Sunday, October 24, 2010


Swan Hill, Victoria


I forgot to mention a bird I picked up yesterday, before the rain started, in Cocoparra National Park.  Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.  I expect I will see a lot of them, farther west, but yesterday was the first one of the trip.


At the end of Ramblings17, I was headed for McDonalds, to try to put up Photos10 and Ramblings17.  That worked out great.  Downloads were kind of slow, but uploads were quite fast, and I got it all done in about 25 minutes, including catching up on email and Instant Messaging with my friend Fred in Sacramento.  There were five other people in the McD’s using the internet, and among the six of us, there was only one coffee bought, as far as I could see.  Four of the other users were teenage girls, and I guess that Mickey D’s is the place to get online in Griffith, if you don’t want your parents looking over your shoulder.  It worked great for me, anyway.


I was in a bit of a hurry to get out of there, as it was well past five o’clock by then, and my first drinkie of the day was calling me.  I stopped at Woolworth’s, though, which was right across the street as it turned out, and got four more of the delicious chicken and vegetable pies that I like so much.  I had two for my dinner and two for my second brekkie today, but more on that later.


I had an evening in, with no internet, so I read my book.  I was tired and I retired at about 9:45.  I slept well again, waking at 5 (up only once before that to pee, which is great – at home, I get up about 3 times on average).  I didn’t sleep again, and I finally got up at 5:45.  I did an abbreviated version of my morning routines, and was out the door and in my car by 6:30, heading back to the places in Binya State Forest where I got rained out yesterday afternoon.  I figured that I had come this far, and having a second chance at the special birds of Binya State Forest was worth changing my normal routine for.  I chomped down a Protein bar in the car, on the 20 minute drive back to the forest.  My only concern was what the unpaved road and the walking would be like, after the rain we had yesterday afternoon, but I thought it would be all right.


As it turned out, it was just fine.  The road was a little damp still, but that just served to hold down the dust.  It was  a little muddy walking in the forest, and twice I slipped on the mud, but caught myself each time, without taking a fall.  It made me a bit more careful, though.  I took off my muddy shoes when I got back to my motel, and I still need to clean them.


There were disappointingly few birds around.  Tons of my “witchy bird”, the Rufous Songlark, and I got good looks at some of them, but not a lot of others.  There were a few, but nothing new, and none of the special birds of the Binya State Forest.  But, it was a glorious morning, weatherwise, and I really enjoyed the walks in the woods, despite not seeing very many birds.  I did end up getting some pictures that I really like, of Cockatiel, Grey Fantail, and Rufous Whistler.  It was a much better and longer look at Cockatiels than I had had before, and I was appreciative of that.  Getting pictures was a bonus.


About 8:45 I gave up and headed back to the motel.  Oh yes, the road I was on most of the time is called Barry Scenic Drive, and I appreciated that, too.  Anyway, on my way back, I spotted two birds at the top of a tree, and they were obviously different from most of the usual suspects.  I stopped, got out, and got a brief binocular view before they flew off.  I am convinced they were Bar-shouldered Doves, although I would love to get a better view than that.  That was a trip bird, and one I probably won’t see again, as its range is east of where I will be from now on.  It was one for my trip list today, though, and that kept today from being the first day that I get skunked on a new species for my trip list.  The streak continues.  It turned out that I didn’t ever see any others today, so that was it for the day.


I had about 4 hours of driving today, and after eating my last two Woolie’s chicken pies, I was on the road by about 10.  I gassed up before leaving Griffith, because I wasn’t sure what was ahead of me.  As it turned out, it was mostly agricultural land for most of the drive today.  Vineyards around Griffith, then farmland and then cattle and sheep grazing land.  After the town of Hay, it was pretty much just brown brushy stuff, which enabled me to understand a line in one of my Aussie country songs about the “wide brown land around Hay”.  It is very flat, and indeed is a wide brown land, even in a wet year like this.


