Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kangaroo Island ~ Part One

We arrived on Kangaroo Island Tuesday afternoon. Traveling from one end of the island to the other, we found it insanely gorgeous, with a few long stretches of mediocrity. We love our campsite.

Koala walking by our campsite.
And Purple-crowned Lorikeets flying just overhead. This is a very cool place.
It has been hot. Yesterday, although the top of 30 was predicted it reached about 40. Now it is 5:30am I am having coffee and it is a delightful. The air cooled down making for a lovely night’s sleep. I am so grateful for how the temperatures can cool down after being so stiflingly hot in the day.

Quick-ish cool-ish story of a lifer and how the pieces do fit together sometimes. Yesterday, with our trusty Dolby/Clarke book leading the way, we headed into Flinders Chase NP to look for the Western Whipbird. I paid the cover charge for two days (whipped out that senior’s card!) and chatted with the very nice ‘park lady.’ She highly recommended Chris Baxter’s book, “Birds of Kangaroo Island” and I grabbed one, a very good book. I do recommend it. SO… if I had not been chatting with the nice lady, I would not have bought the book. As Lynn and I drove down to the Weir’s Cove Track road (as per Dolby/Clarke) she was reading to me about the Whipbird, and she showed me a photo that clearly showed the underside of its tail. It has very distictive ‘scalloped’ white spots, sort of cuckoo-like under its long tail.
The photo from Chris Baxter's book that I looked at just before we beheld the bird (used without permission but I am plugging his book. Buy it!).
We began looking amongst the bush and listening. We hadn’t gone more than 100 meters when we saw a basically nondescript, grey-brown bird low in a bush with its back to us. We were both on it. And then it turned and I saw the underside of that tail clear as day. Then it immediately disappeared into the vegetation never to be seen again. Lynn later heard it (or another) call, but we could not relocate it. If I had not just been looking at that photo of the under-tail, I would not have been sure that I had the bird. I am very grateful!

Today we birded quite a bit. We went back to the end of the Weir's Cove Track Rd. but saw no more Whipbirds, but the ‘jumbo size’ island subspecies of Southern Emu-wren were cooperative. 
Right behind where I am taking this photo is where we saw the Western Whipbird.
Mr. Southern Emu-wren. They are larger than the ones I have seen on the mainland.
Ms Southern Emu-wren
Our other main targets around the island: Rock Parrot, Elegant Parrot and Glossy-black Cockatoo have continued to elude us. However, we did add the tickable, although just slightly less thrilling Aussie lifers of Indian Peafowl and Wild Turkey. 
Did not get a photo of the Indian Peafowl, but here is our Aussie Lifer Wild Turkey! There was Lifer Pie in the form of ice cream on a stick. It was indulgent and delicious! 
These are the Remarkable Rocks (yes that is the name). They are cool. 
And who doesn't love seals... This is a Fur Seal. There are lots.

Happy New Year! I am truly grateful!

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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

First Night In Troopy, Wish Us Luck...

About twenty-five minutes back down the road from here, we stopped and beheld the Giant Koala. I took its photo, although as you can see, it is a bit underwhelming.

Yes, there it is. Hard to believe it's not real...
We are in a little caravan park in Horsham, VIC on our way to Kangaroo Island for a week. This is our first night camping in Troopy, or Matilda Two, or Matty. She will probably end up most often being referred to as, “Troopy,” but she is still a she. A tough, strong, female vehicle named, Troopy. We are slowly adjusting to the much smaller living area. As I write this, Lynn has banged her head four times today in here (always on the same spot… it has begun to bleed a little). Matilda One had a proper door, but one climbs in and out of Troopy and that takes some getting used to. I reckon we will get used to it and I am grateful.
That's me back in there.
This is just a short blog. I wanted to post something from inside Troopy for the very first time. Before we put the upper bunk out, I have a semi-comfortable work-station in here. Lynn has yet to find her comfort spot. As she does, we will adjust as need be. I am sure we’ll both find a way to hang out inside with some degree of comfort. Right now, she’s outside in a chair by the outdoor table. We will see how tonight goes (low of 9 C or 48 F, yes this is summer). I will keep y’all posted.

