Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Willie Retreat, Macquarie Marshes
Well, Iíve done the chore of processing Photos08, from yesterday.† It took me an hour and ten minutes.† Now Iíll write about today, and then Iíll process the pictures from today, for Photos09.
I slept okay last night until about 3 am.† I got up then and went across to the toilet trailer to pee, and when I got back to bed I couldnít get to sleep for about an hour, and slept fitfully after that.† When I finally got up about 6:15, it was 53 degrees F in here, and I had to pee really badly.† I got dressed and took care of that urgency, and then I walked around the area for over an hour.† I picked up three more species for my trip list Ė Hooded Robin (a good one), Brown Treecreeper, and Black-faced Woodswallow.
I made myself a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, and a sandwich for breakfast, out of one of my smoked chicken breasts and cheese.† I had a pear with my brekkie, and I took some cookies and potato chips to go with my lunch sandwich.
At about 9:15, I headed out along Gibsonís Way, to see what I could find.† I was determined to attempt the Monkeygar Creek crossing.
I soon got Glossy Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Whiskered Tern, and Swamp Harrier Ė all for my trip list.† As I approached Monkeygar Creek crossing, I stopped to check out the birds, and a car came along and passed me.† It was a regular passenger car, with a couple in it, along with their dog.† When I got to the creek crossing, the man was out of the car, with his pants rolled up, wading across the crossing, checking it out for depth and any holes.† I watched and took pictures and talked to the woman.
The man decided it was okay, and they crossed ahead of me.† It was maybe 14 inches deep, I would say, at a guess, maybe a bit more in places.† They made it fine, so I followed them across, and of course had no problem.† I could have come that way yesterday and saved an hour of driving, but I did get to see some additional stuff the way I went, and I wouldnít have gotten the Black-eared Cuckoo lifer if I had done that, either.† Itís funny how things work out sometimes.
There was another minor spot with water over the road, and after that, there was a herd of cattle, being herded by a couple of guys on horses, and they were blocking the road.† The cattle slowly moved out of the road, though, and we plowed our way through.† I ran into the same herd later, on the way back, and there are some pictures of that encounter in Photos09.
A little while later, there was an observation platform, at a place with a lot of water and birds.† The couple in the car in front of me were just leaving when I got there, as I had stopped to look at birds a couple of times.† I had a look around and took some pictures, and then I noticed there was a picnic table just past the observation tower, and it was lunch time by then.† So, I sat in the shade and had my humble lunch, while watching birds.† I picked up Tawny Grassbird, Clamorous Reed-warbler, and Restless Flycatcher at that stop, for my trip list.† Actually, I picked up a fourth bird there, too, but I didnít realize what it was until I got back to my cabin and looked in my book.† It was a White-winged Triller, another one for my trip list.† I couldnít figure it out on the spot, but when I saw it in the book later, I was certain that was what I had seen.
I went on as far as Sandy Camp, where I had had my lunch yesterday, and then turned back.† I picked up Southern Whiteface and Blue Bonnet (a parrot) for my trip list, and then a bird crossed the road in front of me, at a creek crossing.† It was obviously some sort of quail, and I got a good look at it with my binoculars.† A second one followed right behind the first, and I again got a good look.† I donít see any kind of quail over here very often, so I pulled out my book, and they were Stubble Quail.† No doubt about it in my mind.† Not only a lifer, but one I hadnít even given myself a 10% chance of seeing when I made my spreadsheet for the trip.† Score!† So, today turned out to be another excellent day, and my count now stands at 187 species, of which 6 are lifers.† I feel like Iím doing very well, although there is no way to objectively measure my progress.
When I got back here to the cabin (trailer), it was 83 degrees inside, so I opened it up and turned the fan on.† It peaked at 85, and now, at 6:45 PM, it has dropped back down to 83.† It is cooler outside, and I expect it will cool off quickly now.† I went out and walked around looking for birds but saw nothing interesting, and then came back in and started my computer work for the day.† I miss being able to get online, and I guess I will put up a double or triple dose of Ramblings and Photos tomorrow afternoon, when I get to Lake Cargelligo, where I will have internet again, supposedly.