I was thinking that Hay might be big enough for a McD’s, but the road passed south of town, so I never really saw Hay.  I would have caught up on email there, if I could have – remember, my motel’s internet access was not working (seems to be a recurring theme here in Oz, non-working wi fi access).  I’ve been burned a couple of time now by Google maps, and I wondered about the route it had chosen for me for today, with regard to whether the roads would all be paved.  Looking at my 8 year old map, I saw that 8 years ago I would have been in for about 22 miles of unpaved road on my route, but the route was definitely the shortest, so I figured it would be ok.   Besides, in 8 years, it might all be paved now.


Well, as it turned out, the pavement ended and I had about 7 miles of dirt road, before the pavement started again.  It sure seemed like more than 7 miles, though.  I had passed (overtaken, in the Aussie parlance) a big truck just as we started that segment of highway.  I was going 110 kilometers per hour, which is about 66 MPH, and he was keeping up with me.  That was on the paved section.  When we hit the unpaved part, he didn’t slow down, so I felt I needed to stay in front of him, as there was tons of dust being kicked up, and I preferred to have him eat my dust, rather than have me eat his dust.  Going 66 on that unpaved section was okay, marginally, as the road was good, but I would have gone slower if I had had a choice.  I was glad when the unpaved part ended after only 7 miles (11 kilometers).  The speed limit through that whole stretch was only 60 MPH, or 100 Kilometers per hour, so I was pushing that limit, too, to stay ahead of the truck.


I was getting hungry by then, it was after 1 PM, and there was a town called Moulamein after that stretch, so I stopped there.  There wasn’t really anything much there, but I had my last couple of slices of cheese and some crackers, so I stopped at a park by the Edward River and had that, along with a Diet Coke.


I find the Edward River to be fascinating.  It is a “river” that flows out of another river, the Murray River.  The Murray River is almost 1500 miles long and has played a very important part in Australia’s history.  Some kind of series of  geologic event, tens of thousands of years ago, created this situation where the Murray River actually splits, and the Edward River, which can be described as a channel of the Murray river, flows long for a couple of hundred miles (I think) before it once again joins the Murray.  It gets dozens of miles away from the Murray, at points.  I have never heard of any other river anywhere that splits into two channels that don’t connect again for a couple of hundred miles.  Anyway, I had my cheese and cracker snack by the Edward River in Moulamein.


I got to Swan Hill about 2:30, and I went looking for the McDonalds that I hoped would be here, as I thought Swan Hill was big enough for one.  Sure enough, I found it.  I ordered a double quarter pounder meal and asked if they had wi-fi.  I was told yes, so I set up my computer and booted up while I ate.  Well, I couldn’t see any network, and it turned out that their wi-fi was down.  This made the 4th or 5th time on this trip that someone’s wi-fi was down.  They seem to have a difficult time keeping wireless networks working over here.


So, I went looking for my new digs.  I was booked in to a caravan (trailer) park cabin for two nights, and they have wireless internet, through one of the national companies that have signed up motels and other places.  The rates are always absurdly high, but the McD’s option hadn’t worked, so I was ready to pay through the nose for a couple of days of access, or maybe only a couple of hours, depending on the price.


Next I stopped at the tourist information centre and asked about other internet access options and about a grocery store that would be open on Sunday.  No other internet options that were viable, and no Woolworths in town, which I was sorry to hear.  But, I had seen the Safeway store, down the street, and their colors and logo looked just like the Woolworth’s ones.  So, I went there, and sure enough, all the familiar products were there, with Woolworth’s name on them, no less.  I am in a different state now, Victoria, as opposed to New South Wales, and maybe there are legal reasons why Woolworth’s is called Safeway here.  Whatever.  It seems strange to have a store called Safeway that sells Woolworth branded products, but hell, what do I know?  The bottom line was that I got my chicken and vegetable pies for my brekkies for the next two days, and loaded up with dinners and lunch fixings for the next two days, too.  The bill came to 42 bucks, and that is basically all my meals for the next two days, with maybe some food left over.  I’m golden!  My little kitchen here is great, with a decent size fridge and all.  At first, I didn’t see the microwave, which is on a lower shelf, but once I saw that, I knew was fine.


