Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Well, I had another day in the mallee country today.† Birding is tough here, as advertised.† Today was more satisfying than yesterday, though, because at least I saw some birds, and I got some pictures I like.
I was up by 5:45, but I still wasnít out of here until about 7:15, I think.† It was about a half hour drive up to where I started my day.†† I had things all planned out.†† My first stop was the Nowingi Track in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park.† There is a well-known site there for a couple of rather uncommon mallee birds Ė Mallee Emu-wren and Striated Grasswren.† I found the place just fine, and I walked through the Porcupine Grass, as recommended.† The Porcupine Grass is very appropriately named, by the way Ė it kept sticking me in the ankles and lower legs.† See Photos13 for pictures of it.
It was overcast and cool enough that I wore my light jacket, and there werenít any flies until after about 8:30 or 9.†
I faithfully walked around, almost always keeping the car in sight, as everyone says how easy it is to get lost in mallee scrub.† Once when the car was out of sight, I had a moment of panic.† There are really no landmarks, and it was overcast this morning, so I couldnít even use the sun.† I found nothing in about an hour of scrounging around in the prescribed area.† I saw nothing, and I heard nothing.† Nada.† Oh well, I put myself in the right place, but came up empty
No, wait a minute.† I tell a lie (Iíve always wanted to use that dumb expression).† I did see something, and it was a great something, in its own way.† I saw a big black bird, and I assumed it was a raven or crow.† But, then I noticed that it had white tips on its tail feathers.† I got a better look, and it was a Grey Currrawong, which was a trip bird.† So, at 8:15 in the morning, I was off the schneid Ė I was golden.† (Iíve used that expression, which I also like, before.† ďOff the schneidĒ means off of zero, I had scored.† I think it is a New York expression, probably Yiddish.† Look it up if you care.)
So, the pressure was off, I had seen a trip bird today, and so I could concentrate on trying to see the other difficult birds on my list, and taking pictures.† After well over an hour at the Nowingi Track, I drove back to the Hattah Nature Walk, and walked around it.† It is 1.2 Km, which is about ĺ of a mile.† I only saw a couple of Grey Butcherbirds, which I have seen several times before.† The mallee was indeed living up to its reputation as being tough for birding.† The real expert birders love to come here and try to find the really rare birds, but the numbers of birds is really quite low.
Oh yes, I donít think I have mentioned the tour group that is staying here at my motel.† They arrived yesterday afternoon in a ten passenger van, towing a rented trailer.† I would say there are maybe 8 of them, give or take.† I wondered if it was a bird tour, but being the introvert that I am, I didnít approach anyone or ask anything.
Well, this morning they were away before I was, and I saw their van parked at the start of the Nowingi Track.† I assume it is a bird tour and they were looking for the same two species I was looking for there.† I never saw any of them, in the hour plus I was in the area, and their van was still there when I left.† I suppose they were out tramping around the mallee, looking for the birds, like I was.† This afternoon, they were back here when I got back, but again I didnít approach anyone.† Not only was my introvert thing working, I didnít want to hear about all the great birds they saw today, nor have to tell them about all the great birds I didnít see.† They went out again this afternoon about 4 oíclock, and I see their van is back, at 7:15, so I wonder what else they saw.† I wonít ask anyone, though.† It would be strictly against the introvertís code.
Anyway, back to my day.† After the nature trail walk, I drove through the Hattah campground again.† I saw a Black-tailed Native-hen with a couple of young chicks, so I stopped to take some pictures.† This was the closet look I had ever had of a Black-tailed Native-hen, and only the second time I had seen them on this trip.† While I was doing that, a woman came along, and she told me about a White-winged Chough nest, so I took some pictures of that, too.
