Report No. 22. Saturday, October 18 thru Monday, October 20, 2003. Southwest Western Australia

 

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

Saturday, October 18, 2003. Day 66 of 118. Cheyne Beach to the Stirling Mountain Range.

It was raining at 5am and again at 6am, so I finally get up about 630. It is clear straight overhead, but there are clouds all around us now. We are going up to the far corner of the caravan park, then further up a firebreak, which to look at, is a deep sandy road.

On the way, we are looking for Western Wattlebird, and we see a couple of possible candidates, but we are in a hurry to use this good weather and get up to the corner.

I fire up my bird tape and after playing about twenty seconds of it, up pops a WESTERN WHIPBIRD*, singing his heart out. We watch for five minutes or so, and our bird faces this way, then turns around and sings the other direction, then back. We take time to admire his 1) great song, 2) crest, and 3) black throat with white patches on either side. Morcombe says, "Rare, elusive, difficult to sight in dense scrub." We believe the constant rain, then this bright sunlight has cranked up this whipbird. Fantastic.

We leave, with him still singin' in the sunshine.

We get a Singing Honeyeater on the ground near the caravan camp store. We want to go down to the patch where there may be up to eight pairs of scrub-birds, down between the beach and the bitumen. We heard one or two really well last evening, but never got a sighting.

We spend about an hour and a half trying, but don't get so much as a scrubby peep from our scrub-bird. Before we leave I want to try walking up the sandy track to see if any firetails will show themselves. We walk up and get quite a bit of bird calls and songs, but no sight of the firetails. Dangit. We turn right to go behind the camp, when all of a sudden, a bird runs across the open space into some scrub. Sharon says, "Bird! In that scrub," and points. I look over but don't see it.

We reposition ourselves, and I see a bird moving from one bush to another, on the ground, but Sharon isn't in the line of sight of this movement. I tell her what happened, and we move. I see a bird fly up out of the scrub and land on top of a bush maybe 20 yards away. It just sits there. "I've got a bird!" I say to Sharon. "Where?" she says. I get her on it, and we admire the bird's black throat with white patches on either side. Much different from the whipbird we saw a little while ago, though.

I say, in my excitement, "Bristlebird." Sharon says, "It can't be. No, No! It's a NOISY SCRUB-BIRD!" And of course it is. THIS bird isn't supposed to do what he's doing, just standing up there in the open. And he's not even singing! Just enjoying the respite from the rain. Do scrub-birds know what 'respite' means? This one looks particularly intelligent, and I suspect he does. He just stays right there, in the sun. We pish at him and squeak at him, trying to get him to sing, but he is off-duty it seems. One puzzle is that he appears olive-greenish-brown, as opposed to the barred brown shown in Morcombe's. But we have no doubt about what bird this is.

This is by far our best upgrade - from "heard only" to "holy-cow-did you see that?"

We walk back through the camp, and get Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, and finally a WESTERN WATTLEBIRD*. No red wattles, no yellow on the belly, quiet demeanor - definitely Double W. We bump into a White-breasted Robin whapping a worm. Whap, Whap, Whap! Robin 1, Worm 0.

We decide to give up on the Red-eared Firetails. It's time to leave.

On the way out, reviewing the great birds we got here, I work out that we can bypass Fitzgerald River National Park, solving a medium-sized problem. We will go back to Albany, up to Porangurup, Stirling Range, Wave Rock, then down to Esperance, without having to double back to Fitzgerald River. This will save a day or so, I think.

It begins raining off and on, and there are lots of areas cleared for farming. A lot of these cleared paddocks have low areas, now filled with water. There are often waterbirds in and around the temporary lakes, like spoonbills and ibises.

We come to a junction - left to Albany and right to Stirling Range. And it's right on.

We drop into Porongurup National Park, because there is still another shot at the Red-eared Firetails, at Tree in the Rock's carpark. We have a brochure for Porongurup, and Sharon has found the place. We work our way in there, after paying the entry fee, and come upon an older couple, totally bundled up from the rain and cold, sitting in a picnic shelter, having their lunch. Something about this strikes me as reassuring, that these folks decided what they wanted to do, and a little contrary weather wasn't about to deflect them. A Rufous Treecreeper hovers around the picnic shelter.

