Monday, January 21, 2019

Birds and Travels of 2018

I reckon I will have a look back at last year. I will attempt to briefly put into perspective the journeys and the birds of 2018. It was the year that these migraines became a regular part of my life and the battles with depression and anxiety continued to wax and wane as they do. But I am still here and I am not giving up. And I saw eleven new birds. Sure, one big dollar trip to the islands would have netted me more than twice that amount of lifers in a couple of weeks, but travelling around Australia in Troopi is so much more rewarding. However, I will go to those islands one day!   
The map is only an approximation of the travels and only includes life birds. I also went up to SEQ in February, but I dipped on finding an Oriental Cuckoo. I was also dealing with bad depression during that time.

The year began with a two Troopy trip in January to Tassie with Robert. There three pelagic birds including the ultra mega-rarity, Juan Fernandez Petrel were added to my list. It was a weird and beautiful time. In the last part of it, I plummeted into some of the darkest depression I’ve ever had, but lived through it as one does. That which does not kill me can still make me pretty damn miserable. You may quote me.

I did no more major travelling until April when I met up with Robert again and joined in with the Victorian birders on the beginning of their big birding adventure. At Coober Pedy, with the help of younger ears, I was able to find and add Thick-billed Grasswren to my list. And then I made a decision to make a massive dash north to Katherine, NT. My old bogie-bird, Yellow-rumped Mannikin was being very cooperative there and it was only about two thousand kilometers. I am very glad I made the trip and it had some funny moments (those blogs are here).

Bogey no more... the Yellow-rumped Mannikin
Then came the wonderful May trip up to Birdsville and then down to Lake Gilles, SA with James and Robert. Thanks entirely to James’ hearing we were able to locate the Grey Grasswren, my 700th bird in Australia. We found them at Bernie O’keefe’s spot down the track. It has become the go-to location for these birds. Lifer High does not get much better than that. I love the Birdsville Track and that area out there. As with so many parts of this wonderful continent, I will return. 
Robert's photo of me on the road to Birdsville

I am not a "badge wearer" this lives on the inside of Troopi's  sun visor beside the 600 badge. 
In June, James and I headed out to the Nullarbor. I was in pursuit of one bird, the Naretha Bluebonnet. We finally found it and James got several other lifers out there as well. We also saw some of the most beautiful rainbows and landscapes I have ever seen. It is beautiful out there. Here are some photos of that beauty (and the parrots).

On the way back we called in at Rupanyup where I saw my second Letter-winged Kite in Victoria. It was a lifer for James and a thrill to see. Also, our pal Gary Gale showed up and watched it with us. That was a memorable day.

Then there were not a lot of travels until the big trip in September, the Thunderbird Princess Parrot Expedition. That trip will remain one of the highlights of not only my birding life, but of my life in general. I will always cherish that adventure. Of course I blogged about it and you can read it here. I will be working on another book, possibly to be called, “After the Year” and that trip will fill several chapters. It was more than a birding trip. Some of that journey was internal and very necessary. And I saw about 50 Princess Parrots in total over three of the days out there. More importantly, two new life-long friendships were forged with Glen and Bernie. We remain close and in regular contact to this day.

Spring came with more migraine adventures. Botox injections, which had at first seemed like a miracle were working less and less. Then there came the amazing opportunity to move into a two-bedroom house. And we did. I am writing this from my study that doubles as our guest room. It is the bird room and the map room. It is the me room. But 2018’s birding was not done yet. Just after Christmas James and I dashed over to Whyalla, SA and twitched the Citrine Wagtail. That was the eleventh and last lifer for me in 2018. The Tufted-duck was probably already at the WTP, but no one knew it yet.

Now I will have a look through my photos for which ones to use to accompany this blog entry. This morning I began the seventh day in a row of migraines. Gratefully, they are mostly not intense. As I write, a migraine visual is blotting out the word that I am writing (that has now passed). The back of my neck aches and spreads into the pressure in my head like a tightening band around my temples and pressing into my forehead. It seems that for now, this is my new normal. I head off to Tasmania this Thursday evening for weekend pelagic trips and will return next week. I will do whatever I need to do to function through the trip and I know that I will enjoy much of it. When I get back, I will get onto my neurologist and see what we can try next. What we’ve been doing is no longer working and this is not a sustainable way to live. I will keep y’all posted. 
This is my desk where I write 

I write therefore I am. I share therefore it’s real. I love because it is why we are here.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Tufted Duck at the WTP!

