BirdingOz03 - Sharon & Bob's Four-month Australia Motorhome Birding Tour, 2003

 

Report No. 1. Tuesday, August 12 thru Saturday, August 16. GETTING THERE, HEADING NORTH FROM SYDNEY

First, some designation examples:

Text in red indicates comments added after returning to San Jose, for website presentation. All photos were also added in San Jose, for website presentation.
Text in black is pretty much exactly as it was sent out in email reports from Australia.
Text written by Sharon during the trip is in {green and brackets}, for easy recognition

Sharon reviews every report. If she adds her own comments, they will be in {squiggly brackets, like this.} (Parentheses) and [square bracket comments] will be mine.
A bird seen for the first time on our trip will be in all capitals (e.g. CROW).
If it is also a bird we've never encountered before in the world, I'll add an asterisk to the end (CROW*)..
If it's a bird that we've already encountered in this trip or haven't seen yet but I'm just discussing, I'll use Initial Caps (Sulfur-crested Cockatoos) or no caps (brown thornbill).
If it is a lifetime mammal, it will be like the life bird (e.g. RED-NECKED PADEMELON*).
And of course, sometimes I forget.

 

Flash Forward:

Sunday, August 17, 2003, 9pm, dark and cool. Motorhome parked at top of campground hill, Lamington National Park, Queensland, a montane rainforest

I step out of the motorhome and see dark shapes moving slowly up the hill towards me on this crystal clear, star-filled night. I can see the Southern Cross constellation in the sky and about a billion other stars. It's beautiful, but it's not what I'm thinking about right now. I turn on my flashlight and see maybe 12-15 pademelons creeping up the hill, insatiable and concentrated on me.

And you say just what is a Pademelon? Snake? Spider? Goana?

Bettongs, Potoroos, Rat- and Tree Kangaroos, Wallabies, Wallaroos, Grey and Red Kangaroos, Euros, Toolaches, Quokkas, Monjons, Nabarleks, Pademelons. They are all kangaroos-like creatures, from tiny to the big western red. The dozen animals staring at me, wanting to eat, are RED-NECKED PADEMELONS*, and in their normal stance come up to about my waist, or maybe a little shorter.

Red-necked Pademelon

They are coming for the food Sharon threw out onto the ground for them, and they are a reminder that we are in Australia, about 150 kilometers southwest of Brisbane. And they are perfectly harmless.

But wait, how did we get there? Back to the beginning...

 

Tuesday, August 12, 2003, five days earlier.

LEAVING HOME

It's almost 1pm, and Sharon and I are standing in front of the house. We're waiting for Carrie Ross (my favorite first wife, mother of my two daughters Tara and Shandra, wife of our good friend Bob Ross and mother of Maureen Ross, Tara and Shandra's terrific sister) to pick us up and deliver us the 60 miles or so to San Francisco International Airport. I can hear the lesser goldfinches up in our maple tree cheepin'. That one is sayin' "G'Day," while that other one is sayin' " 'ave a good time down undah." Sharon claims that he's saying, "See ya, mites."

Carrie picks us up and chauffeurs us to the American Airlines domestic terminal, for our hop down to LAX, where we will pick up Qantas Flight 12 nonstop to Sydney. Thanks a million to Carrie for giving us a nice sendoff on this first leg of the trip.

We make our way to the check-in counter and all of my fears come boiling to the surface:

Baggage Rule 1. Each passenger is allowed two checked pieces of luggage. Each must be under 70 pounds, and cannot exceed a certain value when you add height+depth+length. We each have only one checked piece. My suitcase weighs in at 65 pounds on our scales, and is about 3 inches over the required 3-dimension total.

Baggage Rule 2. Each passenger is allowed one carry-on, which can be a maximum of 15 pounds. Both of our "official" check-in items weigh 15 pounds. We meet this requirement by careful design of an ex-nuclear engineer.{And by shifting our possessions between the four bags we have about a million times at home and weighing each. - Sharon}

Baggage Rule 3. Each passenger may carry on one OTHER item, such as a small camera, backpack, purse, etc. No rules on the max weight of this other item, but if they notice that my "small, additional" item is 3 times heavier than my official carry-on item, they may start asking questions. Sharon's backpack weighs about 25 pounds and mine about 45 pounds. I try to hold my huge backpack in a way that makes it seem light and airy, and like the olympic gymnasts on the parallel bars, I try to un-contort my face so that it doesn't show any strain.

