Saturday, October 16, 2010


Dungog, New South Wales


Here we go again.† Just a short one, I think.† I slept a little less well last night, but still pretty good.† I think it was because I didnít have much exercise yesterday, or maybe I had just caught up with my sleep needs.† I noticed that I wasnít anywhere near as exhausted at 10 PM last night, when I went to bed last night, though.


So, this morning I had my humble brekkie (a chicken breast and some toast and butter Ė well, canola spread, anyway), put together a lunch (a cheese sandwich, a couple of tiny cans of tuna, potato chips, and my last caramel slice from Woolworths), showered, packed up, and hit the road by about 8:30.† I asked for some ice as I checked out, because I had forgotten to put my ice tray in the little fridge last night.† They have a restaurant attached to the motel, so ice wasnít a problem.† I put it in my little cooler, and there was still plenty left for my drinkies tonight when I got here.


It had been really windy all night.† Every time I woke, I heard it howling around out there.† The wind continued into the day, and when I got up into the hills, it was pretty cold as well Ė about 50 F, or even lower at the highest elevations.† I overshot my destination, due to inadequate directions, but soon figured it out and returned.† At the highest elevations, there were lots of pieces of branches in the road, with the largest branch about 3 or 4 inches in diameter.† Leaves and bits of branches kept raining down on me, too.† The wind was strong.


My target destination was the trail to the Hidden Treasure Mine.† This area was gold mining country, back in the 1800ís.† They have put in a very nice trail, with great information signs, to the old mine entrance.† It is variously reported as a 2 to 2.75 mile hike, round trip.† Iíll call it 2.5 miles.† It is pretty much all uphill on the way in, and downhill on the way back.† The idea is that it is an easy walk through dry, temperate rainforest, and there are supposed to be birds to see.


Well, it was a very pleasant walk in the woods.† I went slowly, taking almost 2 Ĺ hours for the round trip, which included stopping frequently to try to see birds and to take pictures, and walking pretty slowly on the uphill parts.† I was disappointed in the numbers of birds, but I knew I would be, going in.† Birding in rainforests is tough at the best of times, and when you donít know the calls of the birds, it is almost impossible.† Still, I did see a few birds.† Grey Fantails, a very common bird.† I had good looks at a little family of Eastern Whipbirds Ė two adults and a young one.† You hear whipbirds all the time, but you donít usually see them, so seeing three of them in a family group, talking back and forth among themselves, was nice.† I had seen them before on the trip, though, so they didnít add to my list.† I also saw an LBJ (little brown job) bird that I was unable to identify, but I am sure it would have been a trip bird.


My first trip list bird was a couple of Green Catbirds.† At first I thought they were female Satin Bowerbirds, but on closer inspection, they were Green Catbirds.† Later I saw another one even better.† So, that was one for my trip list, and a good one to see, as I wonít see them again after tomorrow, as I will be leaving the areas they live in.


The best bird of the day was probably the Pale Yellow Robin, though.† I was almost finished with the hike when one came and perched on a tree trunk right in front of me.† It then flitted around for several minutes, giving me more looks at it, allowing me to confirm my first impression.† I definitely wonít see another one on the trip, so that was a great sighting.† I had seen them before, on previous trips to Queensland, but this is about the southern end of their range, and they are pretty uncommon around here, I understand.


So, I picked up two species for my trip list on my rainforest walk, and it was an excellent walk in the forest.† There are pictures in Photos06.† The light was poor in the forest, so they arenít very good, but they suffice to give the idea of the walk, I think.


By then it was after noon, so I went back down to Gloucester and had my humble lunch in a park there.† It was pretty chilly, with the wind still howling, but I sat in the sun and wore my jacket, and it was ok, barely.


After lunch, I drove around the town of Gloucester (population 2500, a pretty big place), looking for White-headed Pigeons sitting on wires, as I had been advised to do.† I never found any, but I had two other good encounters.† The first one was a black and white bird on a wire.† At first I thought it was just another Magpie, but it was too small, and the pattern wasnít right.† I realized it was a Pied Butcherbird, a fairly common bird, but one I hadnít seen yet on this trip.† I even got some pictures, first on the wire, and then on a fence post.† There were actually two of them there.


Then, a little while later, while still driving around looking up at the wires, I saw another interesting bird.† I got excellent looks at it, and I think it was a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, but I want to check with my bird guide tomorrow to see if that seems reasonable.† The other possibility is that it was a young Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, but I donít think it was.† Later I saw a couple more of the same birds, which is another reason to think they were mature birds.† Iíll see what Mick says tomorrow, but I am thinking they were White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes.


Eventually, I gave up on the White-headed Pigeons, and I headed for Dungog, my next destination.† It was only a little over an hourís drive, but I sure was sleepy along the way.† I wonder how I am going to do when I have my two longs days in a row, on Monday and Tuesday Ė those will be 5 hours and 4.5 hours, respectively, with the second one possibly longer if a particular unpaved road is too wet for me to use.† Oh well, one day at a time.† Today, I got here safe and sound, about 3:30 PM.


