Monday Afternoon

 

Well, I didnít change my plans.† I stayed in Winton a second night, as planned originally, and today I went on out to Bladensburg National Park.

 

I was heading out of town by about 8:10 this morning, and that is pretty good for me, late riser that I am at home.† I didnít have to pack up or load the car, which helped.† Actually, that was one factor in my decision to stay.† I hate packing and loading, followed later by unloading and unpacking.† Staying two or three nights in the same place is a treat for me.† I travel with an incredible amount of stuff, including my computer and my CPAP machine, not to mention all my food and beverage items.

 

For my brekkie, I heated another one of the chicken and vegetable pies and had a couple of slices of cheese.† I made a ham and cheese sandwich to take with me for my lunch, since I hadnít had one in a couple of days.† I guess Iíll do the same tomorrow, for both meals.

 

It was pretty desert-like out there, if you ask me, but I took pictures, and you can judge for yourself.† I am far enough north now that the seasons are really only two Ė the Dry and the Wet.† The Wet is from about December until April, and they get most of their meager rainfall then.† When it rains, the rivers flow, things flood for a few days or weeks, and the water then sits in pools for the rest of the year.† People settled this area in the second half of the 1800ís, and I just canít imagine it.† In one place today, I took a picture of a sign for a gravel road, showing the names of stations down that road.† The farthest one was 149 kilometers (about 90 miles).† I just canít imagine living 100 miles from town, in those days, in this barren country.† The temperature was mid-90ís by noon today, which is about average for this time of year.† At least it is dry now.† The temperature is that high or higher in the Wet, which must be even worse.† I looked it up, and Winton is at about the same latitude (only south of the equator, instead of north) as Mexico City.† And, I will be going even closer to the equator for the rest of the trip, starting tomorrow.

 

At first, it seemed like there wasnít any bird life at all, which is my experience in the desert, anyway.† I finally saw a bird fly across the road, so I stopped to see if I could see what it was.† It landed not too far away, and I got the binoculars on it, and it looked like a new one.† So, I got out the scope, and sure enough, it was a Little Woodswallow, a lifer and the last of the 6 Woodswallow species for my trip list.† That made the day seem brighter already.† A little later I saw three small birds fly across the road, and I stopped again.† They turned out to be White-winged Fairy-wrens, a species I had seen for the first time on my last day at Bowra.† Good birds, but no help for my lists.† Oh well, my trip isnít all about lists, by any means.† I was glad to see the little beauties.

 

Gradually I saw more birds.† I was following a set route, called the Route of the River Gum.† You can read about it here:† http://www.patsopals.com.au/ctrl/opalton/outback1.aspx .† I stopped at a couple of waterholes, hoping to see some birds there, and I was interested to see how the water stays in these holes all through the dry season.† See pictures.

 

There is a camping area at one of the waterholes, Bough Shed Hole, and I stopped there for about an hour and a half.† There were some good birds there, including Apostlebirds, Grey-crowned Babblers, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Red-winged Parrots, Common Bronzewing, and Crested Pigeon.† I got some pictures of the male and female Red-winged Parrots and the Apostlebirds, and I like them.† Nothing new there for my lists, but it was a pleasant stop and I enjoyed getting the pictures.† By the time I left there, it was almost noon, and I ate my sandwich as I drove along slowly, keeping an eye out for birds.

 

I also had a little accident there at Bough Sheds Hole.† I had set my glasses (my bifocals, which I use for reading) on the table, and the wind blew them off.† I guess they must have landed just wrong, or maybe I inadvertently stepped on them, but they were twisted and bent quite a bit, and one of the lenses fell out.† I havenít looked at them yet, to fix them.† If necessary, Iíll find an optical place in Townsville and have them put right.† I can use my computer glasses to read with, and I have some cheap reading glasses along, too, somewhere in my stuff.† I broke my glasses on my second Aussie trip, and that was a big deal, because it was before my cataract surgery, and I needed my glasses full time then.† Now it isnít a big deal at all, since my distance vision is 20-20 or better without glasses, since the cataract surgery.

 

Anyway it was heating up by then, and I started heading back toward town.† I took some pictures of cattle, because it seemed like such an unlikely place to try to raise cattle.† Saw a couple of emus, and took their picture, too, because I have a strange liking for them.† I also saw a couple of small kangaroos (or large wallabies?† I donít know how to tell the difference, other than kangaroos are generally larger than wallabies, I think.), and I got a picture of one of them in mid-air, hopping away.† I like it.† They look so funny when they hop, balancing themselves with their tails bobbing up and down.† I visited the site of the old Bladensburg homestead, and read some of the historical stuff.† I just canít get over that people settled in a place like this and made a life for themselves, in the 1800ís.† It seems much more hostile a land than anyplace in the US that I have seen where the pioneers settled.

 

I was heading back to town when I saw a couple of birds just standing near the road.† They blended in with the ground well, but I was specifically looking for birds, so I spotted them.† They were remarkably willing to just stand there and look at me, from maybe 15 yards away.† I looked, then I took some pictures through the open passenger window, and since they were still there, I put my tele-extender on the camera and took some hand-held 22X shots as well.† I knew they were one of two species, but I wasnít sure which one.† Eventually, I got out of the car and was able to get the scope on them.† The trouble was, by that time, they had turned away from me, and I wanted to see their front sides, to establish which of the two pratincole species they were.† I chased them down the road a bit, and eventually came to the conclusion that they were Australian Pratincoles, a life list bird for me.† I got some decent pictures, too, which pleases me.