We get in the first class line, for which we are using our frequent flier miles from American Airlines. The agent doesn't even take one look at our carry-ons or small additional items ("Dang!" - Joe Dirt, the movie). He just wants to make sure our biggest bag is under 70 pounds. He measures 67 pounds, smiles, and asks Sharon where she got her cool snaky walking stick. New Zealand, she tells him, and he is impressed. A nice guy. We are off to security and our gate. Both my carry-on bag (sports bag) and backpack are stuffed with things that I CAN'T lose to either theft or breakage and so WILL NOT put in checked luggage. I'll be using them every day in the next four months.

A purchased business class ticket from LAX to Sydney costs about 6 times (500% more) as much as a purchased economy seat. But a frequent flyer miles award for business class is only 75% more than a similar economy seat. Since we had enough miles, we spent them.

SAN FRANCISCO ADMIRAL'S CLUB

It's about 2:30pm, and our flight leaves about 5 pm. We like to have lots of extra time for flights these days, especially international flights. We have brought books to read while we're waiting. The Admirals Club is for frequent AA fliers, but we can go in there too, simply for having a first class ticket from San Francisco to LAX.

Admiring the Admirals Club

As we wait, Sharon gets into her backpack to give me one of the two York mint patties which I love but they are both melted from being in the trunk of Carrie's car for an hour in the California summer. I also brought three of them, and they are a little extra bendy too.

We meet a man with his wife, who cleverly deduces that we are bird people because he says hello then asks if we are with the ABA. I tell him he's pretty perceptive to tell that we're members of the American Birding Association. I continue telling him of my admiration that he could figure that out, then he sheepishly tells me that he was asking if we were there, like he and his wife, as attorneys for the American Bar Association convention. So I take back all the praise I heaped on him

Actually he and his wife turn out to be pretty fascinating. They tell us of Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. They go there once every year or so, and have taken their family several times. One time they were there, and birding guru Roger Torey Peterson was there, sitting on a chair at the beach, ticking off birds as he saw them. Remarkable. Well, he knows who R.T. P. is.

He goes on to tell about the travels he and his wife do, and as president of the Illinois Bar, it's apparently his job to arrange for fun world trips for his group to go on. They have sort of exhausted the usual trips to Europe, and he was looking for another exciting place to go.

We tell him about Turkey, and he is very interested. I tell him I'll contact daughter Tara and her husband Cihan (GEE-hahn), to see if they can recommend a tour company or person to accommodate from 10-25 people on a tour of western Turkey. We trade email addresses, and finally we both have to pick up our gear and head for our flights. We talk about books a little, and he recommends "The DaVinci Code." Bob and Barb were their names, like my cousin and her retired physician husband. Apparently all couples named Bob and Barb have a little extra going for them. Based on two data points anyway.

LAX, QANTAS FIRST/BUSINESS CLASS LOUNGE

We finally board the plane and travel to LAX. For being in first class, Sharon gets a tiny bag of pretzels, and I opt for the minibag of cashews. We each ask for seconds and that's just no problem for the flight attendants. I wonder what the coach passengers are getting. I suspect that they aren't getting anything. A cheery eight-inch tall hula dancer stands at the top of the cockpit instrument panel.

We make it down to LAX, pick up a cart, and make our way over to the international terminal. We go through security again here, then go upstairs to the Qantas lounge. There is a fantastic array of free food here - soft drinks, mixed drinks, fruit, nuts, chips, packages of pineapple bits, trail mix and more. It's very elegant, with lots of polished hardwood cabinets and tables.

