Report No. 24. Friday, October 24 thru Monday, October 27, 2003. Finishing the Nullabor. Adelaide Environs.

 

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

Friday, October 24, 2003. Day 72 of 118. Crossing the Nullabor - Nullabor Roadhouse to Port Augusta

As I'm returning from the morning trip to the rest room, I see the sun climb through a "one-inch" strip of sky between the horizon and the low cloud cover. And while it lasts, it's beautiful.

We slowly pull out from the caravan park, and about twenty swallows rise up from the hotel in unison, as if welcoming us. Which makes no sense, given that we're leaving. They're not called Goodbye Swallows.

We're on the road at 630am, and it starts raining. So how smart do we look now for double-birding the fence road by the Nullabor Roadhouse yesterday! I have to say that was Sharon's idea.

We're headed for Adelaide, and because of the particular birds we've seen during the trip so far, there are a number of spots around this city that we can skip, thus making up days we've lost thus far. One of the casualties is Kangaroo Island, which was highly recommended by a number of people. My theory is that if it were called "Wilson's Island," it wouldn't be that big a deal. We have seen almost all the stuff on there.

Last night in the dining room of the roadhouse, I noticed the tandem trike couple having dinner with another couple of people - probably bikers also. Now we pass them again, in the rain. They have parkas on with hoods over their head. Give me the Winnie-BAH-go today.

We pass the turnoff to the Head of Bight, a famous whale-watching spot. But October is the end of the period of time that they are here, and others have told us that they're gone now.

A little before 8 am, we are back into woodland - open woodland. Fantastic. The treeless portion of the Nullabor drive is history. We pass a bush camp, with a car camped in the trees.

Sharon sees parrots flying beside us - appropriately, a pair. A pair o' parrots. Then they peel off. They may have been Blue Bonnets, but we won't know now.

We come to the Yulata Roadhouse, and 7 kilometers on the east side we come to the world-famous Dingo Fence, or Dog Fence. This reminds us of the more famous Rabbit-proof Fence, the one we missed earlier. This dog fence is to keep dingos and wild dogs out of South Australia's sheep ranches by keeping them west of the fence. It's a very serious fence. And is marked on the highway by a "grid," or "cattle crossing."

In the AAA map that our friend Ian gave us in Sydney, Sharon can see that the dog fence runs along the road for a bit, then takes off going north.

We fuel up and see House Sparrows in the town of Penong, and they are the first such birds we've seen in ages.

On the way out, I notice a lot of windmills in the paddocks (pastures), and most have alternating colors on the blades. I point these out to Sharon, and she says, "Oh yes, this is called the town of a hundred windmills." To which I ask, "How do you know that?" To which she says, "I read it." To which I say, "Oh yeah? Well, I only see 98." Then we go over a little hill and there are two more.

Stupid windmills.

Penong is a derivative of two aboriginal words meaning 'watering place.' There are now crops on both sides of us and for the first time since I can remember, there are now power poles along the highway. The individual roadhouses would have a generator, usually in a building, out back (get it? Out back?) behind the roadhouse. That and the house sparrows tell us that we're back in settled territory.

We pass a huge water tank with telephone numbers on it. A sign says "If overflowing, call one of these numbers." There are three telephone numbers on the side of the tank.

The bird of the day is the starling. They are everywhere.

There have been several kinds of paved roads during our trip. "Paved" is called "sealed" in Australia.

In the far north, there were sealed roads exactly one vehicle wide. There were wide dirt paths on either side, and when you met a vehicle, each of you moved off the road so you had the right wheels on the pavement, and the left wheels on the dirt.

Another type of paved road is exactly two vehicles wide, with almost no extra "wiggle" room. Two feet to the left, and your left wheels are in the dirt, if you are lucky enough to have a dirt siding.

Then there is the nice, wide road where you can move your vehicle left to right a couple of feet and still be completely in your lane.

The road we are on right now used to be Type 1 - a single paved road with dirt on either side. But the dirt portions have been paved also, with black bitumen. The main, center road was made with red ingredients. The interface, where the black and red meet have been perfectly blended, converting the former single lane bitumen to a nice two-lane bitumen road.

