Thursday Night

Cairns

 

So, I left Cassowary House this morning about 9:30 or so, and my first stop was actually McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich, as the breakfast didnít have quite enough protein in it for my needs, although it was a very good breakfast.† Great fruit and some excellent home made strawberry jam on my toast, and a hard boiled egg.† I could have had cereal, but milk doesnít agree with me.† I need my protein in the morning, to keep me from getting light-headed.

 

After Mickey Dís, I went to a small beach place called Yorkeyís Knob.† Do they have great place names over here, or what?† I was looking for Green Pygmy-goose, and I got them as soon as I found the lagoon by the golf course.† Nothing else there for me, though, so I moved on to Redden Island, north of Cairns, but when I got there, there was a couple coming out of the reserve area, and I asked them if they had seen anything.† ďNot a sausageĒ was the reply, and it had just started to sprinkle a little, so passed on Redden Island.

 

By the way, for those who are not ďin the knowĒ, Cairns is pronounced ďCansĒ, like tin cans or garbage cans.† Seems strange to me, but that is how it is said locally and by all Australians.

 

Next I decided to try for Bush Stone-curlew, a bird that can be hard to see.† One of the birding guide brochures I had gotten from the internet said that they were easily found in the Cairns Pioneer Cemetery.† I was skeptical of course, but I made my way there and parked in the shade on the street, adjacent to the cemetery.† I hadnít gone 50 feet from the car when I saw my first Bush Stone-curlew.† I went back to the car for my camera, and I ended up seeing at least 6 or 7 of them, in only one small part of the cemetery, and I got a lot of pictures of them.† It was really interesting to see so many of them in such a small area, when they are generally pretty hard to see.† Not a lifer, but another excellent trip bird that I was glad to knock off.

 

It was getting close to noon by then, so I stopped at a bakery and picked up a pie and a caramel slice Ė I havenít had my quota of meat pies on this trip, and this was only my second or third bakery caramel slice.† The bakery ones are way better than the Woolworths ones I had gotten early in the trip.† I took my treasures to the Botanic Gardens, and found a nice picnic table in the shade, with a parking place in the shade as well.† Shade is a big deal for me, in this climate.† It was about 85 by then, but the humidity was a killer.† I enjoyed my bakery products and a Diet Coke, and then wandered around a little, looking for Orange-footed Scrubfowl, which I had seen there in 2002.† Wrong time of day, probably, and I didnít see one.† I did track down a bird that was calling loudly, though, and it was a Yellow Oriole, another nice trip bird.† I found a rest room, and by that time, the sweat was really dripping off me.

 

I thought of trying to check in early (it was about 1 PM by then), but I figured if I got into an air conditioned room, I wouldnít go out again, and it seemed too early to call it a day, so I headed up to another place I had wanted to go, Lake Morris.† Lake Morris is in the mountains (hills, to us) just west of Cairns, and it turned out to be quite a road to get there.† It was narrow and twisty, and in places, very close to the edges of cliffs.† There were spectacular views of Cairns, which I didnít get pictures of, unfortunately.† From where you start up the hill, it is only about ten miles to the lake, which is a dam/reservoir, actually, for Cairns water supply, but it took 25 or 30 minutes to drive it.† I only passed three cars coming down on my way up, and on the way down, only passed 4 that were going up.† Not a heavily traveled road, which made the drive easier.† I passed on bike rider on the way up.† A nice ten mile bike ride, gaining 1000 feet of elevation in that distance.† Not for me, but he seemed to enjoy it.† I was at the top when he arrived, and he seemed happy to be at the top.† On my way down, there was a guy running up the hill, but I donít know how far he went Ė he was fairly close to the bottom when I saw him.

 

Anyway, it was very pleasant up at Lake Morris, about twelve degrees cooler than down in Cairns Ė 72 versus 84, and there was a nice breeze.† I saw a couple of birds, but none of the ones that the brochure mentioned.† Again, wrong time of day and the wind doesnít help birding, either.† But, at least I had cooled down, and I had checked out another of the sites I wanted to see.† As I left, the rain that had threatened all day finally fell, although it was only a shower.† I donít think it even rained down in Cairns proper.

 

By the time I got down the mountain, it was 2:30 and definitely time to check in to my new digs.† This place, the Tropic Towers, isnít as nice or as modern as the place in Townsville was, but it is certainly plenty nice enough to meet my standards.† It is an older building, and the a/c is not nearly as nice.† It is central a/c, although I do have a thermostat in my room.† It was about 81 in the room when I checked in, and it took it about 4 hours to get down to about 70 or 72.† I canít leave it on when I am out, unless I leave the room unlocked, because you have to put your key in a slot by the door for it work.† I could get a second key, but that would be cheating.† It will be interesting to see how much it heats up when I am out in the day time.† At least I can have it cool for sleeping, which is the most important thing.

 

This place is much larger than the Townsville one, and it has a full size refrigerator that makes ice very quickly.† I havenít written a lot about ice on this trip, like I did on the 2006 trip, because I have been pretty lucky for the most part this time around.† I bought a couple of small ice trays when I got here, and I have used those, and I have also had more ice at the places I have stayed than in 2006.† Every motel room and B&B room has a little refrigerator over here, but I have yet to see a motel that has an ice machine.† It just isnít part of the culture over here.† If the motel has a restaurant, as many of them do, then you can get a bowl of ice if you ask, and I have asked a couple of times on this trip.

