It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in Townsville, but here I am in my room, typing on the computer.† At least I can enjoy the nice day by looking out at my lovely view.† From time to time I go out on the balcony and enjoy it up close, too.† I feel like I ďshouldĒ be outside enjoying the day, but I feel tired from all my running around, and so I am in here.
After my Big Day of birding with the experts on Thursday, I realized that there just werenít all that many more birds for me to see here in Townsville, but there were several places I had read about here that I wanted to see, and there were still a few birds I could see.
One of the places I had been wanting to see since I passed it by on my first trip is the Townsville Town Common.† It is a large area of open woodland, with lagoons and places to see water birds as well.† There is a rainforest track and there are several bird hides, from which you can observe birds, assuming they are there at that time.† It is right next to town, so went there first on Friday.† On my way out there, I stopped at Woolies and got some mosquito spray, as I had been warned to spray if I went to the Common.† It doesnít appear that they have DEET based sprays over here, so I wish I had brought some with me.† I think I am going to need it up north.† Anyway, at the Common, I soon got two species that I had missed on Thursday, Yellow-bellied Sunbird and White-throated Honeyeater.† I also got better looks at Rufous-throated Honeyeaters than I had gotten on Thursday.
I stopped at the first bird hide, which is an observation tower, but nothing new for me there.† In fact, I didnít get anything else new for the rest of the day, as it turned out.† But, soon after the observation tower, there was a lookout over a lagoon area, and there were two Jabirus out there, along with a number of other species, including a couple of Brolgas.† I stopped to take pictures, and I hope I have some good ones of the Jabirus (now called Black-necked Storks, officially, but Jabiru seems like a much more interesting name).† I think I took some of a Little Egret, too, which is very much like our Snowy Egret.† I havenít yet looked at my pictures from the last several days, but I plan to work on them after I finish this, and put up a Photos tonight, as well as this Ramblings.
I drove through the rest of the parts of the Common that you can access by car. I got a really close up look at a Bustard, but my camera was in the back of the car, on the tripod, at the time, so I couldnít take pictures.† After that, I went on out to Cape Pallarenda and ended up having the first part of my humble lunch (yes, a ham and cheese sandwich figured in it again) out there.† After lunch I found my way across town to Bush Garden, a small park on the Ross River that has been restored to native vegetation.† There are supposed to be some good birds there, but it would have involved too much walking around to find them, so I wandered around a little and went on my way.†
James Cook University was my next stop, where there are supposed to be some Bush Stone-curlews living.† They are large birds (about the size of a duck but with longer legs and a long neck), usually seen on the ground, so I drove around the campus and looked for any.† It is a very large campus, with lots of people about, and I never saw any Bush Stone-curlews there, but at least I had given it a shot.† I can probably see Bush Stone-curlews up in Cairns, but they are not a slam dunk, so I wanted to get them here if I could.
After that, I drove up the Ross River to the Ross River Dam, stopping at a couple of parks on the way.† That was a nice drive, but I didnít see much in the way of birds.† I ate the second half of my ham and cheese sandwich by the river, though, in a nice shady spot.† After that, I came back here to my room and cooled off.
When it got to be time, I finished off the last of my Duty Free Bundeberg rum, with some orange-mango juice, and I think I had a beer after that.† The night before, I had had only nuts and crackers with peanut butter and cheese for dinner, and while trying to figure out what to have last night, I happened to be chatting online with my friend Fred, who lives in Sacramento.† He urged me to get out on the town and do something, on a Friday night.† Well, that isnít my style, and I never do that, but I did feel like having a more or less real dinner for a change, so I went down to the street and looked around.† This is a restaurant district, where my apartment building is, and there were lots of choices, but I really donít like sitting in a restaurant waiting for my meal.†
In 2002 when I was here for just one night, I had gone to the Casino, and they had a casual dinner type place, adjacent to the casino playing area, and I had had a nice dinner of sausages and potatoes. †That sounded good, so I went across the street to a taxi stand, to see if one would come along.† In a little while, one did, and I had him take me to the Casino.† It is very nice here in the evenings, when the temperature is in the mid-70ís to high 70ís, cooling down to about 70 overnight.† Very subtropical feeling.