After K.I. we will be house sitting back in Torquay until the end of January, but I reckon this is the official beginning of our next stage of travel. I am grateful. Although Lord knows there are some things that I will be missing with all my heart.

PS, Lynn is still asleep, but as far as I can tell we survived the night! I am having coffee (instant- dealing with the press seemed a bit ambitious for the first morning making coffee under the bed, so to speak). It's chilly out, but surprisingly warm in here. It is about 48 F outside, but I am mostly comfortable in a t-shirt and lounge shorts. The high today should get to the mid to upper 80's F, such are summer temperatures inland.
Cheers from under the bed...

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Tooth, Shoes and Keeping It Very Real

I have done dozens of selfies over the last year or so. I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I had a broken false tooth close to the front. It was held in by a bridge from about 1970 that amazingly was still solid. The little tooth was chipped and bent out crooked. Lynn and I have found a wonderful dentist here in Torquay and he was able to fit a new tooth onto the old bridge and it works well and looks just fine! I am very grateful.

I never thought to be wearing, much less endorsing, the odd little shoes called Crocs. Of course I have been aware of them for years. Many friends said how much they love them and I really just didn’t believe it. I saw doctors and nurses working in them, but still they did not look comfortable to me. They also did not look like anything you could walk any distance in. I was wrong (yes, it can happen). I have Crocs now and love them. I ended up walking several miles in the sand the other day (twice) and amazingly they performed beautifully. Much better than my beloved old Keens do in the sand. Yes, I love my Crocs and I am grateful for them.
They really are great.
As I have stated, possibly ad nauseam, being genuine is very important to me. I have written from my heart in these blogs and posts. But perhaps I have still not been clear enough. 

As I focus on the positive and the gratitude, I often make references to the fact that I am writing these as much for me to learn, as for others to read. I am not naturally positive or grateful, nor am I always as “happy” as the selfies look, or as my writing sounds, but I am never false in what I write. It is a process, and damn it, at least I am in process! Some do not understand it. Much of my life at this point could be aptly called, “Living the Dream”. I love most of the stuff that I am doing! I am grateful that I have made the choices that created the opportunities to be doing this! And some were hard choices.

These opportunities came at a price… comfort, security and trust are a few of those prices. There are relationship situations still in my life that cannot be fixed, much less even discussed, no matter how new-agey an attitude I espouse. Regardless of how much I know that “It is what it is,” those situations create and feed anxiety and anger. I have dealt with anxiety issues my entire life. I self-medicated with alcohol for decades, and now I have been sober over 25 years. However, as George Carlin so beautifully said, “Just because the monkey is off your back, doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” I do have a much better handle on that ‘circus’ than I ever have before and for that I am deeply grateful. Yes I am in process and I plan to stay in process! He not busy being born is busy dying (Dylan). 

I may not really know what my future holds, but I am very happy with my new tooth and I love my Crocs. I am grateful. 
Oh, and I like my new hat too.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The "Year" So Far In Maps

I began this “Couple’s Year List” on 20 August when two Gang-gang Cockatoos flew over our heads in my son’s driveway in Torquay, Victoria. It seemed as good a starting point as any. We ticked a few birds around the area, particularly at the wonderful Western Treatment Plant in Werribee. Then we began our traveling on 1 September with the list at 100.

The list is simple. We are keeping a list of birds seen together in Australia for one year. Our “Year” will run from 20 August 2015 to 19 August 2016. I would love to have done a January first start, but our situation has limits and our timeframe is what it must be. I am just ridiculously grateful that we have a year!

These blogs are in part a journal of the travels and my gratitude for life in general. This gratitude and positive attitude is not something that comes naturally to me, quite the opposite. Writing about it helps. I am grateful for it, this blog, and those who join me on this journey. It may not come naturally to me, but believe me I am grateful! I will also always be as genuine as I am capable of being. This will be me, not some f-ing new age, zen like creature who is always as happy as he looks in his selfies (although Lord knows I try).

