Report No. 5. Monday, August 25 thru Wednesday, August 27. LEAVING OUR GURU.

 

Reminder: Sharon's added comments are in {brackets}. Comments inserted after returning to San Jose are in red.

Mon, August 25, 2003. Day 12 of 118. YOUNG GULL LA.

Sharon just finished proof reading Report No. 1 here at Premier Caravan Park in MacKay. Incidentally "MacKay" is pronounced "M'c KIE", to rhyme with McPie. I ask Debbie if I can use an extra phone line to connect with AOL, if she has one, and she says she can't because she has only one phone line. I say thank you anyway, and she says "No Worries." Hey wait. I have a worry. You won't let me use your telephone line. Oh well, sooner or later...

As we're rigging up to travel, Sharon birds the area one last time. The lorikeets are "abundant," - a term meaning that they're all over the place, but a few Straw-necked Ibis are next to us also. She calls me to come outside, to discuss a honeyeater she's seeing. I come out, and the bird has already gone, but another one - a spectacular one has come to the tree beside our rig. It's a gorgeous male YELLOW-BELLIED SUNBIRD*. A spectacular, unbelievable bird with the brightest yellow you've ever seen on the belly and undertail coverts (the area of the bird behind the belly), with a scintillating dark blue throat and brown upper parts. And an impressive sickle of a bill. What a bird. Then while we're admiring it, a YELLOW HONEYEATER* comes, and sometimes you just can't lose. The new guy's yellow can't compete with the Sunbird, but if we hadn't seen the Sunbird first, we'd be wowing the honeyeater, a very nice bird.

Straw-necked Ibis

"Oh yuck," yells Sharon. Or some kind of words like that. A beautiful Rainbow Lorikeet has just bombed her during a flyover, and hit her smack on top of the head. She takes a paper towel, takes a tentative wipe at it and I start singing, "I'm gonna wash that crap right outa my hair." Now you know why I wear a baseball cap. {Every time I tell that story here, people say, "Oh that is supposed to be good luck". I think good luck is to not be shat on by a bird.}

Yesterday, we did 680 kilometers, about 425 miles. This is a lot in one day. We usually like to do about 300, stop early, and relax the rest of the day and evening. Sharon does a short hair washing and we are outa there by about 830am.

As we leave, we pass an entry sign that says, "Welcome to Ooralea Thoroughbred Horse Race Track." It seems like most towns have their own tracks - Australians love a horse race, and I still do to, only not as much as I used to in my former horse race betting life.

We pass Racecourse Store and a road to the right named Horse Jockey Road.

It's about 900am and we are arguing about the definition of a snake. Sharon has seen a dead snake on the road, and says, "A snake. A snake. You said we wouldn't see any." "Huh?" I ask. "That's not a snake. That's a dead snake. A snake has to be able to bite you to be called a snake." "No. That's not what you said before," says Sharon. "You don't have to say something if it's obvious," I retort. Didn't you ever want to just retort sometimes?

I tell her about the dead one I saw yesterday, and which I didn't mention to her because she was deeply engrossed in her book, and I could see this argument coming. She says, "That's two!"

"Two DEAD snakes. Zero SNAKES."

"I don't know. Sounds fishy to me," she says. And we continue rolling down the road.

We have learned an interesting expression. The word "ta." To rhyme with 'fa' as in 'fa la la la la..." We have heard it as "You're welcome," and also as "Thank you." So I might say after I buy an ice cream, "Thank you," and get a response of, "Ta." Somebody told Sharon that little children learn this word early.

The definition of things reminds me of one time when Bill and Sharon Petrick and my then current girlfriend Maggie Barr went up to Calaveras County to the event made famous by Mark Twain's "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

The town fathers all grow long beards, and wear old time trousers with suspenders and large, flat-brimmed hats. They are the judges. The contest is to take your frog to the center of a stage and set it down on this spot that's fastened there. You then wait for your frog to make exactly three jumps. The measuring judge runs over, marks the spot and measures the straight line distance from the start to the end of the third jump. Now of course, you want your frog to jump in a straight line, but most don't.