Dungog is smaller than Gloucester.† I think I am staying at the only motel in town, and it only has 12 rooms.† There is a little cafť and takeaway place directly across the street, and it is open until 8 tonight, so that is where I expect Iíll get my dinner.† The Tall Timbers Motel is actually quite nice.† It is for sale, and has been for many months, and I guess they have spruced it up to sell.† The room is freshly painted and everything seems new and fresh, including new doors, which are attractive wood ones.† The room smells great, too, and that is something I am very sensitive to, especially in old motels.† The room is fairly large, with a sofa and queen bed.† They donít offer internet access, but there is a phone in the room.


I had purchased prepaid dial up internet access when I was in Sydney.† 30 hours, over 60 days, for $15.† They give you a number to call that is supposedly billed as a local call from anywhere in Australia.† It is a special area code that is subsidized by the government, to encourage people to get online in rural areas.† In the past, I have found that most motel phone systems recognize the area code and bill the call as a local call, but not all of them.† I have had some discussions in the past with motel clerks, and have won all of them, but it pays to check, I have found.


So, after checking in, I first had to figure out how to connect via dialup.† I hadnít done that for two years, but I figured it out, and by golly, I got online the first try!†† I was sort of connected!† I stayed on for about half an hour, then logged off and went over to the office to see how the call was charged.† Bingo!† I was in luck.† 60 cents for the call, which is the charge for a local call.† I was in business, connected again, sort of.† Dial up isnít as good as Wi Fi, but it is cheaper than most of the places I will have Wi Fi.† Weíll see how it does when I try to upload Photos06 later.† I think it will be just fine.† Not fast, but adequate.† My only problem with it is that I forgot to pack my long phone cord, so I have to perch on the bed with the computer on the bedside table, when I want to go online.† A minor inconvenience.


So, for tonight, all is right in my world Ė I have ice, and I have my internet, sort of.† I also have food for tomorrow, I have Bundy rum and mixer, and there is a place I should be able to buy some cheap dinner, right across the street.† Things are good in BBís universe tonight.


I am doing something new for me in Australia, maybe never been done before by me.† I turned on the switches that say ďunder carpet heatingĒ.† Usually, I am running the air conditioner, but it is only 66 F in here, and I turned on the heat.† ďUnder carpetĒ means radiant heat, Iím sure, so it wonít necessarily raise the air temperature much, but it should make me more comfortable.† It already seems so, although maybe that is all in my head.


A note about todayís pictures, in Photos06.† There are two pictures of Strangler Fig trees, in different stages.† A Strangler Fig is a very interesting tree.† A seed gets dropped high in another tree in the forest, by a bird, and it starts to grow.† It puts down roots that go all the way to the ground eventually.† I donít know how it lives in the meantime; maybe it taps into the host tree.† But, eventually, the roots reach the ground, and the fig tree grows.† It eventually kills the host (strangles it) and remains on its own, a process that takes decades, I think.† The really old one in my picture has fascinating roots, I think Ė big ridges that run out, above ground, from the multiple trunks of the Strangler Fig tree itself.† The roots it puts down to the ground become trunks, eventually.


On my hike today, I saw four other people Ė two groups of two.† Iím not even in a remote area yet.† Later, I will probably go all day and not see anyone.† I worry sometimes about what would happen if I fell or suffered a stroke or something.† I also worry about my stuff in my car, back at the parking lot.† On days when I am traveling between destinations, like today, all my stuff is in the car.† It would be a disaster to have it ripped off.† I feel more comfortable when my stuff is back in a motel room or a cabin or something, not sitting in my car at a parking area in a remote location.† Paranoid thoughts? †Yes.† Are you telling me you donít ever worry about such things?


So, it is almost 7:30, and it is getting dark out there.† I should go across the street and get some dinner.† Tomorrow I have one of my two paid bird guiding days on the trip.† I have hired a part-time bird guide from Newcastle to take me up into the rainforest here and see what birds we can get.† Mick is supposed to pick me up here at 6:30 AM, which means he will have to leave home before 5:30.† It should be a very interesting day, and I hope to get another half dozen species for my trip list.† Weíll see how it goes.† I have food for my brekkie and lunch tomorrow, as we will not be near anyplace to buy food all day.† I am assuming he will drive. Iím very much looking forward to it, although leaving at 6:30 is kind of daunting.† I suppose since I am paying, if Iím not ready then, he wonít have any complaints, but I want to do all I can in the day.† It will be a long one, I expect, and I donít know if I will get anything else up on the website tomorrow night or not.


I notice this isnít exactly short.† I love to write, and once I get going, it goes on and on, as you have no doubt noticed, if you are one of my faithful followers.


The adventure continuesÖ


PS Ė I went across the street and ordered a pizza.† Pick up in 20 minutes.† What a life it is!


PPS Ė the pizza was great!† It was a Hawaiian - ham and pineapple.† About an 11 or 12 inch one, I would guess.† 13 bucks.† Just loaded with ham, pineapple, and cheese.† I had five of the eight pieces, and I should have stopped at four.† I will have the rest of it tomorrow night, cold, I think.† What a great dinner it was.† Now Iíll see if I can get this and Photos06 up onto the website.