Report No. 36. Sunday, November 30 thru Saturday, Tuesday, December 2. Dubbo, Goonoo and Barrington Tops - Love those Australian Names.


Sunday, November 30, 2003. Day 109 of 118. Rock View, Dubbo.

We are up about 6 am, and there aren't any Glossy Black-cockatoos waiting to greet us.


Soon everybody else gets up, and it's fun watching their club ("Birding New South Wales," formerly "NSW Field Ornithologists Club, Inc.") analyze a bird on a power line. They decide it's either a juvenile Black-eared Cuckoo or a Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, since they both have dark lines through the eye.

The (perhaps) best birder, Clive, thinks it's a Bronze-cuckoo. As they discuss it, bird guide books show up, are opened on the hoods of cars. Different people toss out for discussion what they're seeing, and they finally make it to be an immature Black-eared Cuckoo. Clive says, "I stand corrected."

It's fascinating to watch a combination of expert and intermediate birders work through by committee what Sharon and I work through by ourselves. I like both methods, but I think I would tend to "coast" if I were in the committee, and with Sharon, we both have to work our butts off to get the bird. It's much more fulfilling for me. On the other hand, perhaps the main reason they do it as a group is because it IS a group. They clearly enjoy each other's company.

A few minutes later, I get both the immature and an adult Black-eared Cuckoo on the house's TV antenna. {Once again, the confounding information that adult cuckoos foster immatures instead of just laying an egg in another bird's nest and never participating in the raising of the chick as I thought cuckoos didn''t.}

Not everybody was up yet to participate in the cuckoo analysis, and when everybody does finally get up, we say goodbye and go on one last Black-cockatoo-where-are-you walk ourselves.

I see a White-browed Swallow take a cicada down to the ground and whack it a couple of times, against the ground. Then it looks like the cicada sort of breaks in two, though that doesn't make any sense to me. The woodswallow picks up one of the pieces and flies off.

Sharon and I slowly make our way around the upper part of the bowl that is this small valley, then down, then up the other side, then around, down again to a dam, then up to the lodge. We see a few nice birds, but...

No Glossy-black Cockatoos.

Everybody else is either gone back to Sydney, or is out on a local birding road trip. We take off, with me driving and Sharon opening each gate, seeing me go through, then relatching it. She does two gates this way, and we're back out on the gravel drive that is Crown Station Road.

We drive a few kilometers, then come to a tee, where Glen Alice and Glen Davis are to the right and the reedy creek, where people saw Plum-headed Finch "only" ten years ago is to the left. I imagine they'll still be there, don't you?

They're not.

Since we didn't get Glossy Black-cockatoo, we will drive over the mountains and down onto the agricultural plains to the west, to the town with the wonderful name of Dubbo. As I look through my notes, I realize that Plum-headed Finches are also seen in Dubbo! All right, two birds to shoot for.

We stop at McDonald's for lunch about 130 pm, and by 3 pm, we are in Dubbo, driving past the Big Makita Drill, in front of a hardware store.

We go to the Information Visitors Center, and a guy there says that the library is the place to go for the internet. I say I need to connect my laptop up, and he says that across the street from the library is an internet place, but he doesn't think they're still open at 4 pm.

I go over to the internet cafe, but there's a young kid running it who doesn't know how to hook me in. He says to come back tomorrow and maybe the owners can help me. I say ok, and just get on a regular internet terminal, since we haven't been able to check messages for a long time.

There are 150 messages, of which 10 are "real." There are 140 messages of stuff NOT from Scotland, in other words they are crrrrap (roll your r's)! I resave and mark as "Keep as New" the good messages. I'll pick them up with the laptop down the road some more. We've got two reports ready to go, but we can't send them.

We check in at the Dubbo Cabin and Caravan Parklands in Dubbo.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 407.

Trip Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 474.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0
For the Trip: 11

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 16

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

Sleep in: Dubbo Cabin and Caravan Parklands, Dubbo, NSW

Monday, December 1, 2003. Day 110 of 118. Dubbo, Goonoo State Forest.