We meet a couple playing travel scrabble, and later we talk to them. He graduated from Stanford, and when Sharon tells him I did too, he says, "I won't hold that against you." He goes on to say that when he met his wife (I don't think they were actually married, but I'll call her that anyway, because they act married) she was on a date with someone else. They were at a dinner banquet and were seated across from each other. "And what do YOU do?" she asked him directly. "I do standup comedy and I just completed my first novel," he replies. To which she says without a blink, "Writing or Reading?" So then he says that to get even with her, he vows to teach her how to fish.

Apparently, somehow he won her over, so I guess she didn't hold it against him for being a Stanford graduate either. They take our their photos, like photos of your kids or grandkids, and show me the 103 pound halibut she caught, and the 110 pound one on the next page. Another photo showed about 200 razor clams, ready for their barbecue, and still several more showed huge sturgeon. They went on to tell me how much of each thing they caught last year, mostly near their home on the Oregon coast, but many were from faraway places.

FLYING TO OZ (Ralphie's Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring translates 'Oz' to 'Australia'. Drink your Ovaltine)

We finally board the plane, which is scheduled to depart about 1030pm, and it is only 20 minutes late or so. We are in business class, and get to sit in that upstairs bubble you see on 747s. Sharon loves this, this special treatment our frequent flyer miles are getting us. The pilots are just through a door at the front of our section, and the flight attendants go in and out of there several times bringing in food and drinks.

Who cares if you're a little late when you've got a 15-hour flight preceding a four-month birding vacation, with no connection to make? Each seat is like a mini-home in our section. My seat adjusts every possible way you could imagine, and I feel like I am in a cockpit with all the controls at fingertip distance. It is pure comfort, with plenty of room to tilt back and sleep.

The food is fabulous - definitely first rate steak and all the trimmings, and we each have a movie screen that magically lifts out of an armrest, sort of like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Sort of. The best movie was "Holes." I had heard it was good and it was.

Oishi Des

Time flies when you're in business class. Since we got on board at 1030pm Tuesday night, the next day arrives in an hour and a half. It's Wednesday. But then we fly past Hawaii to the north, followed by crossing the international dateline. So now it's Thursday morning, a few hours after midnight.

 

Thursday, August 14, 2003. Day 1 of 118 or so, I'm going to call it. ARRIVAL, MOTORHOME PICKUP, DINNER WITH IAIN.

We land about a half-hour after our scheduled time, and quickly move through agricultural screening, where Sharon's stick is examined because it's made of wood. Lots of admiring looks and comments. We get cleared pretty quickly, then we go through immigration.

WE'RE IN SYDNEY, SYDNEY! (Second daughter Shandra's 3rd daughter - about two years old, and feisty. Her nickname is Hurricane Sydney. Shandra married Jeff Weese, and I like to tell them that I love you Weeses to pieces).

TRANSPORTATION PICKUP

Tanya, from a private limousine company, was arranged to meet us by our motorhome rental people. She is young, blonde, newly married, very "Aus-try-un" and is fun to talk with. She and her husband have a place about 3 hours from Sydney that he and his brother inherited, and they often go there for weekend getaways. She tells Sharon that they killed a deadly poisonous brown snake a few months ago {after I ask her, "do you ever see snakes there?"}. Sharon watched this terrible program on snakes, spiders and all the deadly poisonous things in Australia, and is convinced there'll be snakes and spiders all over, all out to get her.

I bet Sharon that we would see exactly zero snakes during our four months here. I've lately hedged a little, and tried to change my bet to 2-3 snakes, but Sharon won't let me. I think she gets comfort in my certainty that her concern is way overdone. {But I did buy "snake boots" before we left San Jose for safety}

THE MOTORHOME - OUR HOME FOR FOUR MONTHS

Tanya does a great job, meaning she doesn't hit anything, and delivers us to Coolabah Motorhomes and the crew there. Coolabah is picking up the tab for Tanya's delivery but we tip her $20 American anyway, since we don't have any Aussie dollars yet (That's about $30 Australian). During the trip Sharon picks up four SULFUR-CRESTED COCKATOOS.

