Thursday, November 4, 2010


Port Pirie, South Australia


Against all odds, today was a very good day.† I felt kind of discouraged last night, and it didnít seem like I had anything very interesting to do today.


I slept well, despite the too-firm bed that hurt my back, and I was up at about 6:30 this morning.† I had checked their website, and the Arid Lands Botanical Gardens open at 7:30 AM, so I was out there at 7:40, to see if I could find the Chirruping Wedgebill, which would be a lifer for me.


It was a beautiful morning, sunny and temps in the high 50ís or low 60ís, even that early.† I enjoyed walking around the gardens for about 20 minutes, and then I decided to give it up.† But, about then, I saw a parrot that I couldnít identify.† It was very close, and I had great looks at it, but I hadnít brought my camera with me, so I just memorized the colors, intending to look it up when I got back to the car.


On the way to the car, I heard a bird calling loudly, and when I saw it, perched at the top of a leafless tree, my first impression was that it was a House Sparrow, of which there were quite a few around.† I got the binoculars on it, and it had a crest!† It was kind of a wimpy crest, but it was definitely a crest.† It had to be my Chirruping Wedgebill!† A lifer!† Too bad the camera was in the car.


I hotfooted it to the car and back, in case it stayed there, and when I got back, it was still calling from the same perch.† I got some pictures and was very pleased, when all of a sudden, the parrot I had seen that I couldnít identify flew into the same tree!† I took pictures of the parrot as well, of course, and it posed nicely for me.† They didnít come out great, but they came out good enough that I now can see that it was a female Mulga Parrot.† I had only seen Mulga Parrot once before on the trip, briefly, and it was a lifer, so I didnít recognize it this morning.† An excellent bird to see and get pictures of.† I also got pictures of a Red Wattlebird and a White-plumed Honeyeater, and one I really like of a Singing Honeyeater, which is a good bird.† See Photos18 for all of these pics.


So, with that great start to the day, my spirits rose, and I took some pictures of the Arid Lands gardens.† I went back to my motel room and had my brekkie (Woolieís chicken and vegetable pies), made my lunch (ham and cheese sandwich, with chips and a caramel slice), packed up, loaded the car, and was on my way by about 9:30.


I stopped on the way out of town at the place where avocets and Banded Stilts ďare often seenĒ, but they werenít seen this morning either, no surprise to me.


Because of a brochure the motel guy had given me, I was looking for several places on my route today, where I thought I might be able to access the big bay (Spencer Gulf) that I was driving along.† I only found one of them, and I wouldnít have found that if I hadnít done my homework on Google last night.† I stopped at Chinamans Creek, in Winninowie Conservation Park.† There was no sign at all on the main road, other than a very small sign to Chinamans Creek.† They donít do much to help you find the reserves over here.† It was about a 6 mile drive on an unpaved road to get to the beach and the creek.† There were a few muddy spots, and one especially big puddle, but I plowed on through.† On the way back, I took a picture of the puddle, after I had gotten through it again.† It really wasnít any problem at all, but puddles with unknown mud underneath are always an adventure, and Iím overly cautious.


At the beach, I got out and took a look, and there were actually some birds in the distance.† The tide seemed to be way out, and the birds were a long way away.† I got out my scope, but the heat haze was pretty bad.† So, I walked a ways, until I got into sandy mud that seemed too soft to go on through. †In the distance, I could see various birds, including Sooty Oystercatchers and some terns.† It was too far to be able to identify the terns, though, with the heat haze.† But, there were also gulls, and some of them were not the regular Silver Gulls.† I was able to identify Pacific Gull, a big gull with a black back and a huge bill.† A trip bird.† That made two trip birds today, which at this point was seeming pretty good to me.


I went on to the end of the road at Chinamans Creek, and took some pictures there.† There was one real home and several beach shacks there.† I wouldnít want to have to drive 6 miles on that dirt road after rain, and I wonder what the people do Ė just wait for things to dry out after rain?† There are way more dirt roads here in Australia than at home, and when it rains, they can easily be impassable.† Many people live 30, 40, or 50 miles down dirt roads, and I think they just stay home after rain, in many cases, until things dry out.† In some areas, people get stuck at home for weeks, when there are floods.


It was getting to be lunch time by the time I got back to the main road, so I decided to stop at Mambray Creek, in Mount Remarkable National Park.† I knew there was a day use fee of $8.50, but Iím proud to say that I overcame my upbringing and stopped there anyway.† It was the honor system again, but I felt like it would be pretty tacky if I cheated the good people of Australia when I am a guest in their country, so I paid.