We come to the quarantine station in Ceduna about 11am, and give up our remaining fresh fruit, vegetables and some other things. We knew this was coming for several days, so we have been taking care of business, eating them up as fast as we can.

Next stop is at a beach in Ceduna, hoping for a certain cormorant, and we get a couple but not the one we want. So we are outa there. Ceduna is a substantial town, with four petrol stations, and I think of this as the major dropping off point, on the road west. Sort of like St. Louis was the dropoff point for expeditions westward during the era of Williams and Clark, in the U.S. in the early 1800s.

We stop for lunch beside a patch of mallee, hoping to get some birds, but don't get a peep. We move on, coming to short grass croplands. The road we're on is a nice wide paved road, and there is a dirt road running parallel to us, off to the left.

We pass through Wirulla, a "town with a secret." We don't know the secret, and don't stop to inquire. It'll stay their secret, whatever it is. We suspect it's something like, "Wirulla is a great town."

As we continue eastward, there is an above-ground pipeline in addition to the dirt road. I figure it's natural gas line, delivering energy to the outer regions leading up to the Nullarbor.

We make a driver change about 230 pm. A railroad is now running beside the road also. I'm so interested that I doze off. While I'm sleeping, Sharon drives us into the Adelaide GPS region, and I'm delighted to see roads and towns again on the GPS display.

A two-trailer road train has "Hakuna Matata" painted across the top of the truck. We arrive in Kimba. Sharon says, "Kimba-ley," which would be how Aussie's say our daughter-in-law Kimberly's name.

We refuel, buy four popsicles and Sharon initiates the idea to drive on to Port Augusta. We pass the "Big Galah," who wishes us a safe journey from the Halfway Across Australia store.

The Big Galah

A parrot almost hits our windshield, and we see a flash of multiple colors, but it's so quick that we don't have a chance at the ID. I'm guessing, oh I don't know, maybe Night Parrot. Just an idea.

We drive through and about 530 pm, we begin to see a huge rusty red mountain. As we get nearer, we see that it's the result of extensive mining. The town is Iron Knob, and a sign says that this is the place where the Australian steel industry started.

The habitat here is small scrub desert, a lot like the deserts in Nevada. There are sheep on our left, fences on both sides, and small trees scattered around the area.

At 6 pm, we are in pure desert now, as we approach Port Augusta. There are power lines along our left side, and each pole carries three lines, one for each phase of the alternating current electricity.

After breaking our previous record for kilometers driven in one day (759 kilometers, or 475 miles today), we check into the Port Augusta Big 4 Holiday Park, where we get an Ensuite site. For those of you who don't speak French, this means that you have your own private little rest room, with toilet, sink and shower. It is just a few feet away from where you park, and you have a key to it, so no one else uses it but you. The average price of a powered site is perhaps $20 or a little less. Ensuite adds about $4 or $5 to that.

A bonus item here is that they have cable TV, and we check out a connecting cable, leaving a deposit of $20 cash. This turns out to be rather funny, because without the cable, we can get about 3 channels, none very good. But when we plug in the cable, running it through a side door, under our bed, and out a storage door, then up behind the TV, we get a grand total of...

3 channels, none very good.

But we don't care too much, and we have a relaxing evening, with a feeling of accomplishment that we knocked off so much distance today. We didn't do any birding, but that should change tomorrow.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 339.

Trip Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: Still 401.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0.
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Port Augusta Big 4 Holiday Park, Port Augusta, SA

 

Saturday, October 25, 2003. Day 73 of 118. Port Augusta to Gawler. Chough is Enough.

It rained all night, and we have to wait till they open the office so we can return the TV cable and get our $20 deposit back. Today is the first day of daylight savings, so we lost an hour sometime during the night.

We hit the Coles, and at 9am, Sharon is packing them away. Sharon calls her blood sister, Sharon Petrick to wish her Happy Birthday. Sharon and Bill are taking their kids, Jeff and Mollie, to Mexico, so she will be out of town for all the surprise 60th birthday parties people might be planning for her.