Tom is the manager, Gabi the person I've been emailing with for the arrangements, and Jason will show us the ropes of the motorhome. They are all friendly and efficient.

While we are there, a friend of Sharon's sister Jeane and brother-in-law Wendell ("Red" to us) calls us to welcome us to Australia, but we are in the middle of stuff getting checked out on the motorhome, so we arrange to call Iain back later to arrange for a time for him to drive up and join us for dinner.

While we're waiting for last minute maintanence, we do a little birding. We hear some raucous sounds, and Jason says tells us it's a noisy Mynah. We have seen the Common Mynah before, though I remember them being a lot darker than these birds, which are a sort of dirty white. [If you remember hearing JFK talk, you'll recall him sticking an extra 'r' in a word ending in 'a' - like he'd say "Cuber" for Cuba. Conversely, if a word had an 'er' ending, he'd change the 'er' sound to 'uh' - like he'd say 'bigg-uh' for 'bigger.' It's the same in Australia. What Jason was actually saying was these birds are Noisy Miners, not noisy Mynahs, but I wasn't onto his accent yet.]

So the second bird we see in Australia is mis-identified. Crikey! How embarassing. And us, members of the ABA. I throw myself on the mercy of the court. We follow the sound of some squawking and ID a couple of beautiful RAINBOW LORIKEETS*. Our first life bird, or "lifer", in Oz03! We're on the board.

After we get all checked out, and pay for the entire rental up front, Jason takes us to the local mini-shopping center, where we use the ATM to get some cash, load up on groceries and household items, have lunch, and buy a cell phone (at "the Post," or Post Office). Very productive shopping trip. We have the very Australian lunch of burgers, fries and cokes and Tom picks us up and brings us back to Coolabah where our motorhome awaits.

More than a Post Office

Sharon packs all the stuff in, and we learn that La Mancha Caravan Park, our destination for this evening, has folded. Gabi suggests Lane Cove Caravan Park, which is back towards Sydney (we are in the northwest suburbs) a bit. She says that because of the season, we don't need to make reservations. We call Iain Standen back, who worked with Wendell for about a year in 1994 when Wendell and Jeane lived in Sydney, and tell him to come at 7 or whenever he wants. Wendell was sent by his southern California company to Sydney to see why the software project was taking so long. They had the contract for the guidance systems, I think it was, for a new class of submarine in the Australian navy.

The metal arm that holds the entry door of the motorhome open falls apart as Sharon is trying to fold it into its traveling position, and Tom has to fix it. Finally it's all done and we're off.

Just as we're leaving, we notice six beautiful, big pink, white and gray GALAHs (parrots) with a field full of Sulfur-crested Cockatoos. We get about two blocks and have to pull over again. Sharon has noticed two CRESTED PIGEONS*, each with a pointed cap sticking straight up. Dynamite. During the drive over Sharon picks up a couple of MASKED LAPWINGs.

FIRST CAMP

We make it to Lane Cove and the ranger lady checks us in. We head down to our site, but it's right next to a new arrival, who is setting up their tent. Their car is parked in the exact middle of our site, but they quickly move it out of the way. It makes no sense to camp right on top of them, so we move about 4 spaces further away and set up there. We get our birding gear, stop by the office and tell her of our change, and head out for a little walk and a little birding. We left her scratching her head and saying quietly to herself, as she stared at her computer monitor, "That's supposed to be a caravan site." We leave it to her to sort out. I'm sure she will, since it's just common sense.

We head into the national park, which is adjacent to the campground. We pick up our first KOOKABURA laugh, and I feel Australia all around me. We head on down a road checking out the birds, and get EASTERN ROSELLA and CRIMSON ROSELLA*. The Crimson Rosella is a beautiful red and blue and both are squawkers.

Crimson Rosella adult

They remind me of Mom's parrot of years ago, when she was newly married. She said it would say, in ever increasing volume, "Polly wants a cracker, -acker, -Acker, -Acker, -ACKER, -ACKER!"