After that, I went up the Mournpall Track, looking for various birds that were supposed to be along there.† I didnít see much, and nothing interesting.† At the Konardin Track, I turned off, to look for a couple of species that were supposed to be along there.† This was a much smaller, much sandier track, but I plowed on.† Once or twice the car kind of fishtailed in the sand, but it was fine, really.† I came to the place I was supposed to look for Splendid Fairy-wrens, near the kangaroo fence, but found nothing.† The track got sandier there, so I managed to get turned around, although that was a little dicey with the sand, and I retraced my steps.† I went back to the Hattah campground and had my humble lunch (roast beef and cheese sandwich, potato chips, and my last Woolworthís caramel slice) at the Day Use area at Lake Hattah.
The sun had come out in late morning, and the flies were as annoying as ever, once that happened.† After lunch, I took a few pictures around the area, including some of a pair of Crimson Rosellas, of the yellow subspecies, called Yellow Rosella or Adelaide Rosella by some people.† I also went back and got some more pictures of the White-winged Choughs, on and around the nest.† I got a cute picture of a couple of the Black-tailed Native-hen chicks, too.
So, it was a pretty good picture day, and I have posted Photos13, covering yesterday and today.† I came back ďhomeĒ, stopping for gas and some cheese from the grocery store, and was back here by 2:30, I think.† I also got some cash from the ATM in town.† I spent the rest of the afternoon planning tomorrow, as well as making a list of target species for this weekend, when I have a guide scheduled, across the border in South Australia, the neighboring state to Victoria, where I am now.† I processed my pictures, Instant Messaged with my friend Fred in Sacramento, had a beer and a drinkie (did I mention that Iím experimenting with Bundy rum and Orange-passionfruit juice, rather than orange-mango juice?), and now I am writing this.
So, I hope to get away early tomorrow, since early seems the key to seeing birds here in the mallee, or so they say.† I plan to drive to Wyperfeld National Park, which should be about an hourís drive, or maybe a bit more, depending on which route I choose to take.† So, I wonít exactly be there at the crack of dawn, but that is the best I can do.† If I leave any earlier, I risk hitting a kangaroo on the road, and I really want to avoid that.† This afternoon I made a list of 12 species to look for at Wyperfeld, any of which would add to my trip list.† Iíll be satisfied if I see any one of them.† There are certainly others I could see, too, but those are all supposed to be at this park, and none of them are really uncommon.† We will see.† I am getting pretty skeptical about birding in the mallee.
This afternoon, I also made a target list for my weekend with my guide, Bob Goodfellow.† That one has about 40 or 50 species on it, although some of them are quite uncommon, or even rare.† I have great hopes for the time with him, based on a trip report written by someone else he took out.† Unfortunately, the weather could be a problem.† The current forecast is for rain to develop on Friday (which will certainly affect me on my last day here in Ouyen), turning to showers on Saturday, with the showers lingering into Sunday.† My plan is to meet Bob at his house, where I will leave my car and most of my stuff, early on Saturday afternoon, and be with him the rest of the day Saturday, stay overnight on a station in the outback, and bird with him all day Sunday, returning to town on late Sunday afternoon.† It is one of the keystones of my trip, and if it rains too much or at the wrong times, it could mess it up bigtime.† No use worrying about it, it will be what it will be, and all I can do is wait and see how it all plays out.† But, Iíll worry about it anyway, and so it goesÖ
Iím now feeling like four days here in Ouyen was probably too much, considering how tough the birding is here.† I would have hired a guide for here, but the closest one I could find lives several hours from here, so it would have been pretty expensive.† There are several parks in the area, and I will have time to visit them all, weather permitting, so even if I donít see many new birds, or many birds at all, it is still a very interesting little corner of the world, and Iím enjoying visiting it again.† I was here in 2004, as you may remember, if you are really paying close attention and taking notes.† It was interesting to see the lakes at Hattah-Kulkyne full of water, and it was also interesting that the countryside doesnít look all that much greener than I remember from the drought year of 2004.† The people who live here say how green everything is, though, so I think it is a case of selective perception.
So, thatís my story, and Iím sticking to it.† Until next time.