The grocery shopping is done, the groceries are put away, the toilet and grey water tanks are empty, the fresh water tank is full, and we will have a chance for new birds later today. Ah, life is grand in the birding, touring, Australia world.

This morning, the fellow parked next to us brought a huge map of Australia over and pointed to the town of Newcastle, where he is from. They have done a very similar path to ours, and he has put 22,000 kilometers on their odometer. We've done almost the same thing and have about 21.5. I'm jealous because in Cairns, they dropped off their caravan (trailer) at a caravan park, loaded some camping gear into their 4WD, and drove all the way up to the tip of Cape York, stopping at Iron Range on the way.

Oooh, like salt in an open wound. Iron Range is the one place we didn't go that I wish we would have. Well, that and a trek into the Kimberly to see all those Gouldian Finches.

About 10 am, we get a Black Kite, about 67 kilometers out of Port Augusta, and we haven't seen one of those for a while. Later we get three or four Whistling Kites too.

There is wheat on our left and a mountain range beyond that. On the right is wild grazing land, and about one or two kilometers beyond that is the water.

We refuel at the Port Pirie Mobil station.

This morning, we heard lorikeets fly over our camp twice. They sounded like Purple-crowned Lorikeets, but that may be because I've never heard a Musk or Little Lorikeet before. Who knows what they were?

We stop for lunch beside a big lake of salt. There are evaporation ponds at the far end, and it's here we stop. Sharon saw three of those wheeled sailboats, with their sails down, waiting for a salt sailor to activate them.

At 1230pm, we are finished, and I say, "That's lunch," but Sharon says, in honor of grandson Sieren, since this was our first meal of the day, "No, that was breakfast." Sieren keeps an automatic count of the number of meals during the day, and the first one is breakfast, no matter when it's consumed. In a similar manner, the second is lunch, no matter when. And if you don't have three meals, then you didn't have dinner. I like Sieren's logic.

We pass through Lochiel, and it's self-proclaimed nickname is 'Salt Lake City.' We are still north of Port Wakefield, and it's all croplands to the left and to the right. Sometimes it's canola, but usually wheat. Today is about 60 percent blue sky, and the rest is puffy white clouds. The wind is very, very strong, from the right side, making for tough driving. Sharon doesn't like to drive in this, so I'll do the entire day, as long as this wind keeps up.

We talk with four guys in what I would call a rally car in the U.S. They are just finishing a cancer fundraiser event, and all their sponsors have decals on the car.

About 120pm, we turn off to Port Prime, and more specifically to the samphire flats that will occur before we reach the coast. We're also looking for a new raven that we think we saw yesterday, but never stopped to check carefully.

As we are driving the dirt road, a pair of Shinglebacks cross the road. One gets scared, turns around and goes back in where it came from, on the left. The other stays put, in the road, and I drive around it. Up the road a little, we see a smooshed single former Shingleback.

We come upon a good patch of samphire, and pull over to the side of the road. The wind is blowing pretty strong from the coast, and I don't know if we have a shot at our samphire bird or not.

We start walking a dirt road that passes right through the patch, and I play my taped bird song a few times, but hear nothing except the wind. Sharon, on the other hand, stops me with her ear to the wind, "I hear one," and points. After a bit, we start walking towards it, and if I hold my head just right, and the wind dies down enough, I can hear it too. It sounds exactly like the tape we've been playing.

Now if it'll just play fair.

Suddenly a bird lifts out of the samphire, flies straight away from us, keeping low, and drops down below a big green bush in the middle of all the samphire. What the bird doesn't know is that I can see him, although Sharon is blocked by a patch of bush. As I'm trying to get Sharon on the bird, it runs from right to left, and disappears. We go up and try to flush it again, but it is gone.