We wake up in Dubbo, after sleeping in. I think, "My gosh, this is the first time I ever woke up in Dubbo." The weather is pleasant. It's overcast and not too hot. We want to connect with David Geering, whose name we got from Greg Anderson. David's cool title is "Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator, Department of Environment & Conservation."

I had sent a list of birds we still need to Greg, and he forwarded it to David. David then answered Greg, with a copy to me. Great answers, including the fact that Glossy Black-cockatoo is "almost dead certain," in David's words, in Goonoo State Forest.

We want to find out just where to find the forest, and where to go IN the forest. In other words, once again, we're lost OUTSIDE the forest. We also want to ask him where he was talking about when he said we might see Plum-headed Finch in Dubbo.

I call David's line, and leave him a message with our mobile phone number. Then we call second daughter Shandra. I wish her a late Happy Birthday, and talk to granddaughters Mikayla, Samantha and Sydney. Mikayla is so much fun to talk to. She's little Miss Grownup. Samantha sang me this "new" song, based on one I sing to her every year.

Happy Birthday to you You live in a HOUSE (instead of zoo the way I sing it to her) You look like a monkey And you smell like one too.

Excellent variation.

Sydney gets on and says, so cute I can't stand it, "Hi, Grandma Mary." I say, "Hi Sydney, it's Grandpa Bob." She takes about a two second delay, then says in the same soft voice, "Hi Grandpa Bob." Just makes me want to melt. The last time we visited, she wasn't talking nearly this well.

Sharon talks to each of them also, and just this little connection feels wonderful. {Shandra tells me that they all went out to dinner when Bob, Carrie, and Maureen visited them. Jeff ordered crayfish for dinner and when it came on his plate, Sydney said (in horror) "Daddy's eating bugs!". When I ask Sydney "what did Daddy eat when you went out for dinner? now she says "he ate Crabs!" What a cutie.}

After that, we go to the Post Office, where Sharon gets some stamps and post cards. By this time, the internet shop should be open, and I go by there. No, they don't allow laptops to connect into their network.

So in exasperation, I go back to the Information Visitors Center, and tell one of the girls working there that I can't believe no one in town can help me. She says, "Have you got your little cord? If you do, you can just plug it in here."

Hot Dang. I go to the motorhome, get my laptop and my phone cord, and go in. She unplugs the phone line to the fax and I plug into that line. I get on and send off Reports 31 and 32, plus download the files that I read but didn't collect.

I am on 19 minutes, and they don't charge me anything. Not only that, but I get into a conversation with another worker there, and she gives me some birding information, about local birding spots, including Goonoo State Forest. Spectacular!

We go to a shopping center, swap our bad Dido CD for another one, which we will try in the motorhome later (It works!). We go to Coles and do the grocery shopping, then come back to store them away.

I always have this wonderful feeling when I know the freezer is freshly-packed with popsicles. As Sharon would say, "I'm [Bob's] so easy."

There's a phone number on the information flyer we got, and I call it, but have to be content with leaving a message with the lady who answers. I tell her the two birds we're after in the area, and could she please call our mobile number if she gets this message today.

We head north for Goonoo, but things look crazy to me, and even more so to Sharon. After a few miles, we compare notes, plus I realize I forgot to turn on the GPS. I turn it on, and even before it comes on, we figure out that we've gone south out of town rather than north.

Proving that you can be a valedictorian, a genius, a birder with over 1500 birds on your world list, good looking, personable, owner of a GPS, collector of over 7000 songs on your computer, and still not know which the hell way "up" is.

It's a great world.

But another thing I am is practical, and I know how to roll with the changes. So since we're south of town, we switch over to the birding spots on the brochure that are south of town. We select Tinks Lane, where there are lots of casuarina trees, container of the nuts that the Glossy Blacks eat.

We drive the 1.3 kilometers of this lane, U-turn at its end, and stop for lunch in the motorhome, with windows and doors open, screens in place to keep the flies out. We enjoy our lunch, but no cockatoos.

