Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fixin’ To Go To Norfolk (Island)

For someone from Tidewater Virginia, that is an odd thing to be saying about flying out into the pacific from Australia. Norfolk Island is out there in the ocean about a thousand miles from Oz. It’s where the cool pine trees come from. Here’s a map…
It's out there.
I am very excited to go to Norfolk Island, there are birds there to be seen nowhere else and a few odd visiting birds from time to time. I will be looking and I will take some photos and write some stuff for the blog. It seems there isn’t much internet availability there, so I may not be "around" much. Rest assured I will catch you all up after we return to the mainland.

We are fixin’ to leave for the airport on a shuttle at 3:45am Monday morning… ugh. In the meantime, we have been enjoying the hospitality of friends north of Sydney. For several days now we have been using their storage room and sorting stuff for the change over to Troopy. It’s not a lot of sorting, but we had pretty well settled into Matilda, and we are going to be releasing her from her crazy birding-bondage the day after we return from Norfolk Island. It is going to be quite the adjustment, but I have no doubt that we will handle it. I am very grateful as we get closer to "Troopy time!"
While we were here, we have seen some cool birds as well as visiting our friend’s world famous reptile park. I thought I would share a few photos from the last few days. I will keep y’all posted.

Upside down Crested Shrike-tit 
Gorgeous Mr. Satin Bowerbird in the front yard.
A lovely Brush Bronzewing at the Australian Reptile Park.
Eastern Water Dragon at the Park watching us eat lunch.
Superb Lyrebird up a tree in the backyard here.
Selfie in front of the Australian Reptile Park.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Meet Troopy

I have anthropomorphized Matilda. She is a she. She is a dear. She has heart. She has determination. I love her, but she is 2WD and way underpowered. She did carry us up the road to Eungela and we saw the honeyeater, but we would never do that to her again. Matty was our doorway into this wonder of travel-living, this awesome pursuit of new birds in new places, but she also limited us. A lot. We had to choose routes and destinations based on her limitations… not too steep, not too muddy, not too sandy, not too rough. Her dual-fuel was a great money saver, but only when we could find autogas and it is not readily available once you get away from the cities. I am now and will always be, grateful to my Matilda.

Meet Matilda Two, Troopy....

Troopy and us... 

Yes, that is a snorkel. 
It was a difficult decision for us to make, but we are doing it. On 10 November we will trade Matilda One in on Troopy and our adventure will go up several notches. She will look like this except that she will have spotlights and all terrain tyres. The Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier (commonly called a Troopy) is the most dependable vehicle in Australia. It is not fancy, but it is tough, durable and powerful. We are fully aware that there is less room in Troopy, and there are less comforts and amenities. We will cope. Because now there will be wondrous parts of Oz that are open to us… the Birdsville Track, Gibb River Road, Arnhem Land… we are coming!  And Princess Parrots, you can fly, but you can’t hide.

Yes, there is now going to be a Matilda II and we call her Troopy. I. Am. Grateful.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Prince Albert, I Have Beheld Your Lyrebird!

I first went to O’Reilly’s at Lamington National Park in January of 2011. I saw awesome birds up there and I loved the place, but despite a lot of looking, I did not see an Albert’s Lyrebird. Our friend Allison and her husband, Erik live an hour from O’Reilly’s, so since we were visiting them, we headed up the incredibly winding road to Lamington on Saturday morning.

We did not arrive until after 8am and missed a Lyrebird that had strolled though the grounds of the lodge at 6:15am. But we had a great day of birding with Allison and saw a lot of wonderful birds. Lynn got several lifers including an unexpected Pacific Baza flyover. It was a delightful day of birding and companionship and I am very grateful. No Albert’s Lyrebird though.

Regent Bowerbird giving me a look.  
The symbol of O'Reilly's, the Regent Bowerbird.
Lynn's lifer Australian Logrunner. 
The surprise flyover of the Pacific Baza
So… Sunday morning we borrowed Erik’s car and drove back up the mountain arriving at 6am (yes, we got up before 4am to leave by 5). For the first morning in days, no Lyrebird walked around the lodge. A little disappointed, we kept looking.

The as cute as they are ubiquitous, Pademelon. And for a brief moment, they can really look like a Lyrebird on the edge of a road. 
Ms Satin Bowerbird
Mr. Satin Bowerbird
A posing Brown Gerygone that I had to photograph.
After an hour or so of birding around the lodge areas (we got the Paradise Riflebird) Lynn suggested we take the “path” down to the Villas and Spa area. This led us to the old road down to the zip-line area and the trail to Morans Falls. We had spoken to two birders who had seen an Albert’s down that road on Saturday. We continued on down. At the entrance to the Falls trail, we met a woman who had just seen a Lyrebird to the right of the observation platform by the falls. Down we went. Long hike, no Lyrebird.