Then we start hearing songs from three different places. We pick one, and start walking through the samphire, towards the sound. When we get ever so close, the sound stops. We expect to see a bird running or flying, but get nothing. We repeat this three more times, and decide to let them go. We convince ourselves that we have enough evidence to claim SLENDER-BILLED THORNBILL*, formerly called Samphire Thornbill. {Some birds are like this, all you get to see is their rear as they fly away from you. But with all the other positive evidence of what they are, that is all you NEED to see.}

So we head for the truck, feeling much like a baseball player with a twenty game hitting streak going, who just got a base hit in his first at bat in today's game. You know, "Now I can relax. I already got my hit for this game."

I spot a strange looking thing, and call Sharon over. I think it's a dead Shingleback, but Sharon correctly recognizes it as a shed skin. Pretty cool. It's completely intact. Sharon holds it up for the day's Shingleback photo.

We continue on, and with tourist pamphlets we've picked up, we decide to drive into Gawler, try for an internet connection, and get information on the Sandy Creek Conservation Area.

As we arrive in Gawler, we round a corner, and see a glider resting on the left side of the road, about half in the road and half off to the side. The plexiglass canopy is busted all to pieces, but nobody seems to be injured. Then I notice that across the fence is an airport. So now I'm wondering, did this fellow have his little crash on takeoff or landing? Don't know, and we move on.

We find a manned information center, but that turns out to be incorrect. Two women are running this operation today. We ask them about 1) an internet cafe, and 2) the birding spot we're after. They tell us where an internet cafe is, and give us a map to the birding spot. "You're only about ten minutes away," they say. Hot dog. We'll be birding in twenty minutes.

We drive out, and there are fields of vineyards and crops, and fields of eye-shattering purple flowers, flowing over the rolling hills and down into valleys. With the sun low, and that great afternoon light, it's "crippling," to borrow that English term again.

We easily find the turnoff, and on the way in, we see a tree with several large birds, like ravens. But as we stop to examine them, we notice that they have a spooky red eye, and a big tail, fanned out. The black has a kind of brownish tint to it. We then see that at least one, and then two of them are fledglings. They stay where they are as our vehicle approaches. The adults move higher and away from us. Then one of them flies, and BAM, we are privileged to see the big white patches on the wings, not visible when the bird is perched. They are WHITE-WINGED CHOUGHS*, one of the two members of a family, the Apostlebird being the other member. Both of these birds are group-oriented, family-oriented, living their lives in groups that share tasks.

We had fun running through the possibilities. "Koel?" No that bird's not here. "Coucal?" No, not here either. "I know it can't be White-winged Chough because these birds are way too big and their bills are wrong." That is, until one flew and we saw those smashing white wing patches. So we checked again, and learned that 1) these choughs seem bigger than what we had in mind, which was the choughs of England and Wales, and 2) the bills were a lot sturdier than we had in mind.

We drive on in, find the carpark, locate the trailheads, then decide it's too late. We'll stay in Gawler and come out here early tomorrow morning, so we can do it up right, without fighting nighttime curfew.

We go back into Gawler, and locate the town's internet cafe. An older white-bearded man who looks a little like Santa but with an additional 25 kilograms (50 pounds or so) on his belly is talking on the phone. An older women, presumably Mrs. Claus, is sitting at a little table through a door in the corner. I ask her if they have facilities for me to tie my laptop into the internet, and she sort of sputters and points to Mr. Santa, who is just getting off the phone.

"Hi, can you connect my laptop to the internet?" I ask. "What?" he says, not able to decipher my American accent. I repeat my request, and he interrupts me with a gruff, "No!" So I ask, seeing several telephone jacks around the room, "Can I use one of your phone lines to call Adelaide and get on that way?" He looks at the jacks and says, "No!" So I say, recognizing this fellow as being in the group of earthlings that loves to tell you 'no,' "OK, thanks, see you later," and turn to walk out the front door. He waves his hand at his meager selection of old computers, "You can use one of these," he says, as if to accuse me of idiocy. He is ANGRY, and I sense that it doesn't have anything to do with me. "No, thanks," I say, and I am out of the funk of the store.

He won't be there long.