During World War II, Englishmen were called Brits, Americans were Yanks and Frenchmen were called Frogs for some reason unknown to me.

There were a number of junior college students from the East Bay, who brought some frogs with them, and after several of them jumped their frogs, the judges called out the next contestant. This foreign exchange student from France walked to the center of the stage and squatted down. He then made three long jumps towards the corner of the stage. His jumps easily gave him the longest jump of the day.

A quandry.

The town fathers got together in a huddle, while the college students jumped up and down congratulating each other in their cleverness. The judges came back and made a special ruling for this situation. Since a frog is amphibious, to prove your frogness, you had to go to the center of the pond near the stage, and submerge yourself in the center of the pond with no breathing assistance for ten minutes. "No, No, No!" yelled the students. "Oui, oui, oui," Bill and I yelled. Great stuff.

This morning we finally saw a cane train, a locomotive pulling identical open-top cars full of cane stalks, straight to the mill for processing. The locomotive is tiny, about 1/3 full size I'd say, or maybe half.

We pass through the town of Marani. It won the award for the tidiest town some years ago, and I'd have to agree on its tidiness. Very neat.

We pass a girl on a bicycle with a straw hat on her head, and a hard shell bike helmet OVER that, tied under her chin. We approach a place that Greg has told us about, and we take Owens Creek Loop Road out of Gargett, head north for 2.8 k's, and bird at the Beri Beri bridge over the river CattleCreek. We're looking for White-browed Robin.

I have taken about 400 songs and calls and put them on six mini CDs. We play the appropriate song, and we can hear a bird singing this very call, across the river. But he slowly works his way down the river and we never get on him. This isn't good enough for us, and we pass on claiming the bird.

The sound does call in two beautiful Red-backed Fairy-wrens. The combination of black and red are just outstanding in the sun.

We also get Brown Cuckoo-dove, Friarbirds, and two crows chasing a Wedgetailed Eagle. Plus a female Rufous Whistler. A large swift flew over, but Sharon didn't see him, and I don't know squat about making the ID of a swift here yet.

Ten o'clock and we have a bunch of swallow-type birds, working under a bridge of a railroad track. We are hoping for White-backed Swallow, but these are FAIRY MARTINS*, identified by the bit of red on their forehead. Another Pheasant Coucal zips over to the cane fields after we hit the road again, and get out to the main highway.

We are headed for Eungella, a name whose pronunciation is difficult to remember. You say YOUNG-gu-luh. We have to do a couple of YOO-in-jell-a's for a while before we get the hang of it. We pass through a little town called Finch Hatton, and hold the phone, they've got an internet site.

I take my laptop in, but all they have is a telephone dialup arrangement, and it is so slow that we give it up and continue on toward the park and our quest for a very special honeyeater. We continue on, and begin the climbing, switchback route to the park. It reminds me of the route up to Sequoia National Park in California.

We make it up the incredile switchback road to the first plateau, turn right as instructed over the phone yesterday, and make our way down to the Eungella Holiday Park. Toni checks us in and gets us a great site, with a view out over the fantastic dropoff towards MacKay and the road up. She will pull a power cord out from the store when we're ready.

Looking Back Down the Road Up to Eungella NP

We tell her we're birders after she starts talking about the Platypus. She says, "Well then, you must be looking for the Eungella Honeyeater." You bet we are. She gives us instructions for finding one and it sounds almost exactly like those we got from Greg, except that she tells us it's OK to bird the scrub at the dairy farm, saying, "If they say anything to you, tell them I sent you. They are my parents who run the dairy."

We follow the instructions and go in about 20 k's or so, scaring five Crimson Rosellas up from the road at one point. The road is hard packed gravel, called metal in Canada, and iron some other places. Oddly, there is an occasional bit of actual pavement, maybe a quarter of a mile in length.

