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Thursday, October 12, 2006 Ė 4:30 PM

Perth still


One more night here in Perth, and then I am hitting the open road, God Willing And The Creek Donít Rise (thatís GWATCDR in the future, so make a note).  Iíll be glad to leave the traffic and congestion of the city behind.


My rental car got delivered yesterday morning, only about 15 minutes late.  By that time it had started to rain, but I headed out anyway, over to the coast, for my first look at the Indian Ocean.  It was blowing and raining at the ocean, so I just looked from the car, and took a couple of pictures.  I got a sandwich at a Subway, of all things, and ate it in the car, while watching the windblown waves crash in.  No birds to see, to speak of.


After that I headed back toward my B&B, with the intention of stopping at a couple of lakes that are also preserves, and are supposed to have some birds.  When I got to the first one, Herdsman Lake, the rain actually stopped, and I was able to get out and walk around.  There were some ducks there that I hadnít seen before on the trip, Australian Shelducks, and a few other birds I hadnít seen yet.  I watched a pair of Great Crested Grebes who were building a nest or incubating the eggs in the nest.  Grebes have a tendency to keep adding to their nests, even after they lay the eggs, but one or the other of them was always on the nest, with a little ritual they would go through when they changed over.  I tried for some pictures, but it was pretty dark where they were, so they didnít come out very good.  I think I will post one, though, even though it isnít very good.


I plan to post a picture of a sign there, too, saying that Tiger Snakes (very venomous) live in the grass.  Needless to say, I stuck to the paths and the boardwalk.  I got a decent picture of a Yellow-billed Spoonbill there, too.


I visited another part of that same lake, and then moved on to Lake Monger, where I again saw one or two duck species that I hadnít seen yet on this trip.  I got a picture of a Blue-billed Duck that I like Ė you can see why it is called that.  It looks very much like our Ruddy Duck Ė same reddish color when in breeding season, same general shape, same blue bill, and same little tail that is often sticking up.  They must be closely related somehow.


By that time it was time to head for ďhomeĒ, to meet Perth birder Peter.  He showed up at 4, as planned, and we visited a couple of close-by parks and saw some birds.  In my pictures, there is a picture of the Swan River, and on the left is a bird sitting on a branch over the water.  It is just a little black profile.  Then I zoomed in to the full 12X optical zoom that my camera will give me, and cropped out the center of the picture.  It is a picture of a male Darter, a kind of cormorant, I guess.  The two pictures are 1353 and 1356.  I mention them because it shows how much 12X zoom will give you, in terms of magnification.  I was hand holding the camera for that picture, which is less than ideal.  Today I took a lot of pictures with the 1.7X tele-extender on the camera, which gives a 20X zoom.  Most of those were taken with the camera mounted on my tripod, so it would be steadier.


Anyway, Peter and I got in a couple of hours of birding before it got too dark.  It sure is nice to meet Aussie birders and learn some things from them.  Oh yes, I also got some pictures of a Nankeen Night Heron that I really like.  These birds are usually roosting up in a tree during the day, and come out at night, as the name implies.  This one was right along a path, and it just sat there and posed for me.  The plume on the top of its head is something they get in breeding season.  I think there are usually two plumes, but I only saw one on this bird.


For dinner last night, I ordered Chinese, to be delivered.  No driving after dark, and I didnít have to worry about drinking and driving.  I got enough for two nights, and Iíll have it again tonight.  This B&B has a nice little kitchen area for the guests, so I can heat it up and eat it at a table.  One of my challenges for the trip is to always arrange a way to have dinner without having to drive in the dark.  I think I have only driven in the dark one time over here, and that was for a very short distance.  Iím feeling quite comfortable with driving on the left, but adding darkness to the mix just doesnít seem like a good idea.  The rental car companies actually donít allow you to drive after dark in Western Australia, outside of urban areas.  The wallabies and kangaroos come out after dark, and they are famous for jumping right in front of cars.  Out in the countryside, you see dead ones along the roads every morning.  There are lots of scavengers to clean them up, though.


Today was supposed to be cloudy, windy, but dry.  I gave a miss to Rottnest Island, and I am very glad that I did.  It was quite windy all day, and it showered off and on all day, too.  I would not have wanted to make a sea crossing in todayís wind.  If the weather is good when I am back in Perth, maybe I will go out to the island then.  I forget how long the boat trip is, but it seems like it is somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes.


So, today I got away early, got breakfast at McDonaldís, and headed in to a place called Alfredís Cove.  I saw some birds there, notably three Ospreys that were very cooperative about being photographed.  I put the tele-extender on my camera and mounted the camera on the tripod and clicked away.  There were some shorebirds, too, but I am hopeless with most of the Aussie shorebirds, unless they are very distinctive, and these werenít close enough for me to identify several of them.  I took some pictures, and I might be able to get Peter to identify them from the pictures.  I haven't looked at the pics yet, to see how good they are.  I took a whole ton of pictures today, and I will no doubt throw out at least 80% of them, if not more.


I stopped at several other birding places around town, but didnít see much that was interesting in terms of birdlife.  There were some pretty places, though, and it was a pretty day, between the rain showers, so wandering around town wasnít a bad way to spend the day.  Iím ready for the open road now, though.


I noticed two things about Perth neighborhoods today, in my wandering around.  First, the streets tend to be short and winding, and very often dead ends.  I suppose that is kind of nice for the residents, but it makes it hard to navigate around if you are a stranger.  Fortunately, the car rental people included an excellent street map of Perth in the car, so I never really got lost.  I was always reaching for my reading glasses, though, to read the map.  I should have been wearing my bifocals, so I could have driven and read the map without messing around with glasses, but I had left them back in my room.  Lesson learned.


The second thing about Perth neighborhoods is the scarcity of any kind of retail businesses.  Very few gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, drug stores, etc.  I was looking for a bank, and never did find one.  It seems like they have deliberately limited most of the retail businesses to shopping malls.  Again, nice for the residents, maybe, but tough on the tourist if you donít know where the malls are.  Even the supermarkets seem to be in the malls.  I finally stumbled across one and was able to get some things I wanted to buy and to use an ATM to get some more Aussie cash.  I donít know if all of Perth has these two characteristics, but the neighborhoods I was in today were all like this.


So, there is another update on my adventures.  Tomorrow I head north, up the coast, although the road doesnít go right along the actual coast, sorry to say.  I think I have four or five hours of driving time, but maybe less.  None of my driving days is very long Ė I was careful to plan it that way.  Maybe Iíll see some interesting birds along the way, although I donít have any actual places I plan to visit tomorrow, for birds.


Barry Downunder out West, getting ready to head north