Friday, October 29, 2010


Ouyen, Victoria


Today a story from yesterdayís lunch kept going through my mind.† Someone mentioned that there used to be a number of sports leagues in the area, for school children, and even for adults, I gather.† There is nothing at all like that now, evidently.† I asked if that was because there were so many more entertainment options these days, and they said, Oh no, it is because the population has crashed so much in the area.


It seems that after WWII, the Australian government offered 600 acres and some money to any returning soldier who would work the land.† They moved out into this area in droves, with their wives, and started having children, while they worked like dogs in primitive conditions (usually no electricity or running water, etc) to clear and plant the land.† As the population grew, shops, schools, churches, gas stations, etc sprang up, and the workers in those places added further to the population growth.† The little farming towns thrived and grew, and there were activities for the kids and the adults Ė sports, dances, church socials, etc.


But, it turned out that 600 acres wasnít really enough to support a family on in this area, and the farmers gradually went under and moved away, over a period of a couple of decades.† The kids who grew up also moved to the cities, like rural children all over the world in the second half of the 20th century.† The once-thriving towns shriveled up and have almost disappeared.† The failed farms were bought by bigger farmers who had succeeded.† Now the population is a small fraction of what it was in the 1950ís through 1970ís.


It is really interesting to think about the dynamics of all that, the effects on the people and on the country as a whole.† Evidently it was a major thing in lots of farming communities around the country.† I suspect it is one of the reasons that Australia developed into such a politically liberal country, in terms of social programs.† Those people worked really hard for many years, only to lose everything in the end, and I can see how that would affect things politically for quite a while.† In the cities there were union issues that produced the same effect politically, and also in the sheep and cattle businesses.


Anyway, those were some of my driving time thoughts today, and I thought I would share the story, as I think it is very interesting.† In the US, the move to the cities from the farms had started decades earlier, but in Australia, they still had lots of empty farm land (well, marginal farm land) after WWII, so there was actually a huge move to rural areas in the late 40ís.


I was going to take today off, but during the night I decided to at least try to see if I could add a bird to my trip list today.† There was one park I hadnít been to on this trip Ė Murray-Sunset National Park.† I went there in the dry year of 2004, and didnít see much.† There were a few birds I could conceivably see there that would add to my list, although it was not likely.† Still, I came all this way to look for birds, and what would I do all day in my motel room, anyway?


So, I was up at 6:30, made my breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and was out of here by 7:45.† It was about a 45 minute drive to get to the Pink Lakes part of Murray-Sunset NP.† They call the area the Pink Lakes because the lakes there have a pink tinge to them.† The color comes from algae, the only thing other than some brine shrimp that can live in them, because they are so salty.† Back in the early 1900ís, the area was worked for salt, which must have been a hot miserable job for most of the year.


So, I drove around and saw a few birds, although nothing new and not as many as I had seen at Wyperfeld yesterday.† There were some Blue Bonnets, a few Ringnecks, some Red-rumped Parrots, a couple of Nankeen Kestrels, some pipits, some Southern Whiteface, and a couple of groups of White-browed Babblers.† The usual
Galahs, Magpies, Ravens, Willie Wagtails, too, of course.† Nothing for me, and not much to even take pictures of.


On my drive, I came to a patch of mallee scrub with porcupine grass, which is the habitat for Mallee Emu-wren and Striated Grasswren, like the places where I looked for them yesterday at Hattah.† I listened and looked, and I even got out my FM adapter and played the calls through the car radio system, from my mp3 player.† I stopped a half a dozen places and played the calls, but didnít see or hear any response.† They are very uncommon birds, and you need to look long and hard to find any.† Iím sort of a dilettante birder Ė I get up late, donít walk much, donít like the heat, and donít know the calls.† I guess you could just call me a lousy birder and be done with it.† Anyway, I tried today, in my own half-assed way, but came up empty.


At one point I came to a road closed sign on my scenic loop road.† It was closed because they had sprayed insecticide for the locusts.† I saw the creepy little hoppers in several places, but not as many as I saw yesterday at Wyperfeld.† I have included a couple more pictures in the short Photos15 that I am putting up soon.


I also saw some Southern Whiteface, which are quite small birds, eating the hoppers at one point.† The locusts seemed pretty big for such little birds, but the birds sure looked like they were jumping around, catching the locusts.† I say good on you, Southern Whiteface Ė go for it!


It was warmer today than it has been so far on the trip.† It was up the mid-80ís F by 11, and eventually got to the high 80ís.† The flies were still annoying, of course.† There were high clouds, which increased as the day went on.† There is rain coming, they say, and a cold front.† The highs tomorrow are supposed to be in the mid-60ís F, which will be a big drop from today. It is almost 5 PM, and there are still blue sky patches out there, so the rain is running later than what they had forecast.† It will sure be interesting to see how much the rain interferes with my weekend guided ďsafariĒ.† The forecast calls for rain tonight, then scattered showers on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, and that could mean anything.


Anyway, I was back here at the motel by 12:30 PM today, and I have spent the afternoon on computer stuff Ė processing photos, updating my spreadsheet and field guide to reflect my latest sightings, email, writing this, etc.


After tonight and tomorrow morning, Iíll be without internet for a couple of days, while I am on my safari.† I think I have described that trip before, so I wonít go into all the detail now.† Iíll be spending over 24 hours with a guide, and I hope to see some good birds, if the weather doesnít interfere too much.† The plan is to spend the night on a station (ranch), and that ought to be interesting.† I might get a chance to see some night birds, too, since we will be out in the bush overnight.† (sleeping in a bed, with electricity, though, so I can use my CPAP machine)† My guide, Bob, is providing the meals, the accommodations and also the transportation.† It ought to be a great experience, as well as being productive for my bird count.


I donít think Iíll post anything else after this and Photos15, which is very short, for a couple of days.† I would guess that Iíll be too tired on Sunday night to do much computer work, and then I have a very long drive on Monday, to get to my next destination, so there might not be anything new for several days.† Weíll see how it goes.


So, today I got skunked for the first time on the trip, and my count stands at 210 species, of which 7 are lifers.† My updated spreadsheet is currently predicting a total of 250 for the trip, of which 15 will be lifers, so I still have some to find.† I will be moving into new territory and some different environments, and that will help.† Iíd like to add 10 or 15 species over the weekend, but that might be too optimistic, we will see.