectacular.  Ocean cliffs, green hills, and surf.  I didnít take the walk up to the lighthouse, which would probably have resulted in getting an even more spectacular view, but instead wandered around the grounds, looking for birds, in the wind.

 

I saw a family of Dusky Robins, two parents and a juvenile who still wanted to be fed.  The juvenile ones have very streaky breasts and mottled backs, so they look a lot different from their parents.  Then I saw another pair of birds that were obviously different.   I got my binoculars on them, and they were White-fronted Chats.  A fairly common bird, but one I had not seen on this trip yet.  I got a couple of distant pictures of one of them, too.

 

So, by this time it was getting to be close to two oíclock, and the clouds were closing in again, threatening rain, so I headed back.  I only stopped once or twice to look for birds, but the wind was making it difficult.  I got back to Alonnah about 2:20, and I went into the telecenter, to see about getting online, so I could check email and upload Ramblings 24 and Photos16.

 

It all looked good, five or six computers online with a high-speed connection, but they didnít allow people to connect their own laptops to the internet.  I had been afraid of running into this attitude, but this was the first time it had actually happened.  The guy staffing the place was a volunteer, and all he could do was enforce the rules.  I asked about using a phone line to connect to my own ISP, and paying as if I were using their connection, but he didnít really have the authority to authorize that.  I asked if he could call someone, but he said the boss was in Melbourne.  We talked about transferring my files that I wanted to upload to one of their computers, but my computer doesnít have a floppy drive and I hadnít brought along a USB flash drive (a stupid oversight on my part).  He could sell me a USB flash drive, but they were ridiculously expensive.  He finally suggested burning a CD with my files on it.  I could buy a blank CD for only A$2.  So, I did that, and signed on with one of their computers.

 

I took care of my email first, as I could do that through the AOL website.  I didnít have anything to respond to, so I moved on to Ramblings24, and I was able to upload that to the website.  Next I moved on to Photos16.  I couldnít use the FTP program that I normally use, because that was on my laptop, so I tried to use the file uploading feature of my website provider, as I have been doing with my Ramblings.  It worked for a while, but I ran into a problem because the website providerís file uploading feature limits the length of the file name you can use (I canít imagine why it is like that, but I remembered that I had run into this problem before, which is why I use the FTP program to upload my pictures), and I had used some file names for my pictures that were too long.  I couldnít find a way around that problem, so I gave up and paid for my half hour of web time, and for the blank CD.

 

I was still determined to get Photos16 up, though, so went back to the Morella Island
Retreats office and again asked Michael if I could use his phone line.  Agreeable as ever, he cheerfully agreed, and I hooked up the computer and signed on.  It went very smoothly, and only took about 15 or 20 minutes to get Photos16 up to the website.  Mission accomplished!

 

(I found Michael to be a very interesting person.  He and his wife bought this accommodation rental business only a few months ago, and they have ambitious plans to expand it.  He is from Northern Tasmania.  The thing about him that I find so interesting is that he reminds me strongly of the late Steve Irwin.  His accent, to my uneducated ear, sounds like Stevoís, and his approach to life, enthusiastic and positive, also remind me of Irwin.  He was even wearing a khaki shirt and shorts the first two days I saw him, despite temperatures in the 50ís.  I had to watch myself, so I didnít call him Steve, he reminded me of him so strongly.  He was really hospitable and helpful to me, and I enjoyed meeting him.)

 

Next, I started looking online for a place to stay on Thursday and Friday nights.  I thought it would be easy, but it turned into a problem.  The first 6 or 7 places I checked were all booked for Friday night.  There really arenít all that many motels and hotels in the Hobart area, and I was running out of choices.  I had two more to try, but I only had phone numbers; I couldnít check availability online with these two.  So, I disconnected the computer and used Michaelís phone to call those two.  The first one I called was booked on Friday night, but the second one had a room available.  I took the room, for Thursday and Friday nights, so at least I have a place to sleep now.  It has a phone with a data port, so I should be able to get online (my number one priority).  Everything else looks good, almost too good, for the price.  Iím a little worried about the neighborhood (because the price seems low), and I have been fooled before by websites that look great, but the place turns out to be a dump, so I will worry about it, but at least I have a place to stay for those last two nights in Tasmania.  It is right in town, about a mile from the city center.  I would have rather stayed somewhere in the suburbs or even in the country, but there are very few, if any, places like that, so I settled for this.  Hobart isnít very big, so I think it is going to be fine.  It is a relief to have it settled again.  This is one of the reasons I plan everything in advance, so I donít have to deal with this kind of thing, but in this case, I have changed my original plans.  Anyway, now it is settled, and weíll see how it all works out.