DINNER

We head back to the camp and Sharon starts dinner in the motorhome. Before you know it, Iain arrives from work with a ton of very useful AAA (actually another name here, but free if you are a member, as in America) maps of the regions of Australia, plus a bottle of white wine from Western Australia. We have roast chicken, corn and potato mash. And Iain's wine. Have you guessed what they call mashed potatoes?

We review the maps, make arrangements to stop by Iain and his mum's house when we pass through the area south of Sydney at the end of our trip. At 10:30 or so, our poor jet-lagged bodies tell Iain we've got to hit the sack, so we mercilessly toss him out. Thanks a million Iain, it was great to finally meet you.

Bird Summary.

Life Birds Today: 3 (Rainbow Lorikeet, Crested Pigeon, Crimson Rosella).
For the Trip: 3.

Trip Birds Today: 10 (Lifers plus Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, Common Mynah, Galah, Masked Lapwing, Laughing Kookabura, Australian Magpie, Eastern Rosella)
For the Trip: 10.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Sleep in: Lane Cove River Tourist Park, northwest of Sydney

 

Friday, August 15, 2003. Day 2 of 118. SYDNEY'S KU-RING-GAI PARK.

We're up at 533am, and I get a nice good morning from a Kookabura. We rig for travel (electrical cable disconnected and stored, stepdown door stowed, all outside doors locked, all inside storage doors locked - locking buttons in, TV antenna in its home rotation position and cranked down to the top of the motorhome, etc.), and take off.

We make it to Ku-ring-gai before 7. I wanted to go here because this is one of the first places we went in 1994, and I want to go here again, as a sort of re-starting point. There are a couple of emus in a pen. Sharon says she remembers all or most of this, but it doesn't seem familiar to me. Since we are here an hour before the opening, we drive the winding road down the hill to see what we can get.

We walk a bit on this portion of the Kalkari Walking Track. We hear this wonderful clear whistle that starts off quietly, gets steadily louder, then terminates with a sound that is a cross between a water droplet hitting a pool of water , amplified heavily, and a ricochet bullet at Vasquez Rocks in an old western. Also it's sort of like a whip cracking. It's the EASTERN WHIPBIRD*. <include sound> Actually when he finishes his part, another part can be heard. It goes "tyooo tyooo," and is the female who times her call to tuck in perfectly with his. Occasionally we hear bachelors who do their whip crack, but there is no following response.

Sharon claims that she sees a kangaroo, but I don't see no stinkin' kangaroo. We continue our walk to a place called Colbey Creek Lookout, and we get a great view of the quiet bay below us, surrounded by forest. There are expensive looking boats sprinkled around. We hear the characteristic song of the Australian Magpie, after chasing it a little. I had forgotten how musical these birds can be. We also get AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK in a pool of water, as well as PACIFIC BLACK DUCK. When we look very carefully, a wooden stump transforms into a little wallaby. We can see him from the chest up and it looks like the tops were chewed off both ears.

We come back to the motorhome, and have breakfast - V8 for me and cereal and fruit for Sharon. I've got used to having a small can of V8 for breakfast since I started Weight Watchers in January. But Sharon has kept a sharp eye out, and calls my attention to a new bird, bright green and red. It's a great AUSTRALIAN KING-PARROT*.

We mount up and drive back up the hill to the visitor center. They are open now and I ask how much it costs. They say that if you come past the fee collector's booth before he is there, you get in free. We exit the visitor center and take off on the 3/4 of a kilometer loop path. It's all concrete now, where it had been open forest floor in 1994.

On the walk, we see several families of Wood Ducks and Black Ducks, the babies trailing behind the parents. One of the Wood Duck babies has trouble scrambling up a tilted rock to get out of the water, but tries and tries and finally makes it.

When we are at the low point of the loop, we walk out to the end of the overlook. Great views, and we can hear the Whipbird doing his thing. We finish off the loop and mount up, then head off. On the drive to the highway, Sharon sees WHITE-FACED HERON, then another Masked Lapwing.

We head for the direction of Newcastle, to the north, and about noon, we pull over for an international lunch. Plain olives from Spain and pickles from India plus sandwiches and chips.