 

Anyway, back to the Tropic Towers, it has a washer and dryer in the unit, so I did a load of dark things, which badly needed it.† Iíll do my whites before I leave here, and that should get me through the trip.† In Townsville, I had to go down to the second floor to do my laundry, although it was free, and they even provided washing powder for free.† Here they charge for washing powder, but I had two free packets left over from Townsville, which I had carefully hoarded.† Am I cheap, or what?

 

They had advertised broadband internet access in the room, but I had already learned to be suspicious of that, from previous experiences.† I asked when I checked in, and the broadband access, which is wired, not wireless, costs extra.† A ridiculous amount extra.† The woman at the front desk (Reception, in their terms) could sell me a voucher that was good for two hours of access over a one week time frame, for $24.† That seemed absurd.† I had paid $50 for four days of unlimited access in Townsville, and I thought that was expensive, but $12 an hour seemed over the top to me.† Evidently I can also hook up to the cable in my room, open my browser and buy time online with my credit card, and I plan to check that out eventually, to see if the rate is any better.†

 

It did turn out that I have a phone in my room, which the website hadnít mentioned, so I hadnít expected it.† I was told that phone calls to an internet provider (a special number that the government subsidizes) cost 80 cents for each 30 minutes, and that was a whole lot less than $24 for two hours, so I am using dial up at this point, until I get around to checking what it costs to buy time online.†† I still have plenty of hours on my pre-paid dial up plan, and I can always buy more time, if I need it.† Dial up is slower, but I am not doing anything that needs blazing speed, so it works fine for me.

 

So, I moved all my stuff up to my room on the 4th floor (they had a little luggage cart, which helped a lot), and I got the a/c going and got online.† I caught up with things and then started my laundry and switched the phone line back to the phone.† I needed to call the two Cairns birders who had said they would take me out birding.† I got hold of both of them, and both of them remembered me and are planning to take me out, which is really great.† Iím a little concerned about the heat and my inability to walk very far, but Iíll just do what I can do.† One of the guys said that if we were going to go to the mangrove area to look for a couple of species, I would need some good insect repellant, or the sand flies would eat me alive.† Great, now it is sand flies.† The mosquitoes have been really good (very few of them, except the last day at Bowra), but the biting flies in Mission Beach drove me crazy.† Now it is sand flies.† He said that I needed a repellant with DEET, but I hadnít found any that had DEET in them.† He told me the brand name to get, and to get the gel, which you rub on yourself (and then wash your hands, or everything plastic you touch melts).† Iíll look for that tomorrow.† It will be interesting to see how effective it is against the dreaded sand flies.† Iím damned if Iíll get eaten by sand flies to see another species or two for my lists, so maybe Iíll just bail out if it seems too bad.† I wonder if you know you are being bitten by sand flies, though, or if you find out later, when the bites start to itch.

 

So, I am set up with both of my ďbirdingpalsĒ.† I found them through the Birdingpal website, which lists people who are willing to take visiting birders out birding.† A wonderful service, which I have used on the last two trips, or maybe the last three, come to think of it.

 

As I feared, once I got settled into my new home from home, I didnít want to go out again.† I am having cheese and peanut butter and crackers for dinner.† I have noticed something interesting on this trip.† When I eat a large dinner, I donít sleep as well, and I am liable to be awake for an hour or more during the night.† My snacky type dinners actually seem to allow me to sleep better.† It probably has to do with the very early schedule I am keeping to Ė in bed by 9:30 most nights, 10 at the latest, and up by about 6:30 on average, if not earlier.† At home, I eat dinner about 6 or 6:30 and go to bed about midnight, on average.† Here, I eat about 7 on average and am in bed by 9:30.† So, maybe a big dinner a couple of hours before I go to bed interferes with my sleep.† Interesting.† I think I am eating fewer calories overall on this schedule, too, which is also interesting.† I know I lost weight on my last Aussie trip.

 

So, that is the first installment from Cairns (pronounced Cans, remember).†† I have a lot of pictures stored up now, and eventually I need to process them and get them up on the website.† Iím way, way behind.† Maybe tomorrow, in the heat of the day.† The birds arenít very active in the heat of the day, anyway.† Iím not sure what I am going to do tomorrow, at this point, other than grocery shopping; Iíll have to think about it as I sleep tonight.

 

Oh yes, I added another lifer at the end of the day, too.† Pied Imperial-Pigeon.† I saw them from my balcony, as it was getting dark.† I saw them flying as well as perched.† Beautiful birds.† White pigeons with black on the trailing edges of their wings and on their tails.† They are particularly striking when they fly, with their black and white pattern.† Supposedly you see them here in the morning and in the evening, as they fly back and forth to the offshore islands where they roost and nest, but I think they are roosting near where I am staying as well.

 

So, bottom line, I am at 244 species total, of which 51 are lifers.† Weíll see what I can do tomorrow.

 

Barry Downunder, with internet in my room again, even if it is dial up