When I get back to the motorhome, Sharon is on her knees in front of the open refrigerator, cleaning up messy remains of an exploded Diet Pepsi can that got too cold, in the back of the refrigerator, next to the cooling coils. Interestingly, a Diet Coke exploded in a similar manner in Bamaga up on Cape York. Something about DIET drinks.

I ask her what I can do, and she says, "You can clean off those things," pointing to several jars and cans beside the sink. Frozen root beer cakes them, and I clean them off. Somehow in all the cleaning, Sharon has accidentally turned off the refrigerator, and she is now skilled at recognizing the sound of a 'running' fridge. And this guy ain't runnin'.

But after all the dust settles, the fridge is running again, and we add a rule-of-the-fridge to our list: Don't put Diet Pepsis in the back of the fridge, next to the cooling coils. The Cokes aren't affected, but the Diet Pepsi cans first start bulging out, forming a neat dome where you pop the top. Then the can splits and you don't want to be in the way when it does.

We find the Gawler Caravan Park, check in, and get some coins for the laundry. What we think is Purple-crowned Lorikeets fly over several times, and they are like rockets. I go wandering with my binoculars though, and zero in on several of them just after they perch high in a euclyptus tree. And they are NOT Purple-crowned Lorikeets, but something else. I get the key facial marks, and look them up in my Simpson and Day, and then I get Sharon. She comes out, and just before they fly, she confirms that they are not Purple-crowneds. She goes back in, continuing dinner preparations, and the rockets land again. I get her, and this time she gets the red in front of the eye, and the red slash trailing back from the eye. They are MUSK LORIKEETS*, and they are working the flowers high in the trees.

We enjoy Sharon's great Mexican dinner, the fact that the laundry's done and, Hey! We got three lifers today. All is well in the bird world.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 3 (Slender-billed Thornbill, White-winged Chough, Musk Lorikeet)
For the Trip: 342.

Trip Birds Today: 3 (The 3 lifers).
For the Trip: Still 404.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0.
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Gawler Caravan Park, Gawler, South Australia

 

Sunday, October 26, 2003. Day 74 of 118. Sandy Creek Conservation Area, St. Kilda Salt Ponds, St. Kilda Mangrove Walk

It's 758 am, the first day of daylight savings time here. It's cool outside, and we are excited to be heading for Sandy Creek C.A. again. But the sun is shining and we are ready for anything - anything but a life bird shutout, that is.

We see the Choughs again coming in, and I get a photo of one of the babies, who isn't savvy enough to fly away yet, as his parents, uncles and aunts are.

We start in and immediately Sharon hears five finches flying high overhead. They are far too far away to ID, and I'm not sure they are finches, to tell the truth. They sound a little like it though.

We pass the display showing the trails of the area, then walk on, past the giant field of purple flowers, and start in on the Honeyeater Trail. We get Mistletoebird, male and female, and they are always a pleasure, with that great black and white and red. They always make me want to kiss somebody.

Flower Girl

We get Silvereyes and Magpies, then a pair of sharp Eastern Spinebills. This completes a certain loop for me. We got Eastern, then Western, and now Eastern Spinebills again. There's a nice Striated Pardalote.

We are walking down a hard packed earth trail, with sprinkles of sand on it. There are a billion ants on the trail, all walking in the same direction that we are. A Rufous Whistler calls and we get a good look at a pair of them. A White-winged Triller calls from high in the same tree as the whistlers. A Striated Pardalote checks in with nesting material in its bill.

We hear a high-pitched call that makes me think 'emuwren', but it's a beautiful Superb Fairy-wren. Then another pair of Eastern Spinebills, crossing a family of Superbs.

There is a part of this trail that passes through an abandoned vineyard, and we pass a big green vertical cylinder that may have been a water container. The trail goes straight through to some woodlands, then makes a sharp right turn just pass some good green grass, to continue to our right. But we can cut across the corner to save time if we want. Sharon starts that cut, but I say, "Let's go the full route here. I like the looks of that grass near the big trees. It may be the habitat the Diamond Firetails like."

