Return to 2006 Australia Trip


Tuesday, November 14, 2006 Ė 8 PM



It was another adventurous and exciting day for me today, downunder.  I met Shirley and Doug, the local birders who had offered to take me over to the Western Treatment Plant (which is what I came here to Werribee to see and bird again), at 8:30 this morning.  The weather was a little better than yesterday, cold but not too windy, and no rain.  I enjoyed the cold, actually, although later the wind came up a bit, and that interfered with the birding somewhat.  My room got down to 60 degrees last night, great sleeping temperature for me.


When birding at the WTP, you basically drive around on gravel roads, stopping when you see something interesting.  There isnít much walking involved, just the opposite of most Aussie birding, which seems to usually consist of marching around on trails, listening for the birdsí calls and looking up into tall trees.  Here the birds were generally on the ground or in the water.  I havenít done much of this kind of birding on this trip, so I hoped I would pick up some species for my trip list.


I wasnít disappointed at all.  I saw eight new trip species out at the WTP.  As usual, Iíll list the names, as I think the Aussie bird names are so cool.  Whistling Kite, Golden-headed Cisticola, Red-kneed Dotterel, Marsh Sandpiper, Cape Barren Goose, Australian Spotted Crake, Red-necked Avocet, and Little Raven.  Some of those were ones I had expected to see, and some were pleasant surprises.


There was another bird that I had never seen in my life, that lives around here, and I have been hoping to catch up with it on this trip, having missed it last time here.  It is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.  It looks very much like a male House Sparrow, which they also have here.  They are in mixed flocks, evidently, which I hadnít known before.  Shirley told me that they live right here in town, so when I got back this afternoon, I walked up and down the street, looking at all the sparrows I saw.  At about the 10th or 12th bird, sure enough, there was a tree sparrow.  The markings on the head are different from the House Sparrow, and I could easily see the difference.  That was my only lifer bird for the day.  Not exactly what one would call a great birding find, but a lifer is a lifer, you know.


The Western Treatment Plant is huge.  It must run for several miles in each direction.  There are ponds and fields and it is on the shore of a huge bay, so you have a number of different environments.  The gravel roads criss-cross it in very complicated fashion.  From time to time, you have to unlock a gate, to get to the next part.  Birders can get permits and keys to be there, but it is uncertain how much longer that will go on.  Similar, but smaller, plants in the rest of Australia are not usually open to birders, and there are rumblings that access to the WTP could also end.  Meanwhile, it is a real treasure of a birding place.


I put up a few pictures tonight, but I didnít get any very good ones of birds today.  Doug is interested in photography, and we talked a lot about it today, so Iím disappointed I didnít get any good bird pictures today.


This afternoon I went back to the WTP on my own, on the two or three public roads.  You donít really see the best parts that way, but it is still interesting and I enjoyed that, too.  I saw some birds, but nothing new.


Tonight for dinner I got a half chicken and some potato salad at Safeway, and ate it in the guest breakfast room here at the B&B.  Oh yes, I also hit Hungry Jackís again for a large cup of ice, for my drinks.  That strategy has worked out well, in this land of no ice cubes.


I am supposed to go out birding tomorrow with Richard, the Aussie birder I met in Perth earlier on the trip.  Two years ago, he took me to the WTP and a local park in the You Yang mountain range.  I need to talk to him on the phone tonight, but we havenít connected yet.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is for light rain in the morning, tapering off later in the day, so I donít know what kind of birding day we are going to have, but whatever itís like, it will beat the hell out of sitting in an office at ADIC, you can count on that.  Iím ready for it; bring it on.


So, the days dwindle down to a precious few.  Two more days here, and I get to do the final pack up, and then the long, long plane flight home.   I can tell you, I am really tired of unpacking and packing, every day or two.  It is nice to be here in Werribee for so long, since I donít have to do any more unpacking now, and only one more big pack-up for the flight home.


What a life!


Barry Downunder