While we are there, we get a call from the lady I left a message with. She tell us that a) the Plum-headed Finches were seen on the river walk near our caravan park, and b) there is a dam inside the Goonoo State Forest, and once a few months ago, she saw 63 Glossy Black-cockatoos come there for evening rituals about an hour or so before dark.

I thank her profusely, and ask her if she knows which way is north. Well, I do the first part, but not the second.

So we go to the park with the river walk, and dive in, so to speak. There is a wonderful paved walk that crosses a bridge, then goes along the winding river, the river having lots of grasses that finches like.

And we see finches! Red-browed Firetails and the wonderful little Double-barred Finches. Plum-headeds often hang around with Double-barreds, so it's easy to stay alert.

Birds we get are: Starling, Magpie-lark, Red-rumped Parrot (including one sitting on the ground sound asleep), Sacred Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Eastern Rosella, Royal Spoonbill, White-browed Woodswallow, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Fairy Martin, Tree Martin, Brown Songlark, Golden-headed Cisticola, Galah and probably others I didn't pay attention to.

But no matter how far we stick our thumb in, we can't pull out a plum.

We go to the caravan park and sign up for another night. Then it's off to refuel at the Dubbo Caltex station. Then we drive out of town, going the north that actually IS north.

After a half-hour or so, following our map, we come to Goonoo State Forest. A bit further, driving on the sealed road that passes through it, we find Frost Drive and turn off. After about one kilometer, we begin to see a tree far ahead that has fallen across the road. What's up with this? I tell Sharon first that I'll just drag it out of the way, but it turns out that objects in my eyesight are larger than they first appear. It's a huge tree. So then I tell Sharon that if I had a rope, I'd use the motorhome to pull it off the road, to which she says, in summary, "Poo poo." Meaning, she doesn't want me to yank the motorhome's bumper off. Like I would connect it to the bumper. {He said "I would hook the rope to the axle" to which I say, "I don't want you to break the axle either!"}

With Sharon in our bed at the back of the motorhome, looking out the back window, I back up the kilometer. She comes back to the cab, and we go to the second of three paths into the forest that are on our map. We finally come to the second path in - Garling Road, after passing a named road going the correct direction but not on our map. We try Garling.

But after only a hundred meters or so, I stop and we are both totally blown away - it's another tree fallen across the path way off in the distance.

There's one more way to get in, and we back out, take the paved road towards it, but after about five kilometers, I don't like this, so I turn around and head back for the named-but-not-shown-on-our-map road - Samuels Rd. I show Sharon how we won't get lost in the forest, by using the GPS track that got laid down when we went into the first road, up to the fallen tree. We know the dam is down that road, then to the right, but we're not sure how far.

Anyway, I don't know if you can imagine what I'm talking about, but I can assure you, I know exactly what I am doing (in THIS case only, I suppose I should say).

We head in, go two or three kilometers to where I begin looking for a road to the left, when not only do we get a road going to the left, but even see an arrow pointing to the left, with the word 'DAM' painted on it.

Hot DAM!

We make the turn and after a short bit - maybe a kilometer or less, we come to a dam. Now if you missed it, a dam, in Australia is what I would call a pond in the U.S. We realize that there is a small stub of a parking area that looks right onto the dam, from the direction where no dirt was built up. In other words, if we started walking from our motorhome, we could walk right into the water without walking OVER any raised earth. There is raised earth on each of the other three sides of the water.

We park the motorhome here, but then I realize we can move it back another fifteen feet or so, and we do that, now being under some canopy. Ah, camouflage.

It's about 5 pm, and we're glad to be here very early. I'd hate to get here about 630 pm and immediately wonder if they'd already been and gone.

We watch a Pallid Cuckoo come in, call and call, then take off. Then friarbirds and wattlebirds begin to take baths by flying right into the water, sort of like skipping a rock, then flying up to a tree to shake off and dry off. Although they often do this two or three times before finally leaving the area.