They didnít have the sausages on the menu any more, moreís the pity, but there were several other things that sounded good.† When I got to the front of the line where you ordered, for some reason I donít understand, I ordered beef and bean nachos, with a beer.† It doesnít seem like a casino in Townsville, Australia, is a good place to order nachos, but they were okay, and I cleaned my plate.
Now, in 2002 when I visited the casino, I won Au$500, all at roulette, just as I was leaving.† At that time, that was about US$280.† So, last night I sat down to play blackjack, and I played for a while, winning a little.† Eventually, I was Au$100 ahead, so I quit, and I was going to leave.† But, on my way to the Cashierís window, the roulette table called to me, and I placed my winnings, all Au$100, on one bet, on the last column of numbers, the ones divisible by three.† And, what do you know, 27 came up, so I won another Au$200 on that bet.† I was tempted to try it again, and if I had, I would have won again, as 21 came up the next time.† But, I quit with my Au$300 profit.† With the change in the relative values of the US dollar and the Aussie dollar, that Au$300 profit was about US$250, so I didnít do quite as well as in 2002, but it was still a nice little profit.
After that I took a cab back to my apartment and was in bed by about 10, which is about as late as I have stayed up on this trip, I think.† I have done very well so far in keeping to an early schedule.
This morning I was up by about 6:30, and I was just making my brekkie (heated up chicken and veggie pie, for the third morning in a row, with a mandarin orange and some cheese) and my lunch (surprise Ė a ham and cheese sandwich), when the fire alarm in the building went off.† It is a big building, with 9 floors, and everyone started trooping down the stairs and gathering in the parking lot, so I threw some of my most important things (passport, wallet, car keys, computer, binoculars, etc) into my pack and birding bag and went down the 8 floors of stairs.† This was at about 7:20 on a Saturday morning, mind you, and by the looks of them, not everyone had been up and about yet.† Well, by the time I got down to the parking lot, the fire department had come and it was soon determined that it was a false alarm.† Some people (probably ones on lower floors) started walking back up, but I waited for the crowd to clear at the elevators and took the elevator back up to the 8th floor, and got on with my brekkie and lunch preparation.
I was again stumped by what birds to look for, since I had seen so many already here in Townsville, but I decided to head up the coast a little and go to a couple of beaches.† I knew I probably wouldnít see anything I wouldnít see again up north at Mission Beach and Cairns, but I wanted to at least see one new species for my trip list today, to keep my string alive.† So far, I have seen at least one new ďtrip birdĒ every day, so that is now an important part of each dayís planning, to find a new species for the trip list.† I was also interested to see the beaches and beach towns to the north.
I stopped first at Bushland Beach, but the tide was quite high, and there wasnít much beach exposed.† Fortunately, as I turned off the highway, I had missed my turn and had to go to the next road to turn around.† When I did so, I saw a Spotted Turtledove on a wire.† It is considered a ďplasticĒ bird by the Aussie birders, because it was introduced to Australia, but it counts, so I could stop worrying about getting a trip bird for the day.† They are common around Brisbane, but I hadnít seen one there.† Iíll see large numbers of them in Cairns, but today was the day I needed a trip bird, so it was great to see it.† It is still the only one I have seen on this trip so far, so it was lucky that I had missed my turn.