At 100pm, we have reached our destination. We walk the gravel road, with rainforest on either side. I get on a new bird, a fantail, but this one is rust-colored! It's outa there before I can get Sharon onto it, and it's a disappointment.

An offshoot from the main road goes down an incline, over a bridge spanning a cool bubbling stream. We go down there, but can't hear our honeyeater (we have his calls captured on miniCD, and we have played them a couple of times, into the forest, with no replies.)

Back up the offshoot, we turn right as directed by Greg, and go about 100 yards. We get some stuff falling down from high above, and we locate a couple of King-Parrots. We get more fantails, but they are all the Gray, none of them Rufous. And we hear the wonderful CRACK of the Whipbird. We decide to take a break and have lunch, then try it again.

I tell Sharon, "There's too many birds that sound like each other," and this strikes her as hilarious. She makes us sandwiches, roast beef for me with a piece of ham on it, and a ham sandwich for her. We finish up and she says, "OK, I got you lunch, now go out there and get me that BIRD!"

We go back where we left off, listening carefully. No bingo birds. I play the call a couple of times, and Sharon yanks around, "That's him. That's him!" I listen, and I hear it too. A pair of birds fly over the road, landing not twelve feet away, moving and bouncing back and forth. I'm impressed that they were able to come right to the spot, AFTER I stop giving the calls.

We get great looks at them, as they repeat the call I played earlier, over and over. Nice blue eye, white line coming back from the bill, white ear patch, and a wonderful tiny little yellow spot behind the eye. Otherwise the extremely common olive green colors the back and wings. EUNGELLA HONEYEATER*!

On the way back out, we get several Red-browed Firetails, also known as Red-browed Finches, and in fact I think the latter is their official name now. But I love to say "Firetail."

It's about 345pm, and we make our way back to a platform constructed over Broken River, which is advertised as the "Best Platypus-watching Spot in Australia." We begin to see one come up for air, swim a few feet on top, then dive back down to eat things off the bottom. These are much smaller than I expected. {But can you believe that we are actually watching a wild platypus feeding! I never expected to see one so close.}

We decide to try a spot recommended for Monarchs (the birds, not the butterfly), and we drive a couple of k's beyond the car park. We listen and play several calls, but get no responses, and decide to go back to camp.

On the way back, as I'm doing a sweeping left turn, suddenly I see a bird on a dead tree stump. Beautiful buff color on the chest, lightening up towards the belly. A cuckoo bill and a cuckoo tail. We look it up and it's a great FAN-TAILED CUCKOO*.

We continue past the car park, and drive by a farm across a valley, where I have to pull over. There are 100-150 black and white cows all over the side of the hill, in that great late-evening sun, and there are perhaps 300 Sulfur-crested Cockatoos sprinkled all over the grass. I get a nice photo of the scene, and we take off again.

We get back to our caravan park, set up camp, and Sharon fixes us dinner. I don't recall whether I mentioned this, but there is a built-in TV, mounted on top of a cabinet, and rotatable so we can watch from bed or from the kitchenette. Each night we come to a new area, Sharon sets it up for auto-scanning, and it selects the valid channels. It takes about five minutes, and tonight the signal is coming straight up the valley from MacKay, whose lights are visible from here.

Very romantic, like when I used to take my dates to see the lights of San Francisco from the hills above Berkley and Oakland. Ah, Grizzly Peak Road. {But then, there weren't brush turkeys eating seeds right outside the door. I'll bet Bob didn't have his bed right there either on his dates}

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 5. (Yellow-bellied Sunbird, Yellow Honeyeater, Fairy Martin, Eungella Honeyeater, Fan-tailed Cuckoo).
For the Trip: 111.

Trip Birds Today: 5 (The 5 Lifers)
For the Trip: 149.

Snakes Seen Today: 0
For the Trip: 0.

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 0
For the Trip: 5

Sleep in: Eungella Holiday Park, Eungella, Queensland

 

Tue, August 26, 2003. Day 13 of 118. ANOTHER BIG TRAVEL DAY.