All twitches are memorable, but this was one in particular I will never forget. Not only was the Tufted Duck a first for Australia, it was ten minutes from my house! It will be two years this month that we have lived in Lara just across the road from the WTP and there has not been a “mega” rare bird in those two years.

As most of you know, Lynn and I had just moved house (albet only about 60 meters to the new place, but still…). So we are in the midst of settling in (unpacking, arranging, sorting, etc and etc). Then the Citrine Wagtail showed up in Whyalla, SA (Wagtail blog link). James and I were over and back in 3 days time. And after a lovely “Lifer Day” on New Years Eve, I was back to doing the house things.

Lately I have been pretty fortunate with my migraines. I have had a few mild ones, but nothing overly intense. Yesterday (Thursday 3 January), I felt one coming-on, but I got out and did some morning errands anyway. When I got back I grabbed some lunch, 3 ibuprofen, and was lying down on the couch. My phone rang. It was James Cornelious. There are very few people from whom I would take a call when I am migraining, but James is on that very short list.

He said, “I’m at the WTP. Have you heard?” And my adrenaline spiked. Something rare must have shown up.

I said, “No, I am lying down with a migraine and not on Facebook. What?”

“Tufted Duck in the T-Section. I am here with Chris Farrell at the pond before the Crake Pond.”

”I'll be there in ten minutes, bye.” And I was too.

So I really only had ten minutes for the twitcher anxiety (FOMO as some refer to it) to build before I was there. I drove to the pond and looked through the scope and saw the bird in minutes. Far away but unmistakable. Sweet as. At that point only a small handful of birders had arrived, Dan Roman was in the first group. Soon Rohan Clarke, Alison Nesbit, Tim Bowden, Sue Taylor, James Mustafa and many others began to show up. A Lifer for us all, it was wonderful.

I will not attempt to list everyone because I am shite with names and I will miss a LOT of people. But it was glorious! Wondrous! JOY!

This is my point… there were at least a couple score birders and all (or damn near all) were in a state of Lifer High. It was like being at a NYE party with good friends that you know, but who you rarely see. People were smiling, laughing, joking, hugging, fist-bumping and patting one another on the back. It was the best of what birding is about for me. There where many of the rock-stars of the birding world. I mean, I got to point out a new WTP bird to Maarten Hulzebosch (he would have found it on his own of course). That put his WTP list up to 239 species! The man is legend. Dez Hughes, my friend and the Wader Whisperer, arrived to look at a duck! And I got to see Mike Carter, Sean Dooley and Kevin Bartam all get a Lifer! What joy! Surreal.
An historic moment! Kevin Bartram (very far left), Sean Dooley (checkered shirt) and the legendary and wonderful human being, Mike Carter on Sean's right. All three were getting a Lifer Bird!
This was the first time that this bird has ever been in Australia or any of its territories. A bloody FIRST! Credit where credit is due, the bird was spotted by Michael Dougherty (a Yank!) and reported to the Facebook Twitchers page by David Parker. Thank you both so very much indeed!  And thank you James for the call.

Peter Bright, Sean Dooley and me... Lifer Selfie
And today (Friday), the WTP is closed because of the Total Fire Ban. It is 44 C here (111 F). It is going to be a bit busy over there tomorrow I reckon. I will be taking some friends in to the farm. My old buddy Robert Shore is driving down from NSW, my old buddy David Stabb is coming over and my friend Eddy Smith is flying in from SA.

I took a tonne of mediocre photos yesterday, but they are okay recording shots and I am over the moon to have them. Here are too many of them.


I will write more soon. I wanted to get this recorded and down whilst I was having my Lifer Day. I am very happy (and yes I know the dates on the watermarks are still 2018. The next ones will be correct). This was number 706 for my Aussie list and utterly unexpected. It also seems I have found a very effective migraine treatment!

I write therefore I am. I share therefore it’s real. I love because that is why we are here.