This is where a moment of realization washed over me. There I was in amongst it. I was deep in the rainforest overlooking beauty that needs to be experienced rather than described. It was wondrous. And yet I was staring mostly along the ground searching for a bird. I stopped. I breathed in the rainforest and the visual wonder of it all. We took a selfie with the falls behind us. I still wanted the Lyrebird, but it was no longer my entire focus and I allowed myself to be in the moment. Yes, hippie-dippy stuff, but true. I am very grateful.
Me looking for the Lyrebird to the exclusion of all else.
Morans Falls... 
Truly, deeply amongst it and loving it.
We hiked back up to the road and kept heading down. We got to the bottom where the zip-line is, crossed the stream and continued up the road. We heard a Lyrebird. We tried to find it. We did not. We came back down the road to the zip-line area where the Wishing Tree Trail climbs back up to O’Reilly’s. There was a nice guy on the road and we chatted as you do (he insisted that Lynn keep his water bottle. Thinking we were just going a bit down that first trail, we had foolishly not brought water with us). And while we were talking he heard a Lyrebird across the creek. We heard it too.

I headed back up the road we had walked just minutes ago. As I went up the hill and rounded a turn, there ahead scratching on the edge of the road was an Albert’s Lyrebird. I grabbed some quick shots and turned back to alert Lynn who was about 60 meters back. And this is where I know that she is truly a birder. When she realized I was seeing the bird, she ran up the hill. We had hiked over 6 miles (none of it level) at that point and she broke into a run and got up the road in time to get identifiable views through the underbrush of the Albert’s as it headed down toward the creek.
I. Am. Grateful.

Albert's Lyrebird... finally.

We took a Lifer Selfie at the Wishing Tree as we hiked back up the Wishing Tree trail to O’Reilly’s where we had a wonderful lunch at the cafĂ© (and I had ice cream on a stick as my Lifer Pie). I am so grateful.
Just starting up the Wishing Tree trail at the bottom where it's not very steep yet.
Albert's Lyrebird Lifer Selfie at the wishing tree. I am so grateful and hope with all my heart that my wish keeps coming true.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ADHD And Photos

As many of you know, I am extremely ADHD. Tasks that involve lists are difficult for me. So, since I am a bit of a bird lister, I have my work cut out for me. I think I have now caught up my “ticking book” (the Eighth Edition Pizzey and Knight) but Lord knows I have probably missed some. I do keep a word document list that I am almost positive is mostly complete, although just last month, I found that I had somehow missed Rufous Fantail in this “main list.” I corrected that of course. I am grateful.

This morning I was slogging through some of my photos. I do not work well in a linear fashion, so I pop around through various “events” and delete some here and some there. The further I get away from the first sighting of a bird, the easier it is to delete more of the photos. But with something like the Yellow-billed Kingfisher, it feels like I am deleting photos of my grandchildren or something (I am not good at doing that either). So I end up with too many photos. I am working on it. I am grateful that I have these photos and these memories. Here are some photos stumbled over as I was deleting many more. There is no rhyme or reason for this little group except that I chose them this morning.
Three photos of an Australasian Darter eating a fish.

Beach Stone-curlew (I took dozens of photos of a pair and they were all lost in that technology glitch that I mentioned in an earlier blog. It is such a cool bird, I am glad I have this one).
The difficult to delete Yellow-billed Kingfisher. This was one of the first photos I took of it, this is the angle at which Lynn spotted it. 

Ms Eclectus Parrot because I love her.
And speaking of Stone-curlews, here are Mr and Ms Bush Stone-curlew.
So, we are here in a caravan park in Maryborough, Queensland and heading off in just a bit to visit a friend who lives near Lamington NP. I have not been to Lamington since January 2011 and I am very much looking forward to birding there again. It was one of the first places I ever went as a serious birder. As a matter of fact, it was where I saw my first Rufous Fantail (amongst many others), the one that was accidentally left off the list. On many levels, and in many ways, I am grateful that I am returning.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Finch Hatton Finches

We were in pursuit of a single bird (a little flock of birds, but all of the same species). We are running low(ish) on available life birds in the east, although if we seriously want a good year list we need to keep looking for everything. But yesterday morning we had one main goal, the Plum-headed Finch.