Next I went north a bit more and stopped at Toolakea Beach.† I have no idea how to pronounce that.† I had to walk a ways to the beach there, but at least there were a few birds, and the tide had gone out somewhat by then.† I trudged back to the car and got my scope, and trudged back to the beach, to look at the few birds around.† Nothing very interesting, until I got onto a small heron-like bird in the rocks.† I thought at first it was an Eastern Reef Egret, but when I looked in my field guide, I saw I was wrong.† I havenít seen an Eastern Reef Egret yet this trip, but this was a Striated Heron, another bird I hadnít seen yet.† A little while later, I saw a couple of birds flying in the distance.† I couldnít really see them very well, even with the scope, because they were so far away, but I watched them and noted the large white patches on their wings.† They flew closer, and I was pretty sure they were Beach Stone-curlews, the cousins of the Bush Stone-curlews I had looked for at the University the day before.† I would probably have counted them from those flying views, but just as I was about to leave, they actually came and landed on the beach right out in front of me, and I got great views of them, with my binoculars and with my scope, and they were indeed Beach Stone-curlews.† I had seen them in 2002, but it was a very good sighting to get, because I may very well not see them again on this trip.† They are not very common.
It turned out you could access the beach there at Toolakea Beach in a couple of other places, and I stopped at each one, but didnít see any more birds for my list.† I had my lunch at a nice picnic table in the shade there, where I could also park my car in the deep shade.† In this climate, shade is my friend.
On the way back, I stopped again at Bushland Beach, and the tide had gone out.† Way out.† The water must have been several hundred yards farther away than the first time I had stopped there in the morning.† It is a very flat beach, although I couldnít tell that when the tide was in.† There were birds, but they were so far away that I couldnít really see them well enough, even with my scope, partly because there was enough heat haze to make it difficult.†† I doubt there was anything new, anyway, although there could have been an Eastern Reef Egret.† I wonít have any trouble seeing one as I go north, though, Iím sure.† Famous last words.
I stopped a couple more places of interest on the way back here, but I didnít see anything interesting in the way of birds.
So, with the three birds today, I am up to 220 on my trip list, and 39 of those are lifers.† Tomorrow I head up into the mountains to an area of rainforest, with a lot of new species to look for.† I made a list of 20 target species for my next stop, Paluma, and 12 of those would be lifers.† I donít expect to get more than 5 or 6 of those 20 at Paluma, but Iíll have more chances for them up north, later in the trip.† But, at least I will have some target birds again, which will be nice.†† I donít think I am going to have any internet access at Paluma, even via dial up, so it might be a couple of days before anything else goes up on the website, after this Ramblings and the next Photos, which I still hope to get up tonight.
I have enjoyed staying in the same place for four nights, and it has been a very nice place, which I have also enjoyed.† The high speed internet access in my room has also been a real luxury here.† But, now it is time to move north again, and I have a number of exciting places to stay still, and some good birds to see still, hopefully.
Barry Downunder, leaving the city again and heading north, in the morning
Well, I decided to go down and across the street to get some dinner, at the Fish Bar across the street.† I ordered a Fishermanís Basket, which was just what it sounds like Ė fish, calamari, shrimp, scallop, and crab (fake) Ė deep fried, with chips.† The seafood items were crumbed, rather than battered, which was great.† I ordered it for takeaway, because I wanted to take it back up to my room.† They told me 30 minutes, which seemed pretty long, but this is Australia, not the USA, and it is Saturday night.† I came back up to my room and went down again as the time got close.† It turned out that it took 52 minutes from when I ordered it.† It was all excellent, I really enjoyed it, but 52 minutes to prepare an order of fish and chips for takeaway is absurd.† That is the norm over here, though, and it is one of the reasons I donít go out to dinner over here.† Iíd like to see the management of In Ďní Out Burger get at them for a few months; I can guarantee you the turn around time would go down drastically, and I would guess that their business would go up a lot, too.† They could have easily had two or three more people working on food preparation, and there is no reason it would have affected the quality.† I am sure that many people donít order because they know how long it will take.† Anyway, it was a great dinner, and it is very ungracious of me to criticize their ways. I apologize to all Australians for being such a critical American.† It was really an excellent dinner.