She likes that, so we go that way. "Wait!" says Sharon, quietly. "Parrots." They are down in the grass, eating seeds, and we try to ID them. I swing my binoculars to the right to look at the parrots, and I can't believe what's in perfect focus, in the dead center of my binoculars, perched on a dead branch sticking up from the ground. "DIAMOND FIRETAIL*" I tell Sharon. "Where?" she says to me. I tell her where, and she gets on it immediately.

I have to say, without reviewing all the things I've seen previously in my life, for about five seconds, I thought, "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!" It's colors are black and white, two tones of grey, and the most incredible RED on the bill and the rump that you can imagine. A black band crosses the pure white underparts at chest level, and black flanks are dotted with white spots. Like diamonds.

Now I know why I cleaned my lenses this morning.

It is perched in the brilliant sunshine, in perfect focus, in 3D because we're using binoculars and not the scope. And it turns this way and that giving us good looks. I have trouble keeping my knees from buckling.

What a bird.

It takes off, joining two more on the grass, then they all fly off. So we switch over to the parrots, which we finally nail as Red-rumped Parrots.

We can't believe all the different birds we're getting on this one trail. And there's a Weebill, and a couple of Bee-eaters.

A quarter till ten gives us a big Grey Currawong, then three Superb Fairy-wrens in a bank of banksia. A Jacky Winter sings for us, and as we approach a youth hostel building, several White-plumed Honeyeaters respond to Sharon's calls. We walk to the end of the hostel, then reverse our path, looking forward to seeing the birds again we saw on the way in.

But Sharon picks up a new call that we haven't heard before and I get it too. It's a kind of scolding. She finally locates the bird, feeding high in a tree. We both get on it, but I'm first with the details - an unusual occurrence. "I think this is one of our birds," I say, referring to our three target birds, from our Wheatley's where-to-find-'em book. "Yes, I see it," and I name the bird. Sharon is on it immediately, and it's pretty subtle, but we finally agree. It's a BLACK-CHINNED HONEYEATER*. My first view was from the side, and I thought I saw it immediately. We will check that scolding call with our taped songs when we get back to the motorhome (We checked and got confirmation).

There is a huge big patch of banksia across a fence, in the vineyard property, and we decide to get off the trail and follow that fence back up the hill. I don't see it, but Sharon gets a EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH, singing but vacating the premises before I can get on it.

We walk down through the narrow corridor, called the Mark Bonnin Path, then come out above a big field of purple. There are about 25 Galahs doing flight maneuvers. They all land on a big dead tree snag, are up again, down again all on the top strand of a fence, up again, around, then down on the ground. What fun it must be to be in that flight.

Sharon says, "Hold it. Check out this raven." I get on it, and there are three actually. One has just landed, and is lifting its wings as it calls, rather than bowing forward. So it's a LITTLE RAVEN*.

We walk to the grass patch, where we got Diamond Firetails and parrots, and it is perfectly quiet now. Not a bird. We turn left, and I get a nice photo of Sharon plopped down flat on her back in the purple. I'll put it on our website.

Sharon is a little ahead of me when she says, "What are these black and white birds?" I'm not too excited, and I don't rush, but I get on them just as one flies. The remaining one is definitely a robin of some kind. It is kind of splotchy, and I figure it might be a juvenile. I think maybe it's a Red-capped Robin, which was mentioned as being in here, but Sharon says the adult with it didn't have any red - just black and white. We search the meadow, and there it is, finally, a HOODED ROBIN*. It turns out to be two adults and a juvenile. The parents are feeding it and following it as it flies from perch to perch. Once a Varied Sitella flies in and lands near it. The juvie immediately hops over next to the Sitella, which flies away. We wonder if it mistook the black and white colored bird for one of its parents.

I ask, but it's not talking.

We continue out, getting a nice White-browed Babbler family before we get to the motorhome. Totally thrilled with our day, we exit the park and head out.

Horse racing was in my blood once, and still is, to some extent. One of the big races in Australia every year is called the Cox Plate. This year, the favorite was Longho (rhymes with bongo), and there was a rumor that his owner was going to bet 200,000 dollars on him to win, he was so confident.