Nearing the end of lunch at a nice roadside park, we see the incredibly electric blue of a SUPERB FAIRY-WREN, with several females in the group. Every bird's tail sticks almost straight up, all the time. Cutest thing you can imagine. While watching the fairy-wrens, Sharon spots another bird on a picnic table - a LEWIN'S HONEYEATER*. She reads in the bird's bio that it can often be found on picnic tables. Wow. A mostly olive green with a large yellow ear patch and a yellow line coming straight back from the mouth. Very distinctive.

We decide to follow one of the trails leading off the picnic area and see where it goes. It wanders down to a sort of swamp, full of water. Sharon does her special two fingers over the lips call, and we get a BROWN THORNBILL*, a fairly plain little bird, but with streaking on the chest. We work our way out, but first I twist my squeaker a few times, trying to call in new birds. This device is a piece of barrel-shaped wood, about as big as your thumb. It has a hole through the middle, and another piece, like a cork in a wine bottle, fits down inside, tighter the harder you push it in. The deal is, you twist the "cork" back and forth, and it simulates a bird call - the further in you push it, the higher the pitch. Several birds show up immediately, and they are the WHITE-THROATED SCRUBWREN*. They are frantic to locate the bird that made that enticing call. I squeak, "It's just me, and thanks for coming."

We load up and drive on again, my intended lunch and nap turning into lunch and three lifers. We drive past a Westfields Shoppingtown, and the remarkable thing is that Westfields just bought the Oakridge Shopping Center in San Jose, and are transforming it into a much larger experience. Like this one.

We need to get some more stuff so go inthe mall. We go by a Sunglass Hut store. Several years ago I bought shares in this outfit, a purchase which seemed like a good idea at the time. I would notice these upscale stores occasionally, and the thing I noticed about all of them was that each had one person working, behind the counter, and zero customers. I since took my 60% loss, got out, and I notice with fond memories that this one has one person working behind the counter and no customers.

We shop a Target store, and come out with a nice set of scales, with weights in kilograms. To convert to pounds, you double the reading, then add 10%. I weight 73.5 kg, so doubling that gives 147, then adding 14.7 gives about 162. I think I weigh about 168, but the important thing is that I continue weighing somewhere in the vicinity of 73 or 74 kg throughout the trip. I promised Ruth, my Weight Watcher trainer I'd get to one meeting a month over here. [Nass trah].

I notice a Lone Star Steakhouse, with its Texas theme. Five miles from our house is an Outback Steakhouse. Love the symmetry.

Back in the motorhome, Sharon finds storage locations for all our stuff and we take off. It's about 3pm, and we're looking at blue skies and white puffy clouds. It's beautiful. Driving down the highway, the speed limit is 110 kph, which is about 70 mph.

We ultimately reach our evening's destination (decode this as we stopped when we got tired) at a town called Bela Buleah. Sharon picks up a standing group of GREAT EGRETS on the last part of the drive.

After checking in, we bird the perimeter and get NOISY FRIARBIRD*, a bird with bare skin on the black head and a bump on the bill. Way across the property, in a heavily red-flowered tree, a beautiful EASTERN SPINEBILL* samples the blossoms. He is elegant in his colors of tan, brown, white and black. I am looking forward to seeing his cousin on the west coast, with similar but slightly different dress. Then we get the heavily streaked and slightly obnoxious LITTLE WATTLEBIRD*. There are more Galahs here too.

It's getting dark so we retire to the warmth and comfort of our great motorhome. Ahhhh.

Bird Summary:
Life Birds Today: 8 (Eastern Whipbird, Australian King-Parrot, Lewin's Honeyeater, Brown Thornbill, White-browed Scrubwren, Noisy Friarbird, Eastern Spinebill, Little Wattlebird).
For the Trip: 11.

Trip Birds Today: 13 (8 Lifers plus Pacific Black Duck, Australian Wood duck, White-faced Heron, Superb Fairy-Wren and Great Egret)
For the Trip: 23.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Sleep in: Alum Mountain Caravan Park. Bulahdelah, New South Wales

 

Saturday, August 16, 2003. Day 3 of 118. DRIVE AND BIRD. BIRD AND DRIVE.