We are up at a more leisurely pace this morning and about 720am, Sharon helps me back out and turn around. We head up the gravel driveway. The sun is shining strongly from behind us, and a friendly chap in a red sweater, and a shining red face, smiles and waves to us as we go on up, crest the hill, and head down to the intersection.

We are heading to Trail #2, where we will try for fruit-doves. On the drive to the intersection, we get a couple of white ibis, walking along the side of the road like hitch hikers. One at a time, they realize it isn't safe and fly away. A little further on, we see two huge black birds flying left to right, over the intersection. What are those? Too big for crows, too big for ravens. Sharon says they look like Wedge-tailed Eagles. We get binocs on and they're Black-cockatoos. But we're not familiar enough with these big black birds yet to tell which type they are, and we let them go.

At 745am, we are on the trail. We get a Russet-tailed Thrush, then begin hearing things drop from above us. It could be King-Parrots or Black-Cockatoos. As we walk on, Sharon hears a noise and asks, "What was that?" very quietly. "That was the stomach growling" bird, I tell her.

A Brush-turkey comes up the trail, making all sorts of odd noises. We come around a corner, and are following a bird who is walking the same path we are, and in the same direction. It takes a little bit, but it's a SUPERB FRUIT-DOVE*, and it's just toodling along, but aware of us. A Whipbird pops down, and a Yellow Robin.

Now we can hear what's probably the Banded Fruit-dove, but we're not sure, and don't count it. Sharon squeaks her call and calls in another Eastern Yellow Robin. It's an art, trying to write down with words what represents a bird's actual call. We get a high-pitched, "Winky winky." Sharon calls in a couple of Scrubwrens, then a Lewin's Honeyeater. We hear a clear whistle and know what type of bird this is. It's a nice Golden Whistler. A Large-billed Scrubwren also answers in person.

We get back to the motorhome at about 915am and have breakfast, with the door open so we can see. A DUSKY HONEYEATER*, hangs upside down, eating spiders from a series of webs. This all brown bird should logically be the Brown Honeyeater, but it's not.

We finish breakfast and head back down the hill. We pass Finch Hatton and Sharon mails her post cards at the Post. When she comes out after a long time, she says, "The first time the girl rang up the purchase (stamps and more post cards), it came to $957, and the girl said 'Operator Error.' " She recalculates and it's about $33. Sort of like bargaining in Turkey, if you just look at the numbers.

I like the money system here. They have currency in $5, $10, $20 and $50 denominations. The bills are of different colors and different sizes, and each has a clear plastic window somehow as part of the currency itself. There are no such thing as $1 bills. There are $1 and $2 coins, the $2 coins being extremely useful. If you buy something for $1 and give a $5 note, you get two small but solid coins, easily felt in the bottom of your pocket.

We drive by a sign announcing a drum muster coming up next weekend. Sharon's noticed this before and concludes that muster means gathering. {As in "muster" the troops.}

We are side by side with a cane train. I get Sharon on the video camera, and slow down to go exactly the same speed. Sharon describes what's going on, then I speed up to the locomotive and again slow to match its speed.

We pass through the town of Prosperpine, and we have fun with possible pronunciations. A sign says, "Have you checked your brakes lately? What's stopping you?" We stop for lunch about twenty k's north of Prosperpine, then continue on towards Townsville.

I switch the GPS from miles per hour to kilometers per hour, since I'm starting to think in those terms now, instead of converting k's to miles.

Sharon finds a crossword puzzle in a magazine and, although its really noisy in the motorhome, we decided to try it, as we love to do this on the road in the US, on long trips. She would read the clue, give the number of letters, and any known letters in the word. I would think of possible answers. Together we do pretty good.

Once she yells clearly "Bearing Morgan," so I yell in all seriousness, "I didn't understand either one of those words." She laughs and says "very appropriate," then yells slower and louder, "Hearing Organ."

Oh.