I just restarted this blog entry. I began to delve into more detail than I want to (or can do) at this time and I mainly want to show our route. I may very well do a book about this in the future, but this is not the book. This is the blog. So I am going to try and make this work with screen captures of Google Maps. But they truly have their limits and sometimes Google is maddening. I have written in a few places that Google doesn’t know about. It has been an incredible journey so far and these maps will hopefully show that. I am so grateful.

And so we begin... 
Basically Glue Pot to Bowra, then up to Inskip to not see Black-breasted Buttonquail on the first day of school holidays. It was mad there.
Up the coast (Matilda made it up to Eungella!! And we got the Honeyeater!) to Kingfisher Lodge, one of many birding dreams come true for me.
Flew from Cairns to Lockhart and the Iron Range... another dream come true. We got everything that could reasonably be hoped for. Wondrous birds! Awesome birding!
Flew back to Cairns, did a couple of days in Daintree Village then down the coast to visit friends and Lamington NP (Albert's we got you this time) Then on to visit other friends in Ourimbah and the scary "retina adventure" that did not stop me from going to Deniliquin again!
The map that was left out! Norfolk Island! We flew from Sydney to N.I. for a week after the first stop in Ourimbah, NSW. Then we picked up the new vehicle and I had the eye issue and laser surgery when we returned to the mainland. And then as the map above this one shows, we went to Deniliquin and back.
From Deniliquin we went back to Ourimbah for the followup eye appointment. Then we went down to Portland for the Cape Gannet and across to Torquay to leave Troopy at our mechanic's for the addition of some bits and pieces that she needed. Then on to wonderful Tasmania! Wonderful, wonderful Tassie (and wonderful friends there as well!).
There you have it. The travels from 1 September 2015 to 9 December 2015 on maps (I love maps). We are up to 468 birds on the list and we still have a few to get around here. Happiest of Holiday's y'all! I am grateful for this time with family and for my extended (and internet) family as well! Huge love to all y'all!

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

I. Can. Hardly. Wait!

I still call her, Matilda. Just a month ago we collected Troopy from the dealer in NSW. That was the day that my eye had the retina tear, and that began a cascade of anxiety for me that was overwhelming. It is a very long healing process, but all is going well with my eye and I am very, very, very grateful! The true excitement regarding Matilda II: Troopy, has indeed been much dimmed by my anxiety and that is a shame. She is an awesome, sweet vehicle and is now registered and taxes paid (American friends, don’t even ask, you would not believe it). She has had her bits and pieces added and sorted. She. Is. Ready.
Matilda II
The biggest change was having her electrical system re-done and upgraded. We now have the battery capacity to be unplugged, yet functional for at least two days. Then all we would need to do is run the engine a bit to recharge. She has an excellent UHF-CB radio fitted as well as a mobile phone booster cradle and antenna. She now has cruise control for those stretches of highway where that is indispensable. She has new LED lighting on the inside and on the outside over the “cook camp” side as well (the stove and sink slide out of the passenger side, I neglected to take a photo of that). She has a converter and more plugs and power-points for our various chargers. She has a light-bar mounted over her spotlights that will illuminate the road ahead and way out to the sides as well. She has 5 excellent all-terrain tyres that are chomping at the bit to get dirty. She is sitting… and waiting… and I can hardly wait as well!
We have not yet "moved in" but that's where we'll live (the bed will of course, be above this). 

Her cockpit and helm.

As with Matilda One, Black Swamp Bird Observatory is represented.
I will post photos with her with her pop-top up sometime. But other than that, this is Matilda as she is now… the second version. I actually did lay my hands on “Matilda One” and “Matilda Two” creating a bridge between the two so that the essence of the original Matilda could transfer into her new physical body. No, I do not really believe in such things, but I did do it. And I still want to call her, Matilda, as that is who she is to me. Lynn feels that Troopy is her new name. We will see. What we call her is not as important as who, and what she is. She is the transportation that makes (almost) all of Australia accessible to me. She has two 90 liter diesel fuel tanks, giving her a range of over 1200 kilometers. She has a 50 liter water tank. She has V-8 turbo-charged (whatever that means) power to spare. She is SO ready.
PS, Here are photos with her top up and kitchen out and of the bed in the pop-top.