It was a really lovely spot to have my humble lunch.† I spent a couple of hours there, I think, and I enjoyed it very much.† There were corvids around the day use area, and I decided from the calls that they were Little Ravens.† Three of them were young birds, which you can tell because their eyes are dark, rather than the white of the adult birds.† See Photos18 for the pictures of both young and adult Little Ravens.


A pair of Adelaide Rosellas flew through, too.† This is a subspecies or race of Crimson Rosella, with quite different coloring.† I got one poor picture, which I plan to post, if I can fix it up enough.† I expect to see a lot more of this subspecies in the Adelaide area, and I hope to get some better pictures.† As a mere subspecies, it doesnít count for my lists.† This is the first time I have ever seen this subspecies, though.


I also got some pictures of a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike nest, with one of the parents at the nest, along with two little ones.† I staked out the nest for about ten minutes until the parent came back, and just then my camera battery died!† Bummer.† So, I replaced the battery with the spare, and waited again.† I finally got some pictures of an adult bird at the nest, with the young ones, but they arenít as good as I would have liked.† I figure I was over 50 feet away from the nest, and that is stretching it for my little point-and-shoot camera, especially hand-held.


It was getting on into the afternoon by then, so I headed for my Port Pirie digs.† As it turned out, I stopped at another place along the way, Port Germein, hoping to see sea birds, but the tide was way out there, and I didnít feel like walking out onto the jetty on the off-chance I would see something.


Arriving in Port Pirie, I found my lodgings, and went on to look for the Port Pirie wetlands, which I had read about. †It turned out that the ďwetlandsĒ was more of a city park, so I passed on that.† I stopped at the McDonalds then, and caught up on email with their free Wi Fi.† I knew I would be paying 4 bucks an hour when I got to my new digs, so I figured I would at least catch up for free.† I also hoped to catch Christina for an Instant Messaging session, but I missed her.


Between McDís and my lodgings, I discovered that there was a little harbor, so I stopped to take a look.† There were some birds there, but nothing new for me. Silver Gulls, Royal Spoonbills, Pied Oystercatchers, Little Pied Cormorant, White-faced Heron, and also a Sooty Oystercatcher, I think.


I have a ďcabinĒ here, and it is quite nice.† It has one large room with a bathroom, like what I had in the Flinders Ranges earlier this week.† A queen size bed and a pretty good kitchenette, with an almost full sized fridge (with an ice tray with cubes in it Ė Australia has definitely caught on to the ice thing), and the requisite microwave, of course.† As already mentioned, internet is 4 bucks an hour, if you buy 2 or 3 hours worth, or 5 bucks for an hour.† By the way, the US dollar has continued to fall, and now the Aussie dollar is worth more than the US dollar.† When I first came here in 2002, the Aussie dollar was only worth 55 US cents, and things were really cheap here.† Now, with the Aussie dollar worth over 100 US cents, things are quite expensive.† Our government officials are deliberately trashing the US dollar, although they donít admit it.† This has been going on for several years, and I have made some nice money off of it, so Iím not complaining, but it is interesting to me that they donít admit it publicly.† It sure does make foreign travel expensive, though.


I plan to process my pictures from today and put up Photos18, along with this epistle.† Tomorrow it is off to Adelaide, the capital city of the state of South Australia.† I have another cabin there, in a caravan park on the edge of town.† I stay for four nights there, and Iím looking forward to not having to pack up and move every day or two.† Iíll be back in a city again, though, after three weeks in the country.


I have an Aussie birder who is supposed to take me out on Sunday, and that will be fun.† I also have a lot of birding sites to check out while Iím there.† On Saturday I turn in this rental car and pick up another one, from a different company.† The new one will be a conventional two wheel drive car, but I donít expect to be on dirt roads very much after this.† As I have explained before, I get two cars on these long trips because Visa provides some insurance if you use their card to rent the car, but only for a maximum of 30 days if it is outside your country of residence (it is only for 14 or 15 days if it is within your country of residence).† So, in order to have the free insurance coverage, I need to turn in this car within 30 days of when I got it.† The switchover is planned for Saturday morning, in downtown Adelaide.† They arenít going to like how dirty and muddy the car is.


So, that is the story of my very good day.† I got one lifer and one other trip bird, and I got some pictures I like.† The weather was great and I enjoyed rambling around and seeing some new places.† Almost two weeks to go, with some great places to visit still.


What a life!