It is very dry, windy and hot. There are no indications of water; every stream is dry. It makes you just want to keep on driving. Greg gave me a long report - how to find 400 species in six weeks. It starts down in Melbourne, goes up to the tip of Cape York (where we are going), then drove back to Melbourne. Their report on Townsville and The Commons, where we plan to go, says it is dry and there are not many birds. This is December of '02. So I don't have high expectations now.

We breeze past the Big Mango, and there it is. A huge 20-foot high mango. It's windy like crazy. We stop at a Mobil Station outside of Bowen for diesel. Sharon gets on the phone and calls the Mercedes dealer in Townsville. She leaves a message, and after a bit they call back. She makes us an 800am appointment, to be finished by 1000am. This is the service that is done every 8000 k's. We call Tom at Coolobah and tell him we'll be 500 k's short of the 8000 miles, and he says that we should wait till we get to Cairns, and take it to the local Coolobah place.

The Big Mango

Sharon calls the Mercedes guy back and cancels. We will have this service done when we get to Cairns.

It's 400pm and we a sign that says, "Welcome to Home Hill." It's a racetrack, and a nice little one. We continue on. The sun is shining in through the front windshield now, and Sharon starts getting really hot. She decides to move back to the dinette, and belts in, continuing the crossword puzzle.

We go over a huge wide river, but the level is quite low. There is lots of dirt and sand showing, with 4WD tracks down there.

We are entertained by Willie Wagtail on the left as we are stopped here for a roadwork halt. We pass through Ayr, a nice little town with wide streets and an interesting parking setup called center parking. You park your car in the middle of the street, and then go to either side to do your shopping.

We finally pull into a Mobil Station that is also a Big 4 Caravan Park. A Blue-faced Honeyeater is working in a palm tree at the check-in point. We also see White-breasted Wood Swallows and Bee-eaters. We set up, and have another Ensuite setup, with our own private toilet/sink/shower mini-building.

We go out for a walk to take advantage of the remaining light, and a few spots away, the occupants, who are sitting outside their caravan (trailer), see that we're birders, and point us to a Brown Honeyeater nest, filled by its occupant. And further, there is a WHITE-GAPED HONEYEATER* in the same tree. It's much bigger, probably 85% bigger.

A little further and we fulfill one of our long-dreamed objectives of the trip. One time a couple of escapee Zebra Finches hung out in our back yard a few days, and we came to recognize their soft little calls. They were SO cool. Anyway, in some tangled stuff near the top of a palm tree, we come upon maybe ten ZEBRA FINCHES*, and learn that they nest in colonies like this. Just the coolest thing. We drink in this sight and sound. They fly away in a big cloud and we celebrate their existence.

We can tell the age of some of these little finches. The smaller ones are 18 years old, as evidenced by the parents, who are trying to throw them out of the house. This is an illustration of the use of logic.

We see a kingfisher, but not long enough to ID, then head back to the motorhome. It's "Australian Idol," by the same people who did American Idol. But this is a recap of only the ridiculously bad ones, and is called "The Bad, the Mad and the Ugly."

We giggle our way through the hour. Great stuff.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 4. (Superb Fruit-dove, Dusky Honeyeater, Zebra Finch, LeadenFlycatcher).
For the Trip: 115.

Trip Birds Today: 4 (The 4 Lifers)
For the Trip: 153.

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

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 1 (The Big Mango)
For the Trip: 6

Sleep in: Walkabout Palm Caravan Park, Townsville, Queensland

 

Wed, August 27, 2003. Day 14 of 118. PALUMA. BIRDS AT OUR LUNCH TABLE.

OK, we're up at 630am to a clear sky day, with few clouds. We're off to the Town Commons, a large park with woodlands and wetlands. Before leaving the Big 4 Walkabout Palms Caravan Park, we watch the Figbird up on the wire. A common site now.

We're out at the Commons by 730am, and watch a couple of Whiptail Wallabies exit stage left. There is a very nice golf course inside the Commons, and here's a question for all the golfers. When is the last time that kangaroos outnumbered you on the course?