 

By the time I was finished doing all that, it was getting close to 5 PM, so I headed for home.  First, I paid for my three nights here, so in the morning I can head for the ferry, and not have to drive back nine miles to pay, then back again to get the ferry.  It will save me some time in the morning.  I am planning to catch the 10 AM ferry, and the one after that is at 11:35.  There is one at 8:25, but Iím not that ambitious or in that much of a hurry.

 

On my way ďhomeĒ, I stopped for a quick look around at the beginning of the walk to Cape Queen Elizabeth, on which one of the people who had given me advice had seen Strong-billed Honeyeaters, the remaining endemic that I hoped to see.  I walked down the path a little ways, and never saw any honeyeaters of any kind, in the windy conditions, but all of a sudden, there was a male Flame Robin on the fence!  Not a lifer or an endemic, but a species I had not seen yet on this trip.  I even got some very distant pictures of him, which show his color, but not much detail.  I also saw another Dusky Robin, and there was an immature one with it, and I got some pictures of them together, too.  Very exciting stuff.  But, there was still one more surprise to come.  As I walked down the path a little farther, I flushed a couple of quail.  They were obviously quail, and only one species of quail is found here on Bruny, so I was able to add Brown Quail to my trip list as well.  So, the score for the day stood at four species for my trip list, of which one was an endemic and lifer.  It was an excellent result for a very wet, windy day, when I didnít really do very much birding at all.

 

It was 5:30 PM by then, so I came on back here and enjoyed some of my Bundy rum and orange-mango juice, while I enjoyed the sunset over the water.  I have found a way to get mixed nuts the way I like them.  I bought some unsalted peanuts and a package of salted ďroyaleĒ mixed nuts that donít have peanuts in them.  I mixed them all together, and now I have lightly salted mixed nuts with a good ratio of peanuts to other nuts.

 

I downloaded my pictures from today to the computer and looked through them, choosing the ones I want to process for the website, and I finally had my dinner.  Tonight it was canned ďsteak and vegetablesĒ.  The ďsteakĒ looked a little dodgy to me, but I reckon it was meat, anyway, and it actually tasted fine Ė basically beef stew.  I had some bread and butter and an apple with it, and it was a fine meal for this old Rambler.  I finished it off with some dark chocolate Tim Tams, as I finished the last of the six pack of Tassie beer I had gotten on my way to  Bruny.   I donít think I have mentioned Tim Tams this year, but they are a chocolate cookie that is just wonderful, and I have been having them for dessert right along.  The classic Tim Tams are milk chocolate, but I like the caramel-chocolate ones as well, and these dark chocolate ones were excellent, too.

 

So, that brings us up to date.  I would like to process my pictures for today before I go to bed, but it is after 9 now, and I donít know if I can get that done before I hit the wall tonight or not.  Sooner or later, this will get posted to the website and Photos17 as well.  It might be a couple of days this time, but who knows.  I keep finding new ways to get online.

 

Tomorrow I am heading north, after I get off the island.  It is only about 100 miles altogether, so it should be an easy driving day.  I plan to stop one or two places, weather permitting and assuming I can find them, to look for the Strong-billed Honeyeater and the elusive Forty-spotted Pardalote.  So, maybe some birds tomorrow or maybe not.  We shall see.  It is kind of dumb that I am going to the place I am going tomorrow, since the reason I chose it originally is that it is on the way to Cradle Mountain, and now I have cancelled Cradle Mountain, but it still seems like an interesting place to see, and I have to go somewhere.  The place Iím staying is a little self-contained cottage on the banks of a river, and the main attraction is that there is the possibility that I will see a platypus there.  The place is called Platypus Playground Riverside Cottage, and I will see if I can put up a link to their website when I post this, as it looks very charming.  If I donít get a link put in, then do a Google search on Platypus Playground Riverside Cottage, and you should be able to view pictures of it and read about it.

 

So, that is the story of my great day.  It was one of the best of the trip, I think, although I donít really like to start making comparisons until I am home.  While I am traveling, I like to just concentrate on the trip, and not get hung up on analyzing it as I go along.  As the Kenny Rogers song ďThe GamblerĒ says, donít count your chips at the table, thereís plenty of time for counting your money when the dealingís done.  Thatís a loose quote, I forget the exact words.  Letís just say that I thoroughly enjoyed my little adventures today.

 

Barry Downunder

 

PS Ė I should mention Tasmanian Native-hens.  I saw more of them today than I have seen on the other days Ė maybe rainy weather brings them out.  They are quite shy, and I havenít been able to get pictures of them before today.  Today I got pictures of several of them, always from a bit of a distance, but at least the pictures will give a flavor of these interesting (to me) birds.  Lots of them seem to have chicks of various sizes now, and I think I got pictures of a couple of the chicks.  They donít let you get close, so none of the pictures are great, but Iím planning to include them anyway.  I think they can fly, but I havenít seen one do so yet Ė they scoot really fast when you approach, though.