A couple of wonderful King Parrots come in too. We get Eastern Rosellas and a Common Bronzewing. It's about 540 pm now, and Sharon suggests that she cook our frozen pizza in the oven while we wait. That way we can eat, and have dinner out of the way, in case we get back "home" late.

The pizza is great, and it's getting darker and darker. I have to use the motorhome's 'facilities' but I'm afraid I'll miss what we've come for, but finally I bite the bullet and do it, luckily not missing anything.

It rains off and on, never very hard and never for very long, but enough to make us wonder if birds that come to this dam have to come if it rains on them. We guess that if they come here to drink, they will come anyway. We hope the Glossy Blacks come to drink.

About 715 pm, Sharon comes out of her fly-swatting activity in time to yell, "Big black birds," and we see them just flying away from us and to the left, disappearing into the forest. Definite Black-cockatoos. They flew right over the water, and I wonder if they didn't like our motorhome. I can't believe that would have bothered them. We're pretty far away, and mostly hidden under the canopy.

We wait.

"Big black bird," Sharon yells. We get on him very quickly, and get a fantastic GLOSSY BLACK-COCKATOO* flying in over the water, then making a last second right turn and landing in a tree, growing out of the earth that forms one side of the dam. Then she flies down to the water and drinks for a short while Then bingo, a second one comes in. It's a pair, one is male and one female. The female has a wonderful yellow sort of neck ruffle. They are about three-quarters as large as the Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos we've been seeing in the last few weeks.

We can NOT believe it. At last. This is great that we're actually seeing these birds. They are so specialized, eating only the seeds of casuarina trees. Sort of like being a person who only eats Domino Pizza. I mean not only do they ONLY eat pizza, but they ONLY eat DOMINO Pizza. If you take away Domino Pizza, they'll "cark it" (Down Under expression meaning, roughly, become a carcass).

This was the last member of the Black-cockatoo family that we had not seen up to now.

Sharon is looking at them through the curve of the windshield, and I'm looking through the partially rolled down window beside my seat. I trade places with her, so she can get a good look.

I actually get tears in my eyes.

I realize that our wonderful Australian trip-of-a-lifetime is almost over, that we just got a pair of these wonderful Black-cockatoos, that we won't get another handful of life birds before it'll be time to fly out of Sydney, and that we'll be back home for Christmas, the season I love.

The reason for the tears, however, is the stupid flies that keep landing on my face and trying to walk into my eyes. And my nose. And my mouth. I spit two out, as they flew right in, one at a time, over the last few minutes.

Do flies have protein?

We are just tickled to death, and it's a wonderful ride back into town, where we set up on the same site we were on last night - B12, close to the amenities.

This is the first night of my life, after seeing a Glossy Black-cockatoo, and it'll do nicely. Goonoo night, all.

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 1 (Glossy Black-cockatoo)
For the Trip: 408.

Trip Birds Today: 1 (The lifer)
For the Trip: 475.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0
For the Trip: 11

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 16

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

Sleep in: Dubbo Cabin and Caravan Parklands, Dubbo, NSW


Tuesday, December 2, 2003. Day 111 of 118. Driving Day to Gloucester near Barrington Tops National Park

We are up fairly early, and by 715 am, we are on the river walk again. We hope to catch any Plum-headed Finches that may come to water early in the morning.

There are some finches that in the hottest part of the country, and in the hottest part of the day, that come for a drink of water once an hour. Plum-headed Finches "drink often," in the words of one of our guides. So we hope that a half-hour visit may turn them up.

We get the same birds as yesterday, except we also get a couple of White-winged Trillers. And the sameness extends to getting no Plum-headeds too. Oh well.

We take off for Gloucester, passing through Merriwa, popularion 829, where we stop to refuel at a shabby-looking petrol station. I can't even tell what kind of petrol they use here.

