Friday, February 9, 2018

Two Troopies To Tassie Part Two

I have been gratefully buried in working on the book of the year of travel and birding called, The Year. It will be done in the next couple of months and I am very happy with our progress. My dear friend Lily Kumpe has been instrumental in bringing this project closer and closer to reality.

But I never wrote the second part of the Tasmania blog that I promised a few weeks ago. So here is an admittedly brief second entry, but with a lot of photos.

After the Juan Fernadez Petrel pelagic, Robert and I drove up to the mountains of northern Tassie to spend a couple of nights in a cabin at Mountain Valley Wilderness Holidays. It is beautiful up there with the Black Bluff Mountain backdrop for this idyllic valley setting. It was moving being there. 

It is a private nature reserve and a release area for rehabilitated animals. It is also a wonderful spot to see mammals right in front of your cabin. We did just that. Incredible. Here are some photos.


Tasmanian Devils

Tiger Quolls 
We left the magical valley and spent a bit of time traveling around Tasmania. One of the most beautiful spots, and a free camp, was in Boat Harbour Beach. Have a look...

Robert resting whilst looking for lizards amongst the rocks. 
It was uncharacteristically hot in the northern part of Tassie and after a stay at Narawntapu National Park, we went south for a night in Port Arthur. After that, I rolled up the east coast where I found another wonderful free camp in Lagoons Beach. 
Narawntapu National Park
Port Arthur cooler camping

The above three photos were at the free camp.
Spiky Bridge near Swansea

Then the next night I took a spot with a beautiful view at a caravan park. It was only 10 minutes from the ferry dock from which I would leave the next morning. Robert and I had another comfortable crossing and I am grateful.

In keeping it real, whilst in the wondrous land down under the land down under, I also dealt with some of the darkest depression that I have ever experienced. I am working on dealing with, repairing and healing my anxiety and depression. I am certainly better right now.

I will remain a work in progress for the rest of my days, and progress is the goal. If it is ten steps forward, nine steps back, that is still moving forward. It is progress. I wish you all joy and peace. I hope that in this world, seemingly gone insane at times, you can find that heart-opening activity, or places, or person, or persons who can touch your hearts with joy, peace, and healing. Look for hearts. Feed your souls. Live.
Sending much love from back in Victoria.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tassie: Hola Juan Fernandez!

I love Tasmania. Which is not unusual since I also love most of Australia. I truly do. And when I learned that there was an opportunity to get on the 14 January pelagic out of Eaglehawk Neck, I made plans to head to the Land Down Under the Land Down Under. There is much to say about the ten-day trip, and I have just now decided to write it in two blogs. Therefore, this is Part One of what was a Two Troopy Trip to Tassie.

When I learned that there were two places available on the boat, I contacted my birding buddy, Robert, and unsurprisingly he was up for the trip. We made plans to ferry ourselves and our troopies to Tassie.

On Friday morning 12 January we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania. It was an easy crossing, although mostly rainy and grey. The ferry was an hour behind schedule and our arrival at Devonport was close to 8pm. We headed south to a free camping area that was only twenty minutes south of the ferry. We arrived tired and hungry to a very clearly stated “No Overnight Camping” sign. Damn it.

We found another free camp about 45 minutes further south and after a lot of bouncing down winding, unsealed roads we eventually arrived around 10pm at Liffey Falls Camping Area. It was a lovely spot, but it was too dark to appreciate it. The next day I had a beautiful ride down A5 toward Eaglehawk Neck. Here are a few photos from the drive through the Central Highlands of Tasmania. It is gorgeous out there.
At Liffey Falls Camping Area

Very cool and basically out in the middle of nowhere. It is worth a google and a stop if you are passing through!
We arrived in Eaglehawk Neck at the Lufra Motel where I had secured us a room. They call these rooms “fisherman’s rooms.” They are less fancy than their regular rooms, but they are quite clean, comfortable and roomy. I personally love them and have stayed in them before (and will again).
First thing in the morning we arrived at the boat greeting old, and a few new, friends. It was a bit windy and bumpy, but the seasickness patch was doing its job and I was fine. The first Lifer I picked up was a Providence Petrel that circled the boat. We saw a second one later on as well. After we were set up to berley we had lots of Storm-petrels in the slick, including four Black-bellied Storm-petrels which were Lifers for me. We had a many good birds indeed. And then... Juan showed up.

A good sign heading out of the harbour.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel

On pelagics, I very often think, “I don’t know what that bird is.” My pelagic identification skills are pretty lame. I was on the port side of the boat as a  ‘petrel’ that was very light underneath came flying directly toward the boat. I thought, “I REALLY don’t know what that bird is!” I pointed and asked, “What is that!” I turned to my friend Paul Brooks who was standing just to my left. Paul organizes these trips and his pelagic bird identification skills are amongst the best. His face was blank. He said, “I don’t know. Take pictures!” We did.

After consulting the field guides and checking the photos, it was determined that we had seen a Juan Fernandez Petrel. This was only the second sighting in Australia! The first sighting had been in 1985 off NSW. Of course this was a Life Bird for everyone! Sweet.

Paul Brooks' back of camera underwing shot that clenched the identification.
There was much joy! Lifer High was infectious and we were silly, giddy and gleeful. When we arrived back in Eaglehawk Neck my friend, Karen Dick, had organized for a group of us to go to a little café. There we had Lifer Chips! Delicious! In my opinion, Lifer Chips are an excellent version of celebratory Lifer Pie.