A television camera caught a man holding a sign up that had three lines on it: Death, Taxes, Longho.

Longho came in third.

This is another example of what is known in horse racing as a sure thing. I remember a group of people from Miami betting a million dollars on the Miami Dolphins the year that football team played the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana.

Another sure thing, except nobody told the Niners.

We have lunch, then do a little antique shopping in Gawler. As we ramble around, Sharon says that she heard today is the first day of deregulated shopping. We figure this may mean that stores formerly not able to open on Sunday might be able to now (this turned out to be accurate, and I believe it referred just to South Australia. Other states already allow it).

We refuel at the Gawler BP and head out, leaving town on a road lined on both sides with bottlebrush trees all heavy with red blossoms. Honeyeater heaven.

We hit the road for St. Kilda's, home of some salt evaporation ponds, and a potential life bird or two.

Before you know it, here we are, like magic. As we come to the first big pond, it is filled with birds swimming, and they can only be gulls. But they don't look like any birds we've ever seen. They have elegant necks, long pointed bills and black wings. But they're SWIMMING, not standing as we expected to see stilts doing. We're buffaloed.

Then Sharon sees one of the birds flying, and she says, "I can see the band. I see the band! When they are in the water, you can't see it." I look up the bird in one of our ID books and, you're not going to believe this, but under BANDED STILT*, it says, "Often swims."

Bingo.

We see a sign for St. Kilda's Mangrove Walk, and I pull into the parking lot. Sharon is sooo sleepy. She says, "I'm gonna take a nap," and has that great look on her face, that you know she's going to be asleep about thirty seconds after her head hits the pillow.

I tell her I'm gonna walk around and check things out, and she says, "O," but I don't think she got the 'K' out before SHE was out.

I walk up to the entrance to find out what kind of birds we might see if we pay the $6.80 each, but before I get there, I find myself looking straight on at a Black-tailed Native-hen. I can't believe it. Look at that pea green upper bill. I have to go back and get Sharon. Oh, no, she's asleep. What to do? Let's see. The bird is slowly walking into that cover. If I get Sharon immediately, she MIGHT see it. I'll let her sleep, and if I'm seeing this bird this quickly and easily, they must be all over the place.

I think you can guess the rest. When she wakes, we pay the money, go on the walk, and don't see another one. However, I play my taped call several times, and once, quite clearly, we get a response from a BLACK-TAILED NATIVE-HEN*. It calls two or three times, then is quiet. So we put this one into the heard-only category. Which means it counts, Jack, the same as if we'd seen it. What we say about birds like this is, "...and we'll hope for an upgrade later."

When we first started birding, we said we had to SEE the bird to count it. Then, when we found out that the best birders count a bird either way, if they are certain of its identify. So we do that now too.

Listen? Wasn't that an Ivory-billed Woodpecker?

We finish up the mangrove walk, and drive on towards Adelaide. It's about 430 pm, and we find a great caravan park, about 20 km north of Adelaide. Perfect.

We walk around the grounds, get just an excellent view of a foraging Musk Lorikeet. This time we can see the subtle blue on the top of the head. Very nice. Then we get a EUROPEAN BLACKBIRD, which acts for all the world like an American Robin. It's a black bird with yellow bill and eye ring.

We have dinner and celebrate our fantastic day. Six lifers plus two additional trip birds. Rock my world.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 6 (Diamond Firetail, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Little Raven, Hooded Robin, Banded Stilt, Black-tailed Native-hen)
For the Trip: 348.

Trip Birds Today: 8 (The 6 lifers plus European Goldfinch, European Blackbird). For the Trip: Still 412.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0.
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Highway 1 Caravan and Tourist Park, Bolivar, 18 km north of Adelaide, SA

 

Monday, October 27, 2003. Day 75 of 118. Adelaide to Victor Harbor. A Birding "Day Off"

The alarm goes off at 6am, but I turn it off. We luxuriate in going back to sleep.