A White-winged Australian Magpie is perched on their picnic table, ignoring the tuna that the man has set out. The bird does occasionally peck at the tin that it's in though. We talk to them a little, though they occasionally talk deep Aus-TRY-un, and we get lost. A pair of beautiful Scarlet Robins interrupts out conversation, and I try unsuccessfully to get a picture of the male.

We get a great view of a White-naped Honeyeater by the board which talks all around the Tree in the Rock without mentioning it.

We check out the whole area, then walk up to see the Tree in the Rock, then come back down, and have lunch in the motorhome, enjoying being in, out of the sprinkles. But we keep an eye on the grasses around us, for any sign of firetails.

Sharon uses the picnic rest room and I get a fat little Varied Sitella working a tree nearby, while I wait for her. But we get no firetails, and have to move on. Dangit.

About 2pm, we come around a corner and there in front of us, over some cleared off pasture land are the mountains of Stirling Range. They just sort of pop up, like Denver, Colorado's mountains, when approached from the east.

We pass a huge sheep pasture on the right, and about 1 out of 5 of them is blaaaaaaaack.

Then about 230pm, we arrive at Stirling Range Retreat, formerly known as Stirling Range Caravan Park. But this is a nature center now, with guided flower and bird walks into the surrounding area, and a malleefowl tour on Saturday afternoons. And if you haven't been paying attention, and not by a coincidence, we are here on a Saturday afternoon. I called yesterday and reserved us two places to see the malleefowl mounds and hopefully, birds.

We set up and the temperature is a cool and comfortable 13.5 degrees C, or about 55 degrees. We pay for our site ($22) and two tickets ($39 each) for the malleefowl tour.

Sharon clears the dust out of the motorhome and tries the TV reception, bless her little never-give-up heart. I fill up the fresh water tank. We get ready for the malleefowl tour, then bird around camp a little, but get only Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, up in the tall trees.

We finally go to the collection area, and meet the other seven people who will go on the tour, in addition to Tony, the driver and tourguide and resort operator, with his wife.

About 4pm, our neatly compatible group loads into the van, and Tony takes off. I think we're going to head down a long, pounding gravel road, but the entire trip there, about 70 km, is on sealed road. We get acquainted with our tour mates, and learn a lot about the birds that may be around the site from Phyliss, a volunteer member of Birds Australia, who leads the morning bird tours. She's been here a week, and leaves tomorrow morning.

We'll bird early tomorrow morning, and then take off for Wave Rock.

And so it is, that we arrive at the Malleefowl reserve, on privately owned property. Years ago, the Australian government (or Western Australian one) would give a farmer or rancher the deed to a property if that person totally cleared off the scrub and trees from his land. The objective was to have the person do the work, then get the property.

The fellow who was clearing this particular 300 acre parcel had trouble with the bulldozer, and couldn't get it working before the winter set in, so he postponed till the next spring. Then he got in bad financial difficulty and had to abandon the property. So this is the only original habitat in the entire area. Everything else is pasture land or crops. In fact, there is barley planted all around the 300 acres. {The one thing they are doing now is to replant native trees and bushes around the planted fields as "corridors" for the mallee fowl to move about the country, They evidntly won't move across open areas easily. This is in hopes of building up the populations as the chicks need ways to move away from the adults and establish their own territories.}

Tony takes us into this 'mallee', and we ask him what this word means. He says it isn't the name of a particular plant, but rather the way a plant grows. Part of the root system is just underground, and although a fire may kill the above-ground plant, the plant comes back from the bit under the earth. So what you see is a shrub or bush like plant that consists of eight or ten individual branches which seem to come out of the ground from one spot. A plant may be only a foot high or ten feet high or anything in between.

The key thing, though, is that it drops its leaves, a key ingredient that the Malleefowl needs to build its mound out of sand and leaves.

We follow Tony, single file, through this property past one abandoned mound, then an active volcano-shaped mound. Tony bends down to the ground and looks around for birds, but doesn't see any. We continue to a third mound, which is an irregular shape. But no birds show themselves. We follow the path, then exit to the open area where the van is parked, but 300 yards or so away. Tony walks down to get the van, instructing us to keep our eyes open for birds walking out of the mallee and into the crops to feed on the grass seed.

He makes it all the way back, though, without any of us spotting any birds. He says, "We're not done by a long way. No worries." Before we left, I asked him how often he sees birds, and he said, "I've done about a hundred and fifty trips, and only once did I miss getting at least one bird. And that was because the rain was coming down at a 45 degree angle. The weather was horrible."