We're up and birding before 7am in the Alum Mountain Caravan Park. The grass is very short and wet here in the caravan, and the sky is blue with wispy clouds. We are after a bird in the top of a nearby tree, but it flies before we can get on it.

The Americas have the world's only hummingbirds, and it's not until I birded in other countinents that I realized how special they are. In Australia, the hummingbird niche is filled by a group of birds called honeyeaters. And we're looking at one right now, the YELLOW-FACED HONEYEATER*, with its bright yellow facial patch, surrounded by black. A decurved (downward curved) beak shared by all the honeyeaters, a blue eye and a cheery sharp call define this fairly common bird.

A Magpie-lark walks along the ground, with its remarkable black and white markings. In the bird world, and especially in Australia, there are a large numbers of birds that are bold black and white. One wonders why evolution to this color would be an advantage in survival. But maybe Joe Dirt knows the secret: "Why is a rainbow pretty? Why is the sun yellow? It just is."

We continue walking around the property and get a nice light gray bird with a black face. It's the BLACK-FACED CUCKOO-SHRIKE*, a common widespread bird. We finish up the birding, rig for travel and we're on the road a little after 830.

The cool names come one after the other, as we come into Coolongalook. Continuing on, we pass through or near Nabiac, where a sign advertises an Amish Country Store. Sharon picks up a Sacred Ibis, now named AUSTRALIAN WHITE IBIS.

Here's one for Sharon's son Matt and wife Kimberly. We pass near Foster Tuncurry, home of the Australian Triathlon, a big billboard says, and has IRONMAN emblazoned across the ad.

We pass through Taree, and we're on a really nice, divided 2 lane highway, where the speed limit is 110 kph. When we're doing 100 by our speedometer, my GPS, which calculates your speed much more accurately, says we're going about 58 mph, about 4.5 mph, or 7 kph slower than the speedometer.

Of special note to Uncle Peter Hilty, mom's brother, we pass about 50 cattle egrets, patiently standing beside a number of cows, each waiting for its cow to move and stir up a snack. We get GREYLAG GEESE, and I don't know whether to count them or not. I do, but will probably remove them from the list later, as they're probably tame.

Sharon is playing with the high-tech radio, and we are listening to country music in Australia, with Australian accent. A fellow is singing phrases that include "it is a cockatoo" and "sponge cake." How did they get the idea that cowboys can sing about cockatoos and sponge cake?

An oncoming modified bus, painted red and green, has "Hogwarts Express" painted boldly just above the windshield. That one's for grandsons Josh and Sieren. I watched it carefully to make sure the wheels stayed on the ground.

Zinging down the highway, we see a farm with a field in front of the house, including a large tree. There a flock of big birds on the ground. One flies in and lands - beautiful black and white, with a strongly downcurved beak. It's a STRAW-NECKED IBIS*, and gets is name from what looks like straw hanging down from the front part of the lower neck. Handsome birds.

Now in Fredericktown, next to Kempsey, we get a very common SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVE. Then further on, as we stop beside a farm, in a poddock with hay on the ground, we get a SATIN FLYCATCHER*. No white marks on the face, very shiny black color, with a little crest on the face. At first we thought it was a Willie Wagtail, but we wuz wrong. OK, I was wrong.

Across the road, a huge number of perhaps 100-200 COMMON STARLINGS fly from a tree to the ground, then back to the tree. A large number of Straw-necked Ibises are further down the road.

I stop for refueling at a green and white BP service station, and take on 70 liters of diesel at 94.9 cents/liter, for a total of $66.45 Australian. This works out to about 17 mpg, and about 13 US cents/mile, not too bad.

There is a bird-filled lake and picnic tables next door, so we have lunch and enjoy checking out the waterbirds. We get PURPLE SWAMPHEN, SILVER GULLS, and a duck formerly called White-eyed Duck, but now called HARDHEAD*. And a COOT which are not as common here as at home. A beautiful White Ibis flies in and lands on a branch which can barely hold the bird. A HUGE bird flies in and lands, and it's an AUSTRALIAN PELICAN*. Beautiful black and white.