I. Can. Hardly. Wait!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Back In Victoria

The big ferry landed us safe and sound in Victoria yesterday morning. That is a lovely way to travel. Of course, we have had two very calm crossings. I have heard that the Bass Strait can be rough and even a ship that big can rock and roll, and not in a good way. But we had an excellent night’s sleep and I am grateful.

We wanted to do a bit of birding in the morning and chose to head into the Serendip Sanctuary in Lara on our way toward Torquay. There were a few birds possible there for the year list. Serenidip is my go-to spot for Eurasian Tree Sparrow and after looking through a lot of House Sparrows, I finally found one with a chestnut head and spot on its cheek. It was in the same bush where I got my lifer a few years ago. I am grateful.
Recording shot of the year's Eurasian Tree Sparrow 
One of my favorite little parrots (now that is a large list) is the Purple-crowned Lorikeet and we found those in the park as well. We saw several groups of them and I got some photos. We did not see any Little Lorikeets amongst them, so we still need those on the year list. I definitely had the best looks I have gotten of Purple-crowned and I am grateful. They are beautiful, blue-bellied little birds!
I love Purple-crowned Lorikeets 

A Dusky Woodswallow that was posing so nicely that I had to make its photograph...
and a lovely Black-fronted Dotterel that wanted its photo made as well.
We will be here in Torquay through the holidays. Today we take Troopy to be registered in Victoria (American friends, you have no idea how expensive that is here). Yes, Matilda’s soul will live on in her 4WD version! She. Is. Alive! 
Stay tuned, the adventure is really just beginning.

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

More Tassie ~ I Love This Place

We are back with our friends Anne and Graham, and their son, Tim in Hobart (Lindisfarne). It is wonderfully comfortable here and I am grateful for their company, hospitality and accommodation.

Here are some more photos from Tassie.
Freckled Ducks 
Green Rosella and lunch 
It's so fuffy I'm gonna die! (Despicable Me reference). 
Pink Robin fluffiness 
So gorgeous

Bushtit... great name and great bird. 
Grey Teal 
Beautiful Firetail

Watched a flock of Swift Parrots in Adventure Bay on Bruny Island

Little Penguins on the Neck at Bruny Island.
Sooty Oystercatcher and Pied Oystercatcher Tasman Peninsula
Yesterday we had a fantastic time driving to the southwest with Anne and Graham. We were able to add two more to the “Couple’s Year List” (it’s now at 461 since 20 August). We also did some sightseeing along these truly beautiful landscapes. We had originally planned to have a lot more time in Tassie, but we will return! I am grateful!
Southwest National Park gorgeousness

Lake Pedder           
Pink Robin Mount Field NP eating lunch. 

Not into having its photo made, but this was a gorgeously marked Crescent Honeyeater.
Yellow-wattlebird in our friend's backyard.


Russell Falls, Mount Fields NP
I had not mentioned it, but on Bruny Island last Thursday, Lynn and I were forced off the road by an oncoming SUV. In Australia, there are often times when you are sharing what is basically a one-lane road. You slow and move to the left, they slow and move to the left until everyone clears each other. This vehicle did not move and continued hurtling toward us without slowing. I inched as far left as I could and at the last minute had to move a bit further to avoid sideswiping them and sideswiped a metal post. It tore off the side-view mirror and destroyed the door handle, as well as denting and scraping the side of the Prius. As far as we know, the other vehicle never even looked back. I am grateful that it was not worse than it was. I was able to re-attach the mirror and I am grateful for that as well. We will deal with the insurance and repair when we return to Victoria. All will be well.

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