We finally get on the road about 11 am, headed for Adelaide. I have several emails ready to send off, including another trip report, but need to connect my laptop to do it. We got lots of maps last night at the caravan park, and we make our way into the city, locate a parking spot and I grab my laptop. Sharon decides to stay with the motorhome. She knows that I may walk all over the place looking for what I need, and she doesn't need any of that.

We are in a 30-minute-max parking zone, and I think it means you can stay here for 30 minutes (cost $1), then you have to leave. But we will plead insanity, infirmity and American if it comes to that. That should take care of it.

I finally locate what I want, an upstairs backpacker travel and internet place, but they don't have it setup for laptops. They recommend another place. I find it, and they don't either. So I just check our messages, without responding to any, as I recall. Then I head back. This all takes about an hour and a half or two hours.

Sharon says she went into a charity store to get change for a $2 coin, and found something she wanted to get, but they don't take credit cards, and I'm the money man, so she had to wait for me.

I give her the money, she picks up what she wants, and we get ready to go. We decide not to go to Kangaroo Island, since we have almost all the birds that we would see there, except for one. And we can get that one elsewhere. This will save us a day or two, by not going down there. I am still trying to save days.

We slowly make our way out of the city. In the words of one of my boss's bosses, "Plan your work, and work your plan."

We choose Victor Harbor as our likely stop tonight, but we will go to a couple of places south of there, then come back north, and see what time it is.

We pass a most interesting sign on a waterbed store. It says, "Sleep in water. Millions of fish can't be wrong."

We then come to a motorway, M2, but it is open only certain hours of the day. The signs are not permanent, but rather those that light up and can spell any message. This one now says, "GO BACK. WRONG WAY." It's a commuter motorway. There are three or four lanes, and in the morning, all four come into town. In the evening, all four go out of town. Pretty efficient.

We pass a store with a sign in front that catches my attention. It is a cartoon of the top half of John Belushi and Dan Akroyd's Blues Brothers characters. I can see the hats and the sunglasses. Another sign says, "THE BOOZE BROTHERS." It's a liquor store.

We finally arrive in Victor Harbor, but turn south instead of going into town. A sign says "INVESTIGATOR COLLEGE," and my mind goes swimming in all the things that could be.

We make our way through vineyards and farmland pastures, and we make our way to Waitpanga Beach, passing a little area of wetlands just before we cross the last hill to the beach. Sharon wants to come back and check the birds out here on our way back out.

We hit the beach, but get no birds at all. The wind is blowing like crazy. We have lunch, then pack up and head out, stopping to check the wetland area. We have our best scanner in operation - Sharon, using her binoculars. "We have to get the scope on this guy," she says. I get the scope off of the tripod and mount it on the window clamp. She gets it all set up and is excited to say, "I think I have our Hooded Plover." I get on it, and there's this beautiful bird with a black head and reddish black patch on his side.

We check the book, expecting confirmation, but, oops, it's a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels. Close, but no CEE-gar.

We go back into Victor Harbor, and I try three different places for internet assistance, but strike out on all of them. The closest one had the right stuff, but his server was down, and he had been told it wouldn't be up for 72 hours or so.

We stop at a Woolie's, get some microwave popcorn and some other goodies, then go to the caravan park, where "What Ho! Cried Daniel," they have a phone line over in the corner, dedicated to people with a laptop who want to get on the internet.

For me? You shouldn't have.

We get the motorhome set up, and I link my laptop up to the internet over the dialup connection. I send Report 23 off, and put the fifth set of photos on our website - photos of the Nullabor and a couple north of Adelaide.

We are close to the beach, and there are gale force winds going on tonight. We lower the antenna so it doesn't get blown away, and the picture is just as good without the antenna up as it was with it up.

We each have showers, and after dinner, we enjoy the feeling of the old motorhome rockin' in the wind. Hold on to your hat.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 348.

Trip Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: Still 412.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0.
For the Trip: 2

Snakes Seen Today: 0.
For the Trip: 11.

Sleep in: Victor Harbor Caravan Park, Victor Harbor, South Australia

 

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