By the way, last night I had the non-refrigerated chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy dinner, along with one of my smoked chicken breasts, and it was pretty good.† I had some broccoli and cauliflower, too, which I had gotten in Gilgandra.† Tonight I plan to have the chicken Alfredo meal, with another chicken breast and the rest of the broccoli and cauliflower.† I have some roast beef left to make a sandwich with for tomorrow, and Iíll have the last chicken breast for my brekkie, in a sandwich, I imagine.† I have another pear and some mandarins, too.† Iím doing ok with my meals Ė they are reasonably healthy and Iím not stuffing myself.† In Lake Cagelligo Iím staying in a motel again, but I think I have a microwave, and I hope that the town there is big enough to have a small supermarket, so I can stock up again.† It is supposed to be about a 5 Ĺ hour drive, according to Google Maps.† 240 miles, or 400 kilometers.† One of my longest days of driving.† Maybe tomorrow will be my first day in which I donít get a new bird for my trip list, since I will be driving so much, and not birding per se.† The easy ones have already been counted, so it is getting harder to add to my list each day.
So, that is my story for today.† Iíll close this now and see if I can get my pictures from today processed, and have some dinner.
Addendum.† I processed my pictures from today, and I made the Photos08 and Photos09 albums.† I had my humble dinner Ė the chicken Alfredo, chicken breast, and veggies Ė with some of my box wine.† Soon I can go to bed, but maybe I will have time to finish my current book first.
I walked around outside a little after I ate.† Last night, the couple in the small trailer next door were the only other guests here, and they left this morning.† Tonight, it is only me, as far as I can tell.† I checked out the ďBunkhouseĒ trailer, by the way, and it has 22 bunks in it, so I guess it is used for groups.† There are a couple of rooms over in the building that contains the kitchen for campers and bunkhouse residents, and I think they each have four bunks in them.† Tonight I am the only guest, though.† The moon is almost full, just another day or two, it looks like, and it will be full.† In a couple of weeks I will be in the real outback, and without a moon; I will be able to really enjoy the stars of the southern sky.† The almost-full moon blanks a lot of them out now.† It is still very nice out there now, though, with the sound of the crickets and frogs and whatever else makes sounds in the night.
I like the remoteness of the places I go in Australia, but I wonít be sorry to be back to a small town again tomorrow night, with grocery stores, gas stations, a toilet in my room, internet access, bakeries with meat pies and caramel slices, etc.† The Willie Retreat was a great experience, though, and Iím very glad I came here and could experience it.† This afternoon, as I was wandering around the grounds, I wondered how many Americans ever get to experience the Willie Retreat and the Macquarie Marshes.† I would guess that only a handful visit here each year.† It is a huge, wonderful world, and I feel very grateful to be able to see a tiny part of it, and I also feel grateful to be able to share the experience with you, my faithful readers.
Further Addendum, Thursday evening, October 21, 2010
Lake Cargelligo, NSW
I slept well last night, and I was up at about 6 this morning.† It only got down to 61 degrees F in my trailer, compared to 53 the night before.† I had a chicken breast and cheese sandwich for my brekkie, along with a pear, and I made a roast beef and cheese sandwich for my lunch.† While wandering around outside this morning, I checked out the ďEwesĒ toilet trailer.† It was interesting how strong the taboo was, to not even look into the ladiesí rest room, even though I knew there was no one else around.† But, I overcame it and peeked in the door.† It was a little less rustic than the ďRamsĒ trailer, and had two showers and one toilet stall.† There was a sign at the door asking the ladies to please remove their shoes, and there was no comparable sign on the Rams side.