A lady pulls into the service station in a car - a local lady. She says that she and her husband last year flew to America, rented a motorhome, and drove from Canada down to Kansas, then all over the Rocky Mountains. She said it was wonderful. When they got home, her husband said, "We've got to get one of those motorhomes." She continued, "Then I said, 'With what?' " She got a big kick out of her joke.

I said we're bird watchers, and she says she lives out of town up a mountain a little bit. She says they get King Parrots and lots of good birds. The proprietor complains that the mynahs are running all the good birds out of town. He said last year there were three sets (broods?) of rosellas in town, and this year there weren't any. He says, "We need one of those sparrowhawk birds to come back. My wife sees a bird and looks it up in this bird book we have. Then she says, 'That bird isn't supposed to be here. It's supposed to be over there.' "

We take off and I tell Sharon this story.

There is nothing that makes you make certain that your four tires are firmly planted in YOUR lane, than meeting a giant semi-trailer truck with the word EXPLOSIVES fastened to the front bumper.

It's 1130 am, and we're passing through horse country now, with huge paddocks of perfect green grass, black wooden fences and beautiful horses.

A little before 1 pm, we pull off the road in front of "Growmor," a concern a little off the highway that grows more of something, we know not what. A sign says, "Entry to these premises is by appointment only." We eat our lunch here

The flies in this area really are obnoxious, and some of the horses are completely covered with some kind of light blanket so the flies don't land on them. It's the same reason I'm wearing clothes right now. Some of the horses are wearing special goggles that keep flies away from their eyes. It's the same reason I wear my net cap in thick fly or mosquito territory.

We pass through the wonderful little town of Greta. Greta Preschool, Greta Collectables, Greta Post Office, Greta Newsagency, Greta Cemetery, Greta Public School. This makes me think of one of my nieces. I wonder which one. Hmmmm.

At 230 pm, we pass through the city of Stroud, and Sharon notices that it's "home of the brick throwing competition." She wonders if there's a matching brick-catching competition.

A little further on, Sharon notices "Cramalot Inn Antique Store," and we get a big kick out of that.

If Sharon notices one more thing like that, the probabilities will begin to swing towards "She's just making this stuff up."

And there it is. She says she sees a guy in a batting cage, only it's a cricket batting cage.

We drive on, and come to a sign to the left pointing to the "Gloucester Tops National Park." Another sign says it's 10 more kilometers to Gloucester itself, where we'll be staying tonight.

Driving into Gloucester, I notice a NSW National Parks place. I find a carpark behind it. We park and go in, and meet Peter, a friendly, helpful ranger. I say we are birdwatchers and he finishes my sentence, "And you're here to see the rufous scrub-bird." I laugh and say well done.

He supplies us with maps and directions that confirms the directions Cindy, from the Birding New South Wales group gave me. All right! This is a very tough bird to get, and we've got confirmed instructions now on exactly where to go.

We ask about Powerful Owl, Spotted Quail-thrush and Koel. He has no advice on the first two, but says the Koel is everywhere, and wakes everybody up at 5 am, and we should be prepared for tomorrow morning.

There is a library in town, and I go in and use the internet, while Sharon checks the local shops a bit, then comes in to wait.

Then we go check into Gloucester Holiday Park, where a friendly Scottish lady checks us in. By 415 pm, we are in place, and start the business of relaxing. Well, somebody's gotta do it.

After relaxing a little, I start updating statistics and loading the day's digital log into the computer. After that, I knock off another report to make a good jump towards totally catching up.

It's dinner, TV and rain-all-night after that. I get to have my favorite evening, with rain on the roof, a little thunder, and burrowing down under the covers.

I couldn't get any higher unless maybe I'd hit that EXPLOSIVES truck. And that's with NO life birds today!

Bird Summary:

Life Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 408.

Trip Birds Today: 0
For the Trip: 475.

Bird Upgrades Today: 0
For the Trip: 11

Active Bird Nests (with adults or chicks or both) Today: 0
For the Trip: 16

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

Sleep in: Gloucester Holiday Park, Gloucester, NSW

So there you have Report 36. I'm catching up with real time again.

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