Next, I found the caravan park, and it is a very nice one.  My cabin is much newer and much nicer than the one in Stockton Beach.  Unfortunately, although my computer could “see” their network, I couldn’t connect to the page where you give them your credit card number and thereby get access.  I imagine it is because of some setting on my computer, but I had tried to work this problem earlier in the trip (at Stockton), and came up blank.  It is like the problem in Stockton, except there I found a clue and a workaround, and was able to connect, even though I had to go to the office to do it.  I think my problem has to do with the network redirecting my browser to a specific web page, where the log in info is, and something in my settings is keeping my computer from being redirected.  I have tried all kinds of things, but haven’t solved the problem.  So, I appeared to be screwed.


But, there also appeared to be a loophole this time.  Thank God for loopholes and workarounds.  I could see the wi-fi network for the motel next door!  I connected to that, and got the expected page where you are asked to enter your user name and password.  Of course, I had no such thing.  But the page said that access was free to motel guests, and others could pay for access at the front desk (or, reception, as they call it).  $4.95 for a day, or $7 for a week.  Sounded great to me.  The access here at my caravan park would have been several times that much.   So, I drove over next door and asked about buying a week’s worth of time on their network.  No worries, mate.  7 bucks, and I got a user name and password; now I’m connected through the next door motel network.  My cabin is right on the edge of the caravan park, as close to the motel as any unit here, and I guess that is why I can see their network.  We’ll see if it continues to work, but if it does, then 7 bucks for two days is a huge bargain, as far as I am concerned.  My internet adventures continue.


So, I got moved in here, and I walked around the grounds for 20 minutes or so.  Nothing but common birds, but they are nice grounds, and it is a beautiful day here, so I enjoyed it.  Now I have processed my pictures and written up my not-so-exciting day, and I will now attempt to upload the whole lot to my website, where they will be available for your enjoyment and enlightenment on Sunday morning, your time.  It is Sunday evening here, of course, but I always was way ahead of the rest of the world, so that is not surprising.


I have 3 or 4 birding sites to visit tomorrow.  The weather is supposed to be good, knock on wood.  There are a number of special birds at these sites, several of which would be lifers for me, but I am getting pretty skeptical about finding good birds on my own.  Not knowing the calls is a huge handicap, as I discover anew on each trip.  But, all I can do is put myself where the birds are likely to be, and see what I can see.  I fully expect I will have a great time looking, anyway, and all the places I plan to go tomorrow will be new to me, so that is satisfying in itself.  I expect I will see a couple of birds for my trip list, but we will see.


Today was a very enjoyable day, even though I only got the one bird (Bar-shouldered Dove) for my trip list.  The weather was excellent, I was in new territory, in places I had never been before, and I felt great.  Tomorrow is another day of new places, and maybe there will be some new birds as well.  What a life!


Addendum.  I was looking through my field guide, specifically looking to see what the parrot was that I saw a couple of times today – very green, with a red belly and yellow under the tail, and a patch of yellow on its forehead.  I didn’t know what it was, and now I know why it wasn’t something I recognized.  They were Mulga Parrots, a lifer for me.  So, I’m adding that to today’s list, as I am quite sure that is what I saw.  I had Mulga Parrot mixed up in my mind with Bourke’s Parrot, and that is why I hadn’t considered it before.  Total count is now 203 species for the trip, of which 6 are lifers.


I had one of Woolworth’s very nice little lasagnas for dinner, along with one of their caramel slices for dessert.  I’ve made my plans for 4 places to visit tomorrow.  There are some special birds that are seen in those places, and who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and see one of those species.  There are a few others that are more common that I could add to my trip list, and that seems more likely.  If I see 3 more species for my trip list tomorrow, I’ll feel like I did well, and even one lifer would be great.  We shall see.