Robert and I also had an early supper at that café and then headed back to the motel. The next day we were going to the mountains of northern Tassie for a couple of days. I was looking forward to that, although I was really not feeling that great. But for the most part, all was well.

There is more to come in the second part of the Two Troopy Trip To Tassie blog entries. Sending love from back at the Tiny House in Lara.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Big Aleutian Tern Twitch

Last Monday about 1pm I was just sitting down with the computer when my phone rang. I had been out running some errands. It was my birding pal, Robert. He asked, “Are we going?”

I asked, “Where?”

He said, “Port Macquarie. Australian Twitchers Page. Liam Murphy. Aleutian Terns.”

I said, “Yes!”

They were positively identified Aleutian Terns, a first for Australia! Liam had photographed one last year, but was not originally aware that it was an Aleutian. He figured it out and went to the same area to look again this year and found a small group. The Aussie birder world was exploding.

I initially told Robert that I could not possibly get there before Wednesday. It is close to thirteen hundred kilometers to the spot and Troopi is built for off-road power, not highway speed. But I began pulling it together. The irresistible desire to do the twitch was colliding with the overwhelming anxiety of dashing off alone (I was meeting Robert up there). This created a rather difficult emotional state as I was leaving, but leave I did. By 3:30pm I had bought some supplies, packed, fueled up and was rolling down the road.

As it was a Monday afternoon, I avoided Melbourne and the Western Ring Road. I swung out through Bacchus Marsh and up to Lancefield and then finally out onto the Hume Highway. I arrived at Glenrowan Caravan Park just after seven. I am very comfortable there.

Google maps showed it to be about nine and a half hours from Glenrowan to the twitch. Nine and a half hours is at least eleven hours in Troopi-time and we would be driving the Hume into the Sydney highway cluster-fuck. Ugh. Troopi will do 110 kph, but the diesel consumption jumps dramatically once we go past about 95. Our normal highway cruising speed is around 92 (I had a cruise control installed soon after we bought her. I highly, highly recommend cruise control). I was trying to decide what I was going to do, but I really already knew. I was going to make the dash in one day.

After waking up early (of course!) I was rolling out of the caravan park before six. I hoped to get up there by five. Theoretically, I would still have plenty of time to find and see the terns (there were at least a dozen seen by Liam on Monday). It was a long, but gratefully uncomplicated drive.
Early morning Glenrowan Caravan Park
Somewhere about an hour west of Sydney, I decided to let Troopi go a bit and we did the last hours of driving close to the speed limit. I figured the extra diesel used would be worth it. We arrived precisely at five, at the same time as Liam and Robert. We all met at the corner of the road into the reserve in Old Bar, NSW. Amazing.

Robert had been there earlier in the day and had already seen the terns. He had been very considerate when we spoke on the phone. Before he told me that he had seen them and photographed them he said, “You’ll get them. No problem.” I appreciated that assurance very much.

We followed Liam to the parking ‘spot,’ then clamored down the bank and walked out into the water. The area where the terns were being seen was a half a kilometer or so across a shallow bay. It was easily waded. The bottom was solid and only occasionally did the water go above my knees. I had taken everything out of my pockets. We arrived on the large sandbar where two birders were looking at a flock of terns. 

We asked them if they were seeing the Aleutians. They said that they had seen two, but they had flown off about fifteen minutes ago and had not returned. Oh no. Just no. The next forty-five minutes were… Shall I say, stressful? I was crazy tired from the drive, running on adrenaline and with no terns there, it was like my adrenaline tap had been turned off. I tried to keep up a good front. Robert wandered off looking along another large sand bank on our left. I stayed by Liam and we kept an eye on that flock of terns. We were hoping that as more came in, an Aleutian might turn up.

And then… Liam said, “I think I have a possible...” Oh please, oh please… We walked closer. And then he said, “Yes!” The bird flew and was joined by a second Aleutian. They landed together and gave us wondrous views for the next half hour or so. They were still there when we walked and waded joyfully back to our vehicles. At my age, there is nothing that feels any better than that. Successful twitch and Lifer High! It was worth every hour and kilometer of that journey. I was and am so deeply grateful. Brace yourself... here come the Aleutian Tern photos...

Lifer Selfie. Robert and I have seen quite a few lifers together.
I stayed in Old Bar at the caravan park right around the corner. Robert and I spent the evening in that Lifer High downloading photos and charging batteries. I awoke the next morning before five just because I was still that excited. We decided to go by the Australian Reptile Park to chat with Tim Faukner about frogs and things and to say hi to my dear friend Robyn Weigel (John was not yet back from Cocos). Then we headed off to do a little exploring. We camped at Basin Campground and then at Dunn Swamp. Here is a rough representation from Google Maps of our route after the twitch and some photos from our trip.


Robert had a puncture in Capertee Valley so we decided it would be better to head to his house in Parkes. 
Robert and a very helpful guy named Emil. He lives in a bus behind Capertee Campground.

We spent Friday night in Parkes and then I drove to the Lara on Saturday. Today, Sunday, I am having a Lifer Day. I have stretched Lifer Pie into Lifer Day. I am writing this blog, and through that, reliving the twitch and the adventure. Sharing is a huge win-win for me.

Sending much love from the Tiny House.