So I'm pretty relaxed about seeing a bird here. I ask Tony how many mounds are in the 300 acres, thinking it might be just these three, but he says, "Twenty-two. And that's overcrowded. That's why they want to try to relocate some of the young birds to other areas, hoping they'll get established there." So I start to say, but am interrupted by Sharon, who has read my mind again and who says, "How many eggs do they lay?" to which Tony says, "From 18 to 33!" Holy cow.

So let's see, that's 22 times 25, speaking roughly, or 550 birds who make their way out of the 22 mounds each year. That's unbelievable. Tony continues, "The birds are totally on their own, except that in the first 24 hours, they can't fly yet, so that's when they are most vulnerable, and that's when most of them die, killed by predators."

Some people want to take some of these eggs, hatch them in a safe place, then re-release them after the 24 hour period, over a period of time, but the powers that be won't approve that.

Everybody gets back in the van, and Tony drives up to the corner of the property, then turns right and goes all the way to THAT corner. Here he stops, and says, "Chow." He sets up a table with choice of coffee or tea, and what he calls Anzac cookies. These are hard and brittle, and I guess are supposed to keep forever.

They remind me a little of "Lep" cookies, which I remember Grandma Hilty making when I was little. I think they were supposed to keep forever too. I asked Aunt Dorothy recently about those cookies, and after a little hesitation, she said, "Well, we never liked them very much." Funny, how a food is tied to a good memory, and it doesn't really make any difference whether that food is delicious or not. If it puts you back into that memory, it works.

We keep an eye out for any birds which might cross into the crops, but none do. We finish up, and Tony restores the table and goodies. Then we take off again, re-covering the long dimension of the mallee land. But again, we get no birds. "I can't believe it," says Tony. "OK, then we'll try a different route." And drives back to the road, turns left, then onto another sandy track between mallee and crops.

He drives down that one, and on one corner, somebody says, "Malleefowl, there on the corner." Everybody gets on it right away, but me. "Everybody have it?" asks Tony. "I don't," I say. Then everybody starts giving me directions at the same time, and then the bird is past the open area, onto the road.

Tony hits the accelerator, and we turn right, onto another sandy track, and I get a great view of a MALLEEFOWL*, trotting in front of us, leading us right down the road. The bird finally gets tired of playing lead the follower, and turns left, into the mallee. Sharon got a much better look than I did, but I don't care.

I got the bird.

Tony tries again to get this, or another bird, and then finally, we let the birds have their property back, and head for home.

When we get there, we all trade way-to-go's and Sharon and I go back to the motorhome, where we have microwaved, warmed up spaghetti. Now, I don't know if it's just us, but I truly think that yesterday's spaghetti is better than the first day's. How about you? I don't mean aren't you better the second day than the first. I mean don't you think spaghetti is better the second day? There is another food like that, but I can't think of it right now. Oh, yes I can - chili.

Good night, Malleefowl. You led us on a merry chase.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 3 (Western Whipbird, Western Wattlebird, Malleefowl)
For the Trip: 332.

Trip Birds Today: 3 (The 3 lifers)
For the Trip: Still 394.

Bird Upgrades Today: 1 (Saw the Noisy Scrub-bird, which we only heard yesterday).
For the Trip: 1

Snakes Seen Today: 0
For the Trip: 7.

Sleep in: Stirling Range Retreat (& Caravan Park), Stirling Range NP, north of Albany, Western Australia

 

Sunday, October 19, 2003. Day 67 of 118. Stirling Range to Wave Rock

It's 620am, and you know what? We don't have any lifers yet. Let's go for a walk.

We go to the north boundary and walk the line, quickly getting one or two dozen parrot-type birds, and our views of them together with their rattly calls tells us that we have a nice upgrade to the Purple-crowned Lorikeets we got in Dryandra Forest with Frank O'Connor.

We get White-naped Honeyeater at the entrance to the retreat, working the tops of the Eucalyptus trees there. We get a beautiful Dusky Woodswallow, across from the cafe, then a White-winged Triller on the outside of the bush, next to the road.

The White-naped Honeyeater comes down from his high feeding area to be pretty close to us, and for the first time, we can examine the area around the eye. Sharon thinks that she might see light blue, but to me, there is no particular color other than white. We check our field guides, and the subspecies around here has no color. The eastern birds will, when we get there.