So, I packed up and loaded up the car, and went over to the homestead to pay my bill.† At 40 bucks a night, this was my least expensive accommodation of the trip, by far.† Myra, the owner is an interesting person.† I forget if I mentioned it before, but she and her husband owned this place for 28 years or so, and he died late last year.† She appears to live here alone now, operating the station (ranch) and the accommodations.†† I would guess she is 75 or 80 years old.† She had loaned me a DVD video of an aerial tour of the area, by helicopter, made in 1996, as it turned out, which was a very wet year.† They have had a 10 or 12 year drought in most of Australia, and this year is the first wet year in all that time.† I mentioned to Myra that she must not get many Americans staying there, and she said, ďOh no, the biggest bird club in America sends a group here every year.Ē† Well, it turned out that they hadnít come since the drought started, which was over ten years ago, so I think it is still safe to say that not many Americans ever see the Macquarie Marshes or the Willie Retreat.† Myra has chickens (one was sitting on twelve eggs, just outside her back door), peacocks, a couple of emus, and a caged Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.† One of their claims to fame at the Willie Retreat is that they owned George, the worldís oldest Merino sheep.† George was 21 years old when he died in August of 2005.† Myra gave me a key fob when I left, commemorating George, which is how I know his age and date of death.† I think that Myra lives largely in the past, which is not unusual for a person of her age.
The station is pretty remote.† It is over an hour to the nearest semblance of a town, and more like 1.5 hours to a real town, with a grocery store or anything other than a bar and a gas station.† For the first hour after I left this morning, I didnít see another car or another person.† To me, that is pretty remote, although the roads are paved, once you get a couple of miles from the place itself.
I was worried that today would be the first day that I wouldnít add anything to my trip list, but after a while, I stopped to see some birds, and saw another one entirely that added to my trip list Ė a White-fronted Chat.† A little later, I saw a really great bird, a Spotted Harrier.† That is a raptor, and I had only seen one once before, on my very first Australia trip, and Iím sure it was pointed out to me by a guide.† I am terrible at identifying raptors, and I had not expected to be able to ID a Spotted Harrier, even if I saw one.† As it turned out, the ID wasnít hard, since I had such a good look at it, and it is pretty distinctive.† Someone had told me that Spotted Harrier was easy to identify, and with a good look at one, I would agree, now.
My drive went great today.† I had chosen to take the main roads, rather than one of the other routes that were a little shorter but might have included some roads in less good condition, or even unpaved roads.† One reason I had chosen this particular route was that I was hoping that Parkes would be a big enough town that they would have a Woolworthís supermarket, and indeed there was a Woolies there.† So, I stocked up on groceries for the next few days, and I filled my tank with gas.† I have some of the chicken and vegetable pies that I like so much for my brekkie.
Tonight and tomorrow night, Iím in Lake Cargelligo, a small town with some tourist business.† Iím in a motel, and I have a tiny fridge and a microwave, as well as free wireless access to the internet.† There was a small ice tray in the freezer compartment of the tiny fridge, but it was empty.† I had put a baggie of ice in my little cooler this morning, though, and there was enough left for my nice rum and orange-mango juice drinkie tonight.† The motel turns out to be located right on the lake, too, and I had gone for a deluxe room (for $79 a night), so I have a great view of the lake from my window.†
Just as I arrived this afternoon, about 3:45, the rain that had been threatening for a while started.† We had a huge shower, with lightning and all, that lasted for about 20 minutes.† It rained as hard as I have ever seen, I think.† I sat in my car for 20 minutes, after checking in, and waited for it to abate.† Just to get to my room would have soaked me.† In half an hour, the rain had stopped completely.†† I have several places nearby where I want to look for birds tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see if the unpaved roads in those places are muddy from todayís shower.† I certainly donít want to get bogged somewhere, so I will be characteristically cautious about where I will drive.† I also donít want to slog around in mud while I bird, so Iím hoping for sandy soil, as that is very common over here.† If I canít get into the reserves because of the mud, then Iíll bird from the paved roads and do the best I can.† It should be interesting.† Iím glad to have my 4WD car; this is one of the main reasons Iím paying an extra several hundred dollars to have it.† The rain today was obviously very localized, and it might not have even rained where I want to bird, which is maybe 10 or 15 miles from here, in a couple of cases.† It was pretty warm today, in the high 70ís, and the same is forecast for tomorrow.† Tomorrowís forecast again calls for showers around the area, though, so it will be interesting to see what I encounter.
I have a lot of good, detailed info about where to go and what birds to look for, so it should be a good day tomorrow, weather permitting.† I have what I need to make myself a ham and cheese sandwich for my lunch, I have my chicken pies for my brekkie, and I always have soup for my dinner, if I donít choose to walk to some local option here in town.
The trip moves on.† Iím at the start of my third week now, with almost 4 weeks to go.