Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Port Augusta, South Australia


Not much to report today.† I was up and out of my Flinders Ranges unit by about 9 this morning.† I only had about 90 minutes of driving to do, so I got to the Port Augusta area well before noon.† I didnít really have much planned for here, but I checked out a place on a lagoon that was described in these terms:† ďBanded Stilt and Red-necked Avocet often seen hereĒ.† I have learned to apply an interpretation filter to descriptions of bird sites.† ďOften seen hereĒ might mean 30% of the time, and no mention was made of time of day, season of the year, or the state of the tides, so I really wasnít expecting anything.† I got what I expected Ė nada.† No stilts, no avocets, nothing but a few gulls.


So, I moved on through the town to the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens.† There were a number of great species listed as being seen there, but I knew better than to pay any attention to that kind of hype.† Two species seemed possible, though, based on actual reports by people who had been there Ė Chirruping Wedgebill and White-backed Swallow.† A couple of people had reported seeing the Wedgebills in the parking lot, so when I pulled in and saw a number of birds flitting around, I got excited.† But, they turned out to mostly be Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds.† Later I saw White-browed Babblers, White-plumed Honeyeaters, and Singing Honeyeaters.† But, no Chirruping Wedgebills, Iím sorry to report.


I was expecting to have to pay an admission charge to the gardens, but at least it was free, which was nice.† They are nice gardens, with native plants and lots of information about the plants, including a lot of info about how the aboriginals used the various plants.† I wandered around for 45 minutes or an hour, but didnít see anything more interesting than what I listed above.† I saw a couple of swallows, but they were the common Welcome Swallows that I have seen all over.


It got to be lunch time, so I drove on out to a view point which is part of the gardens, I guess.† There was supposed to be a picnic table out there.† Indeed, there was a picnic table, so I took my humble lunch to it and ate with a view over the water.† As I arrived, there were swallows flying around, and damned if they werenít White-backed Swallows!† Against all odds, I had a trip bird.† It was interesting that after that first sighting of three swallows, I didnít see them again in all the time I was there.


My lunch was an experiment.† I hadnít liked the canned tuna I tried, so I tried a can of pink salmon.† It was better than the tuna, I guess, but I donít think I will do it again.† I had the usual potato chips (I NEVER have potato chips at home, but on both my Britain trip and this one, I have been having them with my lunch almost every day.† Bad boy, BB.), and I had one of the caramel slices from the little supermarket of the other day, and the usual expensive Diet Coke.† Everything sure is expensive over here.† I paid about 8 bucks for my last 6-pack of Diet Coke, at a big supermarket.† At home, I pay less than half of that much, for a 12-pack, so it is about 4 times as expensive over here.† I guess to be fair, I should compare the same sized packs, and on that basis, taking into account sale prices, I guess it is about 2.5 times as expensive as at home.† Most other things are more expensive than at home, but not that much more, maybe only 1.5 times as expensive, on average.


After lunch, I drove around Port Augusta, looking for somewhere to see birds.† No luck.† I found a Woolworthís, though, and I got some of the chicken and vegetable pies that I like, along with some other supplies, including some more booze and wine.† The alcoholic beverages have to be bought in separate stores in all the states I have been in so far.† In New South Wales and Victoria, though, the big supermarkets like Woolworthís operate stores right next door to their supermarkets, with connecting doors, so it is very convenient to get your alcohol.† Here in South Australia, they donít seem to do that, so I had to find a separate store.† Another difference here is that they charge for plastic bags at the supermarket, if you donít bring your own bag.† I paid 15 cents for a very nice plastic bag with handles, which I will try to remember to take with me next time.


I checked in to my motel, which is surprisingly nice inside, considering the appearance from the street.† I have a microwave and a decent sized little fridge, and it smells fine.† There were even some ice cubes in the fridge.† I have had much better luck with ice on this trip, compared with my last two trips.† Maybe my complaints on those trips got the attention of the motel industry over here.† The opinions of the Old Rambler might carry a lot of weight, you know.


Internet access here is a little cheaper than the last place, but it is still about 5 bucks an hour.† I decided to use my prepaid dial up plan, and that has worked, although it is a very slow connection.† At least it is cheap enough.† 55 cents for each connection I make, and 50 cents an hour after that.† Better than 5 bucks an hour, especially since I donít have any photos up upload tonight.


When I checked in, the guy behind the desk told me about a place about 15 miles down the bay where there might be birds, so after I unloaded my crap from the car and got my cold stuff into the fridge, I headed out again, to check this place out.† It turned out that there werenít any birds there, but it was a scenic drive, and I saw another little part of the world.


The weather was nice today, for me.† It was mostly sunny, with a few clouds, and the highs were in the high 60ís, F.† There was a cooling breeze most of the day, which maybe hurt the birding, but made it more comfortable.† I still hate the fact that my car is black.† It heats up immediately when I close it up in the sun, and even driving in the sun, it is hot inside.† I have had white cars for the last 20 years or so, and for good reason.† I donít like heat.† It really makes a huge difference in the interior temperature of a car, if it is white, compared to a dark color.


Now Iím settled in for the evening, writing this, and I hope to do some research on birds that I hope to see in the Adelaide area.† I have a local birder lined up in Adelaide, to take me out Sunday, and I need to give him some guidance about what I would like to see or where I would like to go.†


The birding has been very slow for the last couple of weeks, and that is discouraging to me.† It seems like ever since I took that wrong dirt road in Lake Cargelligo, I havenít had any birding luck at all.† It is largely due to the weather (rainy, cool, and windy) and to the type of year it has been here (wet in the north and the interior, so many birds havenít moved south as usual).† My poor birding skills are also a factor, as are my expectations, which were too high.† But, whatever the reasons, it has been discouraging.† I have also been feeling more lonely and out of touch than usual, largely because of all the internet connection issues I have run into.†


To add to all of that, I planned this part of the trip poorly.† A night in Port Augusta and a night in Port Pirie is too much time in this neck of the woods, so things are slow for that reason, too, right now.† Today was slow, and I havenít decided what to do tomorrow, yet, other than get myself another hour or so down the road to Port Pirie, but I expect tomorrow will be slow again.† Iíd like to go back out to the Arid Lands gardens tomorrow morning, to look for the Chirruping Wedgebills again, but the visitor center doesnít open until 9.† The gardens themselves might be open earlier, but there are gates, and I donít know when the gates open.† The visitor center closes at 5, but the gates donít close until dusk, so they might open well before the visitor center, too.† I think I will just go out there in the morning and see if it is open.† Morning is so much better for birds, and I might get lucky early.† My plan would be to go early, then come back here and pack up and leave.† It is only about a 5 minute drive out there, so it would be easy to do.


So, it isnít a very exciting or interesting Ramblings, Iím afraid, but it reflects my day Ė not very exciting or interesting.† Iím going to refrain from comment on the US elections Ė you all have your own opinions, and I donít have anything to add.† As Christina likes to say Ė it is what it is.† Iím sure no one is completely happy with the results, and we all will just have to live with them.


No pictures taken today.† Weíll see what tomorrow brings.