We cross the road, find the registry loop, and the trail that takes off from it, and we're off. We get a pardalote high in the trees, but can't quite see what type it is. There are Silvereyes in the scrub by the wheat, across the fence from the bit of scrub we're in.

We get White-tailed Black-cockatoos, and these will be of the short-billed variety at this loction. Other birds we see are Weebills, Scarlet Robins, Common Bronzewings and more black-cockies. As we get bright yellow on the rump of some Yellow-rumped Thornbills, we identify the squeaky door sound as the Black-cockatoos. Then we get a fantastic, close-up look at a Striated Pardalote.

We come to the end of the fenced area, though we sort of expected to reach the stream. But there we get two nice views of Mistletoebird. Sharon spots it, and IDs it. I'm just taking notes, folks.

We get a kangaroo, or wallaby with distinctive black markings.

We decide to stop at the cafe for a big breakfast, after our walk, and we do drop in. Sharon orders eggs, "Let's see, um, I'll have the eggs over easy," she says to the cook and order-taker, who doesn't write anything down yet. He says, "That's the way they come," in a quiet voice, sort of talking to himself almost. "And I'll have bacon," she adds. We would call this 'bacon' ham in the U.S. The eggs come on toast. I ordered the same thing, but with sausage. "Do you have potatoes?" I ask. The man looks lost, but the woman says, "I know what he means. Hash brown. No we don't have them." Sharon orders coffee to drink and I order orange juice, at which time the man points to the cooler and the bottles of juice in there.

The place mats are of several different varieties. One is wildflowers, another snakes and reptiles, another birds, another fish, and still another mammals. We have fun trying to locate the birds, reptiles and mammals we have seen. We've seen most of the birds, and a few reptiles, a few more mammals, but none of the fish, except the Baramundi.

We enjoy our breakfast, then Sharon buys some post cards while I buy a package of "bananas." These are like American "circus peanuts," which aren't available here, in consistency. They are pale yellow and have a sugary banana taste. I love 'em, and Sharon can't stand 'em.

As a post-breakfast treat, we go walking the north boundary again, and finally spot the bird we were hoping for. Last night on the Malleefowl trip, Phyllis said she saw an Elegant Parrot at the same location two mornings in a row. For symmetry (not cemetery), we see two ELEGANT PARROTS* for one morning in a row. It's 930.

We rig for travel, but we aren't going far. We're going just across the road, next to the ranger's residence. Phyllis told us about two birds we need - one in the ranger's back yard, and another down a firebreak, farther behind his house.

We try unsuccessfully for the Purple-gaped Honeyeater, the backyard bird, but it turns up missing, so we move on. We start walking back to the firebreak, but it turns out to be much farther than we thought. I go back and get the motorhome, then drive to a pullout near the firebreak, arriving about the same time as Sharon.

We get out the tape of our target bird and play it once, but get no response. We load up for birding, and walk down the firebreak maybe 50 feet or so. I reset the tape to play again, and before I hit 'play,' Sharon says, "Bob! Right there! It's right there! Our bird!" To which I say, "Right where?" "Right in front of you, right there," she says. And after about the third go-round of this, I shorten up my focus and there, about 20 feet in front of us, perched out in the open, and looking right at us, is a fantastic TAWNY-CROWNED HONEYEATER*. I get some photos, but doubt they will be very sharp.

I automatically hit the play button just as Sharon started yelling, and we get great views of the bird cocking its head to the side, then back up again, but it seems fearless. We enjoy the look of this bird perched in the sun for about five minutes. He has a beautiful combination of colors - brown, tan, black and white, and a nice buff-colored crown, with a black bill. The black makes a mask, running through his eye.

Getting our fill of this nice bird, we head back to the motorhome, and head north. Destination: Wave Rock.

Passing the retreat, we immediately run into low rolling hill country, like that on the Hilty side of Versailles, and the source of the Rolling Hills Country Club's name.

We stop at the Lily - a Dutch windmill, winery and restaurant, and take some photos. It's a beautiful day, and the big windmill is turning in the wind. The Stirling Range is beautiful, in the distance.

We come upon two young guys standing beside a car, parked off the road. One has his thumb out, and Sharon says, "Let's see if we can help these guys." They come up to our rolled-down windows, and tell us they ran out of petrol. And could we give them a ride a few kilometers up the road. And we can.