We left our caravan park just after 6am and headed toward Finch Hatton, a small town where a little flock had been reported at the show grounds five days ago. We arrived about 8 am and began walking and looking. We had some nice birds: Channel-billed Cuckoos, Barred Cuckoo-shrikes and Red-backed Fairy-wrens to name a few. And we soon found a nice flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, but no Plum-headed Finches were hanging out with them.

Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets on a cane train. Too beautiful. 
Red-backed Fairy-wren hanging out by a cane field. 
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins looking aloof.
Finches and Mannikins look as if they have been spilled onto the ground. These were all mannikins.
We had high hopes. I mean the town is named, “Finch” Hatton! How could we dip? And I was wearing one of my PRBY apparel lucky VEFL t-shirts. I do have two of them. I wish I had kept count of the lifers I have gotten while wearing that shirt design (and other PRBY t-shirts). Way over 100 now and yes, I changed into it yesterday morning because we were looking for a lifer. But dip we did, at first…

Down along the river searching the Elephant Grass for finches.
It was just past noon as we decided to give up on Finch Hatton and start over toward Kinchant Dam where we were going to stay the night. We thought about having lunch first, but the pub in FH does not serve food on Tuesdays. Just as we were leaving town, I asked Lynn if she’d like to get a photo of the monument. The town’s namesake Finch Hatton was a relation of the Finch Hatton from the film “Out of Africa” and Lynn’s sister likes that film. It turned out that the monument was for fallen soldiers and not really about any of the Finch Hattans.
If you look on the concrete on the right behind the monument you can see small birds. Yep, they be finches.
However, as Lynn walked to the front of the monument, I noticed a small flock of little birds on the sidewalk. On the sidewalk! We had been walking, stumbling and sweating through several miles of excellent habitat (seeding elephant grass and other such finchy delights) and there on the damn sidewalk with a few Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, were Plum-headed Finches! I called to Lynn, “On the ground behind the monument!” And she got her initial life bird look bare-eyed. I got some photos and we watched them for a bit. Oh, I am grateful.
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins AND Plum-headed Finches!!

Finch Girl in the shade in front of the train station just across from the monument.
It looked as if someone had spilled a little bit of some sort of seed on the sidewalk. It was certainly not a spot where one would feed birds; there was just a little bit there on the concrete. How did it end up there? Why did I decide to ask Lynn if she wanted to stop? What if the pub had been open and we had eaten lunch. The whole experience of getting this life bird was surreal. I am very grateful.

We are now camped on the shore of Kinchant Dam (we have been here before) in the caravan park. We had a lovely, simple Lifer Supper at the pub here with a gorgeous view overlooking the lake. The rustic atmosphere of this pub is delightful and we enjoyed our well-earned “Lifer Pie” treat meal. I am so grateful. Today we will move along south… not sure what we’re going to do, but I will keep y’all posted.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Pot Of Gold

It began raining and it rained on and off, but it was still another wonderful ride along the Daintree River with Sauce. I highly recommend him to any birders coming up to FNQ. His webpage is Daintree River Wild Watch. I will keep in touch with him and will definitely see him again.

After leaving the dock, we almost immediately picked up Lynn’s lifer Azure Kingfisher. It’s a magically gorgeous small kingfisher, and in the low, early morning light it posed on a snag. I am grateful.

Azure Kingfisher
Then we headed downriver predominately to look for Great-billed Herons and we found a pair! They are like the North American Great Blue Heron in size, but far less common. We heard the male calling (croaking) and soon we were watching him perched in a tree over the water. 

Male Great-billed Heron calling.
Great-billed Heron

As Sauce moved the boat past him to try for a different angle, we saw the second (a female) in the tree in front of us. She was watching something in the foliage of the tree. We watched her for quite a while, hoping to see her grab whatever she was watching (probably a snake) but she never did and as time marched on, we reluctantly had to leave her.

Female Great-billed Heron
As we left the dock, the rain made a rainbow on the ground across the river. Sometimes you are already “in” the pot of gold. I love this place and I will return.
Being in the Pot of Gold... deeper meanings and living life. I am so grateful.
We packed up and drove just a little down the coast yesterday afternoon, stopping in Newell Beach at a lovely little caravan park on the sea. Last night we had supper with a delightful lady who Robert had met while he was birding down here (she is visiting Newell Beach). Lynn and I both really enjoyed her company. We exchanged information and we will keep in touch! So yet again, birds are leading us to wonderful places and wonderful people. I am so very grateful. I truly am.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.