We pass a female Whiptail, also known as pretty-face Wallaby, with a joey in her pouch. I can't get the video camera out and going fast enough, and she is off into the bush. Dang. That was impressive

We make it to the first bird hide. Nice open woodland adjacent to the airport. A flycatcher does its bit right away. It's got very pale red under the throat, a female, then the male LEADEN FLYCATCHER* shows himself. There are two fairly similar, mostly black and white color patterned flycatchers, but this one is dull black. The other one, the Satin Flycatcher, is a shiny black on the head. We saw it pretty early on the trip. Sharon picks up another bright yellow bird on the top of the palm - a nice Sunbird.

We've climbed up into the first hide now. There is a spectacular Jabiru stork in the little bit of water. The sun is behind us and the big bird is lit up in beautiful fashion. It lifts up and flies away, and that movement of black and white, with the size of the bird make me smile.

We scan the other birds. Black-fronted Dotterel pair, Magpie Larks, and a Wallaby moving into the picture. We try to scan the fields around the airport for Bustards, but can't find any. Back down to the ground and on to the second bird hide (bird blind, in the US). A pair of Woodswallows come in, perch high above, but covered by lower leaf clusters. I twist my squeaker and get no response. Sharon squeaks through her fingers and we get what we think is a Black-faced Woodswallow, but the lifting and resettling of the left, then the right peg it as a similar looking bird - Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.

We drive down a little further and get a Golden-headed Cisticola, we think, with lots of Bee-eaters zooming around above. We ID a Little Bronze-Cuckoo to our disappointment. We were hoping for one of the other ones, as we already have seen this one.

At the second piece of water, we meet Tony Ashton, a former Kiwi (New Zealander), living in Oz. He has been birding alone in his 4WD Mitsubishi camper van. Upon learning of our plan to fly up to Bamaga and explore the tip of Cape York, he tries to convince us that we'll do much better if we rent a 4WD, and drive up from Cairns on the "Developmental" Road. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm guessing it's code for CORRUGATED. And if you've driven any significant distance on one of these roads from hell, you know that they are to be avoided at all costs.

Anyway, he went to the Iron Range, which is famous for having most of the Cape York specialties, of the bird world. He is enthusiastic and it makes us want to switch plans. He says in passing that a Latham Snipe was seen here yesterday, and he's checking for it. As he and I talk about details of the drive up the cape, Sharon gets on the scope and starts working her particular talent. She holds a finger up while looking through the scope, and says, "I think I've got the snipe." Cool as you please. {Only ACTING cool because I'm afraid I will be wrong with these two good birders here. Nothing so embarrassing as IDing a bird and then have someone say, "no, that's just a ......, some bird very common to see.}

Tony and I both whip around and take turns on the scope. Yep, LATHAM'S SNIPE*. Way to go Sharon.

We part company with Tony and immediately talk about how much fun it would be to do what he strongly and repeatedly recommended. We decide not to decide while we are so excited. This needs a little careful consideration.

We head back out of the Commons, and see a nest, about as big as a person's head. It consists of eucalyptus leaves plastered on a sort of ball-shaped nest, and we're cutious about the bird that did this. An older couple happen along, and Sharon tells them we're trying to figure out what bird did this. "An ant did this," he says with a twinkle in his eye, and we're sure he's kidding. "Yes, the Australian green ant," he reiterates.

No Anteaters Allowed

"Now wait a minute." I say. "You expect me to believe that ants can carry those big euclyp leaves all the way up the tree?" "That's roit," he says. "So I say, "Are you pulling my leg? How on earth do they get them up there?" He said no he's not lying, it's fair dinkum - he's not lying. I think he's full of that stuff I emptied out of the motorhome a while back. We'll either verify it or learn the truth shortly. That's our plan anyway.

