St. George, Queensland
Tuesday evening, Sept 16, 2008
Ahhh, the internet. I am in a very nice motel tonight, with free wireless broadband access. Heaven, to this internet-deprived old rambler. Since it is there, and since it is free, I might as well post another Ramblings, telling about my non-exciting day of driving to get here. If you take the time to read it, that is your problem.
This morning I woke to the glorious sunshine up in the hills near Girraween National park. As already reported, I had a freshly baked loaf of bread delivered to my cottage (this is such an amazing event that I am reporting it again), I had my brekkie, packed up, loaded the car, did one last internet connection for email and a Ramblings upload, and I hit the road about 9 or so. Maybe a little later, by the time I finished online, as I ran into Christina for the second day in a row and was able to chat with her. My friend Fred also came on, and I chatted with him, too.
Anyway, I decided to take the direct route to St. George, and forego Sundown National Park. I would like to “do it all”, but I decided that I didn’t want to make it such a big day of driving, which would have been necessary to visit Sundown. My host, Robin, gave me a site to look for Turquoise Parrots near where I was staying, so I checked that out before hitting the road for real. No Turq’s, but I did pick up Golden-headed Cisticola, which was a trip bird, and one I probably won’t see in the places I am going after this.
So, I hit the road toward Texas. Yes, Texas, Queensland. I actually turned off before I got to Texas, but I saw lots of road signs to Texas, in case I wanted to change my mind. I love the place names over here. Texas is not typical; for example I went through Goondiwindi today. Now, that is a name I can get into. I had a very nice drive, heading west all the time. It was much greener than I expected, and also more forested. When I got within about 20 miles of my destination, St. George, it turned to farmland, although there had been farmland and grazing land along the way before that, in places. But, everything was much greener than I expected. There was also water standing by the roadside, in puddles, which has to be very unusual this time of year. When I got here to St. George, it was obvious that the river here is much higher than usual. Most of Australia is in an 8 or 10 year drought, but this area of Queensland got a lot of rain earlier in the year, and then recently they got some very unseasonable rain as well.
As a result, I think the place I am heading to tomorrow, Bowra Station, near Cunnamulla, will be much greener than it has been in recent years, and I have read that the bird population has exploded as a result. That is really good news, as long as the recent rains haven’t made the station tracks impassable in my little Suburu Forester. I checked the forecast, and no more rain is forecast, which is good, but the temperatures are forecast to rise each day this week, which is not such great news. Tomorrow is supposed to be 74 for a high and 48 for a low, which would be absolutely wonderful, but then Thursday is supposed to be 81 and 49, followed by Friday with a high of 87 and a low of 57. Saturday, my departure day, is supposed to be a high of 91, which is actually more what I expected. So, I will be pretty lucky, I think, but I would have liked it even better if the unseasonably cold weather had lasted a little longer. I am hoping that the station tracks will have had enough time to dry out, so that my little AWD car will be okay on them. We shall see. After I leave Bowra, it looks like I will have temperatures in the 90’s until I hit the coast at Townsville, which is what I had expected all through this western area.
I picked up one more trip species on the road today, White-winged Chough (pronounced “chuff”), and when I got here to St. George, I added Yellow-throated Miner, so I am now at 145 species, a still very unimpressive total for this length of time. But, today was another great day, and I enjoyed myself hugely, as usual. This seems like such a crazy thing to be doing, and that is one of the things I like about it. Every now and then I stop and look around and ask myself how I came to be here, in the wilderness of Australia, seeing all this great scenery and these great birds.
There don’t seem to be any actual restaurants in this little town, except the ones connected with motels. The one here has a “roast of the day, with vegetables and potatoes”, for Au$23.00, and I could get it in my room with room service, but I don’t really need a big dinner, so I stopped at the local grocery store on the little walk I took down to the river and picked up a couple of tuna “lunch packs”, with crackers. One is Thousand Island dressing with tuna and one is sweet corn and mayonnaise with tuna, and it will be interesting to see what they are like. I am having some Bundaberg rum with orange-mango juice and some mixed nuts for an appetizer, and I have cheese and bread and fruit, if I need more. Cookies for dessert. My kind of traveling dinner. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I realize. I think I will order breakfast to be delivered to my room, though. A ham and cheese omelette sounds good, although “The Works” (bacon, eggs, sausage, tomato, hash browns, mushrooms, and toast sounds good, too). Decisions, decisions.
Bowra Station, my next stop, is going to be very interesting. It is very well known among Aussie birders, with a large number of species found there, including some very rare ones. I expect I will not do well at all, compared to Aussie birding standards, but I still expect to enjoy myself, and I do expect to pick up some lifers and a good number for my trip list. 20 species for my trip list, in the next three days? Is that too optimistic? Maybe so, but we all need goals to work toward, don’t we? At least, us oldest-children do. We shall see. That assumes that I can get out on the station tracks in my little car, which is a big assumption, I am afraid. Oh well, if I have to hang around the main homestead, I can concentrate on taking pictures of birds, which would be fun, too.
Tomorrow I get to visit the Cunnamulla post office and see if my camera lens has shown up there yet. I’ll also have to stop in Cunnamulla and stock up on provisions. I have signed up for my dinners to be provided to me at Bowra, but I will have to get my own breakfasts and lunches. I am getting a little tired of ham and cheese sandwiches, so maybe I can branch out. Or, maybe not. I have enjoyed my eggs the last two mornings, not to mention the home-made bread. I have a cottage to myself, with a full kitchen, as I understand it. It is all an Adventure. My first concern will be that the unpaved roads out to the station will be passable, but I am expecting that they will be fine.
Maybe I will add more to this in the morning, before I leave here, in case something exciting happens overnight.
Barry downunder with great (free!) internet access in my room, for the first time on this trip
Well, nothing exciting happened overnight here, but I can report that I enjoyed my big breakfast. I went for “The Works”, and now I am full of salty, fatty food – ready for a big day. I reviewed my notes for Bowra Station, and I made a list of 31 birds I could see. I am sure there are others, too, but many of the ones on my list are very unlikely for me to see. The 20 new trip birds I mentioned last night still seems like an ambitious goal for the next three days. It gives me something to shoot for, though. I would be disappointed not to get more than 10. My best chance for good numbers would be to connect with one or more Aussie birders who happen to be at Bowra when I am there. That could happen, and if it did, I would have a much bigger chance of seeing more birds.
I am not expecting any internet access while at Bowra, unless I can prevail on the owners to use their phone line, and I don’t know if I will even ask. I might drive into Cunnamulla one day, to find an internet café or use the library connection, but maybe not. It could be three days before anything else goes up here, but I do plan to return eventually. The rest of the trip after Bowra should have much better Internet access for me.
It is about 3 ½ hours to Cunnamulla, so I guess I should hit the road. Next stop, the Outback.