Continuing on with Saturday, after picking up my rental car in Brisbane, I headed north for my next stop, a small village (Mapleton) near Nambour, a couple of hours north of Brisbane.† Getting out of Brisbane was easy enough, and the road north was freeway, two lanes each way, and there was way too much traffic for my liking.† I am trying to leave traffic and cities behind on this trip.

 

I got to Mapleton about 2 PM, and my host, Aussie birder Ken, was just leaving.† He showed me my room and went off to the local school fair with his kids.† I got settled in, unpacking somewhat for the first time, including putting my shirts and long pants in a couple of garment bags.† Remember the garment bags; they reappear in a couple of episodes, in a key role.

 

Next I used Kenís phone line to set up my dial up internet access, using the pre-paid kit I had bought in Brisbane on Friday.† The process kept going wrong, and I kept starting over.† Finally I got to a place where it got stuck and I couldnít start over again because of how far I had gone, so I ended up calling their support phone number and listened to a couple of recorded bits that got me to the next step.† Eventually, after about 45 minutes and a lot of swear words, I got myself connected by dial up.† So now, whenever I have a phone line available to me, I can get online for the cost of a local phone call.† It cost me Au $20 (about $17 US) for 25 hours of internet access.† I can buy more time if and when I need it.

 

Ken came back about 4 oíclock and picked me up. †We stopped briefly at the school fair while Ken arranged for someone to keep an eye on his two sons, and then we went on to a small river, to look for platypus, which I had never seen in the wild, in my three previous trips over here.† I didnít really expect any luck, based on past experience Ė they are pretty nocturnal, I think.† But, as soon as we got there, Ken spotted one across the river!† Even better, it swam on the surface diagonally across the river, right in front of us, to our side.† I had a great view, through my binoculars.† I wish I had been ready with my camera, as I could have gotten a pretty good picture, I think.† We walked up and down the river bank, but didnít see another one, or that one again.† So, now I have seen a platypus.† Maybe I can get a picture of one later in the trip.

 

Next we picked up Kenís 16 month old daughter, Millie, from his parents house, and went back to the school fair.† It was the annual fair, which was obviously a big deal in this little village.† They even had some small rides.† Kenís wife, Megan, had been working in food booths all day, and their two boys, Tom (age 7) and Matt (age about 5) had been enjoying the fair.† Ken and I got burgers and beers (beer at a school fair Ė not in the good old USA!) and sat on hay bales and listened to the live band entertainment, watching the little kids dance on the runway to the stage.† It was all very festive, and everyone knew each other and they were all having a great time.† I just wish I had taken some pictures.

 

Ken and I took Millie home about 6, which was almost dark, and Megan and the boys stayed for the fireworks, which started at 6:15.† We sat around and drank a little wine and visited for a while, and I settled down by about 8:30 that night, I think.† Each night I was staying up about an hour later, and each morning, getting up about an hour later.

 

I added three more species in Mapleton that afternoon, and finished my second day on 71 species, with 4 lifers.

 

I slept great again that night, but was awake about 3:30, I think.† I lay in bed for a couple of hours, resting comfortably, and got up about 5:30, just as it was getting light out.† Ken was up soon after that, and he cooked me a couple of eggs (from their own chickens Ė called chooks over here, usually) on toast, with some baked beans and some cheese, and then we set out for a walk to the local national park.† We walked for about an hour, or maybe 90 minutes, in the rain forest.† I had really good looks at a lifer I had wanted to see, Logrunner.† They are little birds that run around on the forest floor, scratching at the leaf litter.† I had excellent looks at about a half a dozen of the little beauties by the time our walk was over. †Outstanding! †I picked up some more trip birds, too, and one other lifer, the Dusky Honeyeater Ė an excellent bird, and one I hadnít really expected to see.

 

After that, we drove around and visited various birding sites in the area.† Some wetlands, some dams (reservoirs), †some dry forests, and some rainforest places.† One bird I had particularly wanted to see was the Noisy Pitta (lifer), and we finally got really good looks at one in a bit of rainforest.† It is another one, like the Logrunner, that hops around on the forest floor, looking for bugs, I guess.† It was extremely helpful to have Ken along when in the rainforest.† I saw many, many more birds with his help that I would ever have seen on my own.† He knows all the calls of the birds, and he also knows where to look for each one.

 

By the time we quit, about 4 PM, I was up to 95 species, including 7 lifers.† A really excellent start, especially since I hadnít really expected to do much birding my first few days, while I adjusted to the time change.† Both Judith and Ken responded to my request for information that I had posted on the Australian Birding mailing list, and both offered to show me around.† What is more, I am expecting to see each of them again on the trip, in other places, and they intend to show me around those places as well.† Judith in Lamington National Park this coming Saturday, and Ken up in Townsville, near the end of the month.

 

Not only was I really fortunate to be invited to stay with both Judith and Ken, I got to experience little slices of Aussie family life as well.† What a privilege it was, and I truly enjoyed it.† Megan cooked a great dinner on Saturday night (including some excellent vegetables, which I donít get many of on my travels), and we had a nice family dinner with the boys, Millie having gone to bed by then.

 

Then, after dinner, Kenís parents came over, and the four of us (me, Ken, and his parents) went off in the dark to look for Marbled Frogmouth (that is an uncommon bird, but Ken has seen them in a particular spot a number of times).† He had a recorded call of the bird on his fatherís iPod, and we drove a few kilometers into the woods and then walked a few hundred meters into the woods, and then stood there in the dark and played the calls.† We had spotlights, but no Marbled Frogmouths showed up that night.† We did spotlight a Sugar Glider, though, which is a small mammal, sort of an Aussie flying squirrel.† We even got to see him jump from one branch to another.† We played the call of the Sooty Owl, too, but had no luck with that one either.† We did hear a Boobook Owl calling in the distance, though.† It was really nice out in the quiet woods, with a quarter moon overhead and the stars blazing away, the way they do when you get away from the city lights.

 

So, that was the end of my third day Downunder.†† I got to bed about 9 that night and again slept really well.

 

Ken is a high school teacher, and he is looking into the possibility of doing a teacher exchange with an American or Canadian teacher.† There are exchange programs for teachers, evidently.† The two teachers live in each otherís houses and drive each otherís cars for a year, teaching in each otherís schools and getting a taste of life in another country.† Sounds pretty cool to me.

 

He lives on the edge of forested areas, outside the small village of Mapleton, up in the foothills.† It always interests me how the Aussies get their water, and he is able to collect enough rainwater off their roof to get by.† They hold it in a big tank, and use a pump to get pressure.† In six years, they have only run the tank dry one time, in which case they had to have a tank truck deliver some water.† I think it is pretty cool to be able to get virtually all your household water from rainwater off your own roof.

 

I guess I will end this episode here, and continue with the next one from this point.† I am writing this on Tuesday evening, so I am two days behind still.† Iíll see if I can get this up on the website now, and then maybe get the next one written later this evening, and get it up tomorrow morning, my time, before I head out of here (here being Rainbow Beach, my next stop after Mapleton).

 

So, until next time, I am still Barry Downunder.