We are at the beautiful Esplanade now in Townsville, and I get a couple of pictures, with the sun in a great position for photos. Sharon reads a warning to swimmers on a sign that has a four-inch diameter tube fastened to the vertical pole that the sign is attached to. The sign says that between certain months, there is danger of box jellyfish stings. And it goes on to say something like this:

"Warning. Marine Stingers are dangerous Nov to May. Emergency treatment for severe box jellyfish sting. Flood the sting with vinegar. If BREATHING STOPS, give artificial respiration. A bottle of vinegar is in the tube below the sign, looking like a newspaper delivery box.

Townsville Esplanade

We pass a high school, and not counting an Ironman Triathlon, there are more bikes in one place than I've ever seen. I'd estimate 400 bicycles. Sharon says it LOOKS like a Triathlon staging area.

This is a spectacularly beautiful day. The temperature? Perfect. Sky? Perfect. Puffy white clouds? Perfect. Birding? Perfect. Partner? Perfect. We have a supermarket lined up to "hit" on the way back. For Bob and Carrie Ross, we are driving along the Ross River, headed for Ross Dam.

At the dam, we get our first grasshopper of the trip. We walk up the ramp to the top of the dam, and there are loads of birds around the lake, but we don't see any new species. We make our way back to the car, then drive down below the dam, and bird the little bit of water down there.

An official pickup truck drives down the gravel road to where we are, and the fellow asks if we plan to be there long. I interpret this as "We get nervous when unknown people mess around below our dam." {Plus we are just below a fenced in Military area that has signs saying "Danger, live munitions around. Don't pick up anything, it may EXPLODE. OK, we're leaving}

It's too hot down here anyway. We turn around, drive up to the very neat park beside the car park, and bring the Sharon-prepared lunch out to a picnic table under a huge tree. Bird sounds and sights are all around us, and it's hard to eat two bites in a row without chasing a bird somewhere.

We get a pair of WHITE-WINGED TRILLERS*, doing their great stuff, and we come across our first YELLOW-THROATED MINER*, which Sharon's old book calls White-rumped Miner. We also get a couple of Yellow Honeyeaters, and Sharon picks up another Sunbird - beginning to be her specialty.

Then we both get the bird Sharon had seen a few minutes ago and I had completely missed. The FOREST KINGFISHER* is gorgeous in the sun.

We finish up our lunch, pack up again and head off to the supermarket for groceries. I have a Mr. Whippy, which is like a 7-11 slurpy in the US. Back in the motorhome and heading back out onto the highway, Sharon says that she feels almost right driving in the left lane.

We turn off of Highway 1, heading up to Paluma, and it says 22k's to go. Forty-five minutes later we're parked in front of a world-famous place - the Ivy Cottage. We go inside and get a MACLEAY'S HONEYEATER*, sitting on a closed container of strawberry jam while we are waiting to ask if we can have tea. "He wants in there," says Sandy, the lady behind the counter.

Macleay's Honeyeater Eyes Sharon's Marmalade

My mind is blown. Sharon says, "Take a picture." I say ok, pull out my digital voice recorder, turn it on and can't figure out how to take a picture with this thing. I snap back to reality, but the Mac's is already outside. I ask if I can buy some food to feed the birds out on the back veranda. Sandy laughs and says, "You don't need to do that. They'll share yours!"

We're out on the veranda and quickly see White-cheeked and Macleay's Honeyeaters, plus a male and female Satin Bowerbird pair. And then the bird we're after. It's a female VICTORIA'S RIFLEBIRD*, and the fantastic male comes in a minute or two later. Wow.

Male Victoria's Riflebird

We hear a bird call that sounds a little like this: Tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee tee.

Only for a long time.

He pops out, and it's a very handsome GREY-HEADED ROBIN*. A man named Ian comes in and does some work behind the counter. We ask him if there is any place in town we can camp, and he says down past the tennis court is a rectangle of concrete dedicated to people like us, who need to camp for a night. There is a toilet block right there too. Fantastic. No electricity, but that's fine for a night.