They are working on a sheep farm, and this being the weekend, they were out partying last night and are headed back to the farm. One of the guys had a beer bottle in his hand, and I could smell the beer and cigarette smoke pretty good. One is in raggedy taggedy clothes and has some teeth missing. His buddy is taller and a little more together, but they are both good guys. The missing tooth guy takes his boots off and sits on the floor so he won't get any dirt on the dinette seats.

When they first climbed into the motorhome, one of them said, "Oh, Wicked!" as he looked around at the interior. We drop them off at their turnoff, after they rejected our offer to take them the four kilometers off the main road to their farm.

We reach Lake Grace and stop for refueling, then head west, hoping for Banded Stilts. Well, I could tell you all the places we went and things we did, but it all adds up to no stilts.

We start heading back, and pass over a dead snake. Sharon says, "Don't you want to turn around and figure out what kind it was?" To which I say, "Not with all those flies all over it." And we travel on. Then we see what looks like a worm crossing the road, but as we get closer, we can see that it's a Shingleback doing his slow walk across the road. I manage to drive around him. I like the way they walk, with their butt wiggling back and forth, sort of like granddaughter Sydney, when she sings "Coco, the Builder," to their dog Coco. She sings it to the tune of "Bob, the Builder," and wiggles her butt back and forth while sticking her head through the open screen door, while Coco lies on the ground, waiting to see what Sydney's gonna dish out for him.

I'm proud to say I taught her the idea of singing "Bob the Builder," substituting the name of everybody she knows for 'Bob.' Like "Mommy, the Builder," "Grandma, the Builder," and so on. Man I want to fly back to Denver immediately and squeeze her little cheeks. Sydney, you're the BOMB! (Don't tell Samantha).

The sun is shining from the side now, and trees cast shadows onto the side of the road. Far up ahead, I can see what may be a bird, but as we get a little closer, I can see that it's just a crooked stick, with one end off the ground a little. But then when we pass it, it becomes clear that the raised part is a snake, with its head raised a few inches off the ground. Sharon sees it too. We take one look at each other, and I check the rear-view mirror and execute a tight U-turn. We drive back slowly, but the thing has slithered off like a snake in the grass.

Add one more to the snake tally!

We come into the town of Karlgarin, and a sign says, "Welcome to Kalgarin. Small and Proud. Home of the Annual Giglie Races." There is a painting of a lobster in the bottom part of the sign. So I would conclude form this that a Giglie is a lobster, using logic.

We arrive at Wave Rock Caravan Park about 4pm, and are greeted by a flotilla of flies. No, that doesn't work. They're not in water. Let's see, hmm, there must be something good to use with 'flies.'

We set up camp, then walk over to Wave Rock. To my surprise, it isn't an isolated rock all by itself. Rather, there is a huge rock called Hyden Rock, and Wave Rock is just a formation on one end of it. This doesn't change how cool it looks though, and we spend some time taking photos. It's remarkable.

Then we climb the rock, and learn that they have created a catchment system, to catch rainfall and drain it all into a dam they have constructed that the town of Hyden uses for a water supply. There is a long "fence" line, made from solid slabs of concrete, cemented together. The rain falls, and runs along this impermeable fence, into the reservoir, which is on top of the Hyden rock. Quite amazing to see a reservoir up so high.

Part of the Reservoir Rain Catchment System on Hyden Rock

We can see all around the countryside from here, but we decide to go back down rather than go all the way to the top, which is not too much farther. We make it down to the earth again, and on the trail back to the caravan park, I spot a tiny snake in the path. It just stops there, not moving, while I take pictures of it.

We finally get too close, and it wriggles off the path. Sharon doesn't think it's strictly a snake, but may be a legless lizard. I have read about this in our reptile book, but I have yet to dig into why every snake isn't just a legless lizard and every legless lizard isn't just a snake. I'm sure there's good reasons. I just don't know what they are.

We get back home and Sharon locates Burton's Snake-lizard, a sure-nuff legless lizard. But because of its name, I give her credit for seeing another snake. You only live once.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 2 (Elegant Parrot, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater)
For the Trip: 334.

Trip Birds Today: 2 (The 2 lifers)
For the Trip: Still 396.