 

I went on back to town, after spending about six hours out there, from just after 8 until just after 2.† I had seen about 20 species, and that included the two lifers.† Not a bad day for desert birding, for this duff Aussie birder who never goes more than 100 meters from his car.† That brings my total for the trip to 186 species, of which 24 are lifers.† It also delays by at least one day, the first day I get skunked and see no new species for my trip list.† That day is bound to come, and tomorrow is an excellent candidate to be that day, as I have no specific birding sites to stop at, and I will again be in what I consider to be desert, I think.

 

When I got back to my room, they had turned off my air conditioner when they ďmade upĒ my room.† I donít blame them, I expected it, but it meant it was 88.5 in here when I got back at 2 oíclock.† Three hours later, it is finally down to 76 degrees.† The air conditioner isnít terribly powerful, and it is damn hot outside.

 

Tomorrow I start heading back east, to the coast.† I have allowed two days for the trip to the coast, and tomorrow is only a three hour drive through the hot, dry country, to Hughenden.† The day after that will be 4 Ĺ hours to Townsville, but I didnít want to drive for 7 Ĺ hours in one stretch, so I scheduled a stop in Hughenden.† I donít know where I am going to see a trip bird tomorrow, but Iíll be keeping my eyes peeled.† It is going to be pretty tough, I think.† I supposedly have internet access in Hughenden, and I also supposedly have it in Townsville for the 4 nights following that.† I really do love having internet access in my room.

 

So, my desert experience today was great.† I am very glad that I didnít wimp out and leave here this morning.† The heat really wasnít too bad at all, my tires didnít go flat (yet), and the unpaved road was really very good, except for some moderate corrugations from time to time.† And, I got two lifers, not to mention some pictures and some memories that I am pleased to have.† Oh yes, I didnít have to pack up and load up one more time, too.

 

Iíll work on my pictures now.† I have selected about 36 of them for the next Photos set, so that will be a lot of work.† It will probably take me two hours of computer time, but what else do I have to do, here in Winton?† Iím not sure what I will do about dinner.† There is a Hotel (bar) across the street and down a block that serves meals, or I could open one of my cans of soup that I carry for emergencies (my iron rations).† With the microwave oven here in my room, and cutlery, along with a plastic container I have that I could heat the soup in, it would make a perfectly acceptable dinner, and I might just do that.† We shall see.† It would mean I could stay here in my air conditioned room, and not venture out into the heat, so that tempts me, too.† I would bet on the soup, but we will see.

 

Barry downunder, ready to head east to the coast

 

I guess I have to add some comments on my dinner experience.† Against the odds, I decided to go over to the Tattersalls Hotel and get my dinner there.† All of the outdoor tables were full, about a dozen of them, and there was a little restaurant area, but it seemed kind of stodgy and not my style.† So, I went into the bar and asked if I could have dinner at the bar.† Sure, no worries, mate.† So, I order Chicken Mignon, which was a quarter chicken (leg and thigh) with a sauce on it, wrapped in a nice piece of bacon.† It came with vegetables, I was told, so I ordered it with chips (fries) as well.† It turned out that ďveggiesĒ included mashed potatoes, so I was very satisfied, since I love potatoes.† I donít often get two kinds of potatoes at the same meal.

 

It took a long time, maybe 40 minutes or more, for the food to come, which is very typical of Aussie restaurants, in my very limited experience.† It is one of the reasons I prefer to get my own dinner in my room Ė I generally hate waiting for 40 minutes to get my dinner.† In this case, I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me at the bar Ė not a characteristic thing for me to do.† It turns out he is a road train driver, hauling heavy equipment for mines and such, all over the country.† He regularly comes through Winton, so he knew some of the people in the bar.† He lives near Brisbane, and he hasnít been home for over a month.† It was interesting to hear the perspective of an Aussie long-distance truck driver.† He did ask me about what I was doing, and bird watching was a good laugh for everyone at our end of the bar.† The proprietor of the bar came in about then, and my buddy turned to talk to him, and my dinner showed up about then, so I ate and watched the characters.† I loved the sign over one of the exits, ďEntry to Smoking AreaĒ.† I guess that all bars and restaurants are non-smoking these days in Australia.† I suppose that is why all the outside tables were full; you could smoke out there, I guess.

 

Then, to top it off, as I was leaving, I said good-bye to my truck driver mate, and as I left, the proprietor buttonholed me and talked about birding.† He said he used to run a tour company in Winton, and he knew all about the local birds.† We talked birds a little, and he said to wait just a minute, and he went off.† He came back with photos of a dead Night Parrot (he said).† The Night Parrot is like the Holy Grail of birds in Australia. †Many people thought it was extinct for years, but dead ones show up from time to time, like in 1990 and in 2006.† No one has convincingly seen a live one for decades, I guess, although there are many claims, of course.† This guy I was talking to said that the one he had the pictures of was in a museum now, and he and his mates were out to find and photograph a live one.† He said he was one of three living Australians who had actually heard the call of the Night Parrot.† I take that with several grains of salt, because there are all kinds of claims about Night Parrots.† I had just read about the whole Night Parrot scenario in the last day or so, in the Aussie birding book I am reading, so it was really interesting to run into someone who had photos of a dead one (he said Ė I donít really know what bird it was) and claimed to know where they lived, and was trying to get proof.† A great Aussie birding experience, because I stepped out of my normal habits and had dinner out.

 

So, now I need to finish my Photos07 and get it up on to the website.† I have done about 24 pictures, and I need to do about 12 or 13 more.† It will be my biggest album of pictures so far on this trip.† Iíll try to get it and this Ramblings up before I go to bed tonight.

 

What a life!