I go back to the BP station to use the rest room, but am interrupted by a beautiful BLUE-FACED HONEYEATER*, which is building a nest in a palm tree about 4 feet from the diesel pump. I think you may already have a picture of this bird, and you'd be right.

Back in the lake we get DUSKY MOORHEN, then button up for travel.

Except that I notice a greenish-yellow liquid on the floor in front of the fridge. I taste it, thinking of antifreeze, but it's sweet and is from a melted popsicle, indicating two things. One, I haven't grown up yet, and two, the freezer isn't working. We check the refrigerator portion and it seems to be cold. So we don't know what's going on with the freezer. {And I mutter as I clean up the mess which has dripped INTO the scale of course}

But we need to figure it out soon.

We hit Nambucca Head a little before 2pm, and this is where our new friend Iain Standen said is half the kilometers from his house (south Sydney area) to Brisbane. This means that at the current rate of travel, our four month trip will take about 7 months. But early extrapolations are almost always a waste of time.

About ten miles south of Coffs Harbor, we get our first banana trees, and we know we're in the tropics. Or semi-tropics. We come to a section of water containing a number of floating blue barrels. Sharon is correct in guessing that this is an oyster farm. Sydney Rock Oysters, the sign says.

In Coffs Harbor, we see about 40 guys all except a few dressed completely in white, enjoying an afternoon of lawn bowling. Most are wearing hats. Some have some purple mixed with the white, for some color.

We stop in a combined furniture and electrics store. I go in looking for a small battery charger. Small modifies battery, not charger. This device will recharge AA and AAA batteries. I brought one from the US, but it stopped working. I connect with a cute, helpful Aus-try-un girl and she takes me to the battery recharger section. Consisting of one battery charger, for $80 Australian. I buy it anyway.

The girl who helped me asks if she could see an American dollar bill, and I make her a present of one. She is tickled, and it's fun to see her laugh.

We take off again, and about 330pm, we see a bunch of kangaroos in a field to our left. A big flock of birds take off from the ground, and they are MAGPIE GEESE. These birds are black and white and have a big black knob on their nose.

Sharon picks up a pair of BLACK SWANS in fields of water and greenery, like rice or water cress. About an hour earlier, Sharon pointed out a group of those cows we see in America occasionally, that are all black with a white ring around their middle. {Remember,Nancy}

We make it to Toindale, which translates to Tinedale in American, which is spelled Tyndale. We check into a caravan park right behind a Mobil service station, and the girl who checks us in is doing the Australian talk. It's $15 a night, about $10 American.

Sharon and I walk around the site and we get Rainbow Lorikeet and Mynah. We see the Mynah feeding young at its nest. We head back, hoping that the freezer is working, which it ain't.

I look around the site and find a fellow with a caravan who may know something about this fridge. He pulls out the fuse, which was put in new before we left Coolabah, looks at it, and neither he nor I can see any break in it. Nevertheless, he takes one of our spares, installs it, and Bob's-your-uncle, the hum of the fridge brightens us right up. If you are wondering about the phrase above, we associate it with Australia for some reason we can no longer remember. Probably some Australian movie we saw.

We thank him, and I get a warm feeling thinking of the cold refrigerator. Sharon fixes dinner and does the dishes, then settles in for some TV, as I try to write the first trip report.

Bird Summary: Life Birds Today: 8 (Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Straw-necked Ibis, Satin Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Hardhead (Duck), Australian Pelican, Blue-faced Honeyeater).
For the Trip: 19.

Trip Birds Today: 20 (8 Lifers plus Magpie Lark, Australian White Ibis, Cattle Egret, Greylag Goose, Spotted Turtle-dove, Common Starling, Swamphen, Silver Gull, Coot, Dusky Moorhen, Magpie Goose, Black Swan)
For the Trip: 23.

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 0.

Sleep in: Tyndale Roadside Caravan Park. Tyndale, New South Wales


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