Bird Upgrades Today: 1 (Saw Purple-crowned Lorikeets, which we only heard previously).
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 2 (unidentified large snake ready to cross the highway as we drove by, plus Burton's Snake-lizard - well, says Sharon, it LOOKS like a snake!)
For the Trip: 9.

Sleep in: Wave Rock Caravan Park, Hyden, northwest of Albany, east of Perth, Western Australia

 

Monday, October 20, 2003. Day 68 of 118. Wave Rock to Esperance

It's partly overcast, 90% cloudy with the sun playing peekaboo at 7am.

I set the alarm for 530am, but forgot to turn it on. I woke up at 630, and Sharon said "What time is it?" I said I don't know but we DO know that it's not 530 yet. I go over to Wave Rock, hoping the morning sun will cast a different light, but the sun is in hiding, so I head back to camp.

Wave Rock

By 730, we are headed for "Hippo's Yawn," another rock formation. This is less impressive than Wave Rock by a factor of 1000 or so, but I take a picture of Sharon, about to be gobbled up, and then we take off.

Sharon and I saw a great Australian aboriginal movie called "Rabbit-proof Fence," and our map says that fence still exists, at least to some extent. We want to see it, but it's about 50km out of our way, so we'll try to find it down by Esperance, where it starts. If you're interested in good Australian movies, we can recommend 1) Muriel's Wedding, and 2) Ballroom. See 'em. Love 'em.

As we head southeast, the habitat is farmland, mostly crops. It's slightly hilly, like north-central Missouri or Kansas.

About quarter till ten, we are driving in good heath, on both sides of the road. I find a pulloff and we bird a little, getting Pied Honeyeater and White-cheeked Honeyeater (oops, the White-cheeked isn't here, it has to be something else. In Sharon's defense, it was a long way off in the scope).

A little later we drive past a small lake or pond with 100-150 dark birds on it. They are Australian Shelducks, and when we come back to them, every one explodes out of the water and flies off. As we turn around to leave, they circle around and are clearly going to land on the pond again. One Wood Duck is in there with them.

We do a driver switch at 1015am, and Sharon drives all the way to our refueling stop, at 1130, in Raventhorpe. Sharon is excited about a bird that she IDs as a possible Purple-gaped Honeyeater, but then changes her mind and calls it as a Yellow-throated Miner.

Sharon says that while I was sleeping, she avoided two Shinglebacks crossing the road, and saw a big monitor beside the road. I ask her if she saw any snakes, but she says no. She reports that she did see a sign that said Malleefowl Crossing, though.

We have lunch then take off. When we bought fuel, I bought three popsicles that I thought were orange. They turn out to be orange, but encapsulated in chocolate. This is a truly weird combination of tastes, and I think that in some Sees Christmas candy boxes, there is a chocolate with an orange center. It tastes like that.

About 50 km short of Esperance, there is lots of farmland, cleared areas, sheep pastures, some crops, with small patches of heath here and there. We pass this little piece of water, and like most of such locations, we stop to see if there are any Banded Stilts or Hooded Plovers there. There aren't. But I spot something swimming across the top of the water, headed for the partially submerged trees. It's a SNAKE! I g et Sharon on it, and she's excited. She thinks it's maybe a python, and will climb one of the trees. But we lose it in the trees somewhere.

Tally one more snake!

We get to the Lake Gore area, where we may get plovers or stilts. Our information says to turn off on McCall, but there isn't any McCall. There is, however, a Murray, about where we're supposed to turn off. And there's a Murray Winery, so we think that in the ten years since our book was written, the name of the road was changed. Now we hope that the lake is still there.

We wander around the countryside, seeing two Shinglebacks crossing the gravel road together. We stop and I take still photos of one while Sharon takes video of the other. She claims to have gotten the scary mouth-thrown-open-blue-tongue-stuck-out look. I have two or three excellent examples of what a Shingleback looks like one second after sticking out its blue tongue.

Shingleback

We continue our search, but run into closed roads, private roads, signs that refer the reader to some mysterious other road for entry. One road has a sign we originally think is aboriginal. It says, "Y. Wurrie." Sharon busts out laughing, as she gets the joke. Then I get it.

We decide that we're just wasting time, so we abandon this effort, drive back out to the highway, and continue toward Esperance.

Phyllis said that Esperance is a center for Hooded Plovers, and we can only HOPE that this is true.