Home Sweet Concrete Pad

We walk down to the forest walk, and get another Grey-headed Robin. We can hear Eastern Whipbird, then find him, working quietly but industriously at digging up bugs.

We get a couple of chunky, heavily streaked birds, with almost no tails. They are chasing each other around the upper canopy. They are mildly responsive to our whistles and calls. My best guess is juvenile Spotted Catbirds, but we're not at all sure. We finish the walk and exit onto the main road, a block or so from where we walked into the woods.

We pick up a cluster of neat little Red-browed Firetails in the grass, then bump into Ian again. We ask and he gives us directions to the bower of a Golden Bowerbird. LOVE the bowerbirds.

We hear a sort of howl and ask what that is. And the answer is that it's a male Riflebird. I said how do you tell the difference from a Spotted Catbird, and he says the Spotted Catbird sounds like somebody has a cat by the neck and is strangling it.

We ask him where we might see Noisy Pitta, and he directs us to a location near his house. We continue our town walk, towards the motorhome when a group of about 15 large pigeons fly high overhead. We study them carefully, and a late arrival does some acrobatics before catching up with the others. Sharon clearly sees the topknot on one of these TOPKNOT PIGEONS*.

We watch a male Riflebird, who just chased a cuckoo away. Then we finally get a good look at a SPOTTED CATBIRD*. And it does the cat strangling imitation perfectly. We walk past a certain house, and a man named Bill comes out to give us a piece of paper listing the birds of the town. He is the man Sharon talked to earlier, to see if we could park our motorhome (he doesn't have space to support this). He asks if we've seen a pitta yet, and we say no. He directs us to a spot and tells us to make a certain noise (say Pitta, Pitta, Pitta in a high falsetto voice). And a sub-adult bird will come out of the forest.

We start walking to the spot, and Bill joins us, with some mealworms in a container. I think he feels bad that he couldn't offer us a spot to park overnight. Anyway, we get to the spot he described, and he says in high falsetto, "Pitta!" Then repeats it 3-4 times. At first the Pitta won't come out. Bill says stuff like, "Now come out of there now. You know you want these worms. Don't be silly". And unbelievably, the Pitta starts moving around in there. Bill tosses a mealworm, and after a bit of hesitation, the NOISY PITTA* races out, picks up the worm and heads back into the forest patch.

This is repeated several times, until an industrious Grey-headed Robin starts intercepting the worms before the Pitta can get to it. Then the Pitta "charges" the robin, and successfully runs it off. This after it appeared that the juvenile Pitta would be too intimidated to challenge the robin. What a great look at the usually shy Pitta, thanks, Bill.

We come out about once an hour later htat night, following Ranger Ian's instructions to try for Boobook Owl and Papuan Frogmouth. Finally, about 11pm, we get an upgrade (previously heard it in New Zealand) to the Southern Boobook. It just sits on a horizontal branch of a tree, not twenty feet away. We are using my 12V spotlight, and it is extremely powerful.

There are extremely fast things flying around below the street light, catching bugs. They zip right past our heads. Some are smaller than others, and some make noise and others are silent. We list the possibilities: Papuan Frogmouth, Tawny Frogmouth, or bats. All the evidence points to PAPUAN FROGMOUTH* [Later, we decided this couldn't have been a frogmouth because it wasn't big enough. That was when we saw one of these birds roosting in a tree during the daytime. So we think maybe this was a bat], so though we wish we could study high speed film of his motions, this is as good as we're going to get him.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 10. (Leaden Flycatcher, Latham's Snipe, White-winged Triller, Yellow-throated Miner, Forest Kingfisher, Macleay's Honeyeater, Topknot Pigeon, Spotted Catbird, Noisy Pitta, Papuan Frogmouth).
For the Trip: 125.

Trip Birds Today: 10 (The 10 Lifers)
For the Trip: 163.

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

Attractions seen that start with, contain, or are "Big" Today: 0
For the Trip: 6

Sleep in: Paluma Town Center, Paluma, Queensland

This is the end of Report No. 5


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