We choose the Croker Caravan Park, north of Esperance, and check in upon our arrival about 330pm.

I want to hit the internet cafe, Sharon wants to get a haircut while I'm doing that, plus we want to grocery shop, and I want to hit two of the lakes, hoping for plovers and stilts. A lot of stuff to get done today. Too much? At Croker's I get a couple of internet locations, and the lady's daughter works at a haircut shop downtown, but Sharon calls, and she's booked up.

So Sharon wants to find a haircut shop, but I take off for town, figuring that she can use the mobile phone to find one. She's miffed that I got all MY destinations figured out, but she doesn't have a hair shop located, and I'm ignoring her. But I don't know that yet.

I can tell she's upset about something, but I can't figure out exactly what it is, and I'm in a hurry to get to the internet shop and don't want to stop and sort it out. She moves to the dinette with the telephone and asks where the telephone pack is. I'm miffed that she's taking valuable time getting me involved with the telephone, but I pull over and locate the pack, in the space above the driver. I give it to her, and jump into the driver's seat again, and we take off.

I have the address of the internet place, and I slowly drive through town, and usually Sharon is sitting beside me, helping, but she stays in the back. I hear her make a call and ask a Telstra (mobile phone service) operator what number she has to call to call information. I drive all the way through town, and I miss seeing "Computer Alley." I turn around, and head back, and Sharon says, "It's 69C." I say, "I know what the address is, but none of these stores have their address showing." She comes up and says, "It's on the other side of the post office," and I don't know how she knew that, but she does. I think I'm in too big a hurry. And nearly all the way back out of town, we spot it, and I park in front of it. I grab the laptop and go inside.

Well to make an involved story short, she was upset that I wasn't helping her find a haircut shop, and I was upset that she wasn't helping me find the internet shop. {There you go guys, that is about as big a fight as we ever have. We actually travel together quite well. This time I just got into that place where, "Bob's going to get what he wants but I'm not". What's that, about 3 years old?}

But she finds a shop and tells me that she's going for a haircut.

I get my laptop online at ADSL speed, and do email up- and downloading.

She comes back and apologizes for her part of our flareup. I apologize for my part, and she asks if I know what I'm apologizing for. So I have two options: 1) Say no, or 2) say yes, and hope she doesn't ask what it is, to which I would have no good answer. So I say, I have an idea, but I'm not totally sure. She says it's because I had all my stuff arranged, and took off, while she still didn't have her appointment set up.

So I said, yes, I DID leave it up to her, figuring that she could find a place while I was driving downtown, thus saving time. But I didn't lay this "critical path" philosophy on her.

Anyway, we get the air mostly cleared, and spend the next couple of hours driving around the area, getting lost, bumping into people trying to help, but just giving us more locations to try. It just gets more and more frustrating.

One cool thing we did see, however, was these two 'submarine' birds. By that I mean, we could see what appeared to be a couple of ducks, but the front of their bills were just level with the water. All you could see was their head, down to about the middle, or sometimes just below their bill. Sharon says, "I remember reading about one of the ducks that does this." And I say, "I think it's the Musk Duck." And it is. Pretty cool.

We finally get down to having only one lake left to try, and I say, "Let's get groceries. If I try one more lake, and we don't find any plovers or stilts, I'm really going to be frosted. So why set myself up for that? Let's go to Woolie's." To which Sharon agrees - with her new haircut.

We go back into town, locate the Woolworth's, and do our shopping. And as we are finishing up, they start closing all the doors. "When do you close?" we ask. "Now," is the reply. Well, as you would expect, they're just not letting new people in. If you're already in, you can finish shopping.

Man, was that ever a good decision to skip the "last" lake. We just barely got our grocery shopping in, and we're going to be a long distance without any full grocery stores the next few days.

We get back to the camp, set up, and while Sharon is doing dinner, I empty the toilet cartridge, empty the grey water, and fill up the fresh water. It feels great to have everything topped up or emptied.

We are back in synch again, celebrating that last decision to get groceries when we did.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0.
For the Trip: 334.

Trip Birds Today: 0.
For the Trip: Still 396.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0.
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 1 (Unidentified species. Swimming in a lake we were scanning from the motorhome).
For the Trip: 10.

Sleep in: Croker's Caravan Park, Esperance, West Australia

That's it for Report 22. Get ready for the Nullarbor!


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