Friday, November 12, 2010

Port Campbell, Victoria


I slept well last night, in the most comfortable bed I have had since I got here.  At 5:30 I woke up, though, and there was something making a real racket.  I assume it was a bird, but I have never heard a bird call like this one was.  It was loud, it was very repetitive, and it lasted for about a half hour.  I would have gone out looking for it, but it was not yet light enough to see very well.  Before sunup for sure.  I eventually did go out and look for it, but it had stopped by then.  I’d love to know what it was, and I have been trying to find out online, but don’t know yet.  I am thinking maybe if it does it again tomorrow, I will try to figure out how to record the sound on my mp3 player.  I know it will record sound, but I don’t know how it works.  My best guess is that it is either a pet or domesticated bird of some kind, but I just don’t know.  It sounded like it could have been some kind of chicken or some kind of parrot.  The sound seemed to come from next door, where there are some large trees and a couple of houses, so it wouldn’t be easy to track it down – especially at 5:30 in the morning.


Anyway, I didn’t sleep after 5:30, and I didn’t get to bed Last night until almost 10:30 (I was finishing a book), so I should be plenty tired enough tonight to settle down early tonight.


I think I mentioned last time that I intended to get up early and get out to the Loch Ard Gorge parking area, to look for Rufous Bristlebirds before the tourists arrived.  Well, I did that, and I was out there at 7:30.  As I drove into the parking lot, I saw one, briefly!  Mission accomplished, but I wanted a better look, and maybe even pictures.  I waited and watched, from the car, and in 5 minutes or so, I saw one come out of the bushes.  It was joined by another one soon, and they scampered around at great speed.  The Roadrunner has nothing on these guys, they really motor along.  I did take some very distant pictures, but there wasn’t much light that early, and it was overcast.  I was hand-holding the camera, with the lens extender on it, and there is motion blur in all the pictures.  I will post one in Photos23, but it is blurry.  It does show the bird, though, and it is much better than any of the others.


After that birding success, I came back to my digs, made myself some lunch (ham and cheese sandwich, natch), loaded up the car with all my stuff for the day, and stopped at the bakery in town to get a sausage roll, to supplement the Woolies chicken and vegetable pie with extra chicken breast that I had had for my first brekkie, before I went out to see the bristlebird.


It was sprinkling off and on, as it had been all night, and I drove to the Twelve Apostles view point.  The Twelve Apostles are a number of limestone stacks, offshore a little, lined up along the coast.  They used to be called the Sow and Piglets, but I guess some marketing genius stepped in, and they changed the name to the Twelve Apostles, even thought there were only nine stacks.  Go figure.  One of the stacks collapsed since I was here in 2004, so there are only eight “apostles” now.  You can clearly see the missing one in my 2004 picture, it is right in front.  My 2004 pictures are here: 




Click on folder 06 Great Ocean Road.


Compare picture 3046 from 2004 (put your mouse on the thumbnails to see the picture numbers) with picture 6691 from Photos23 in 2010.  You can see that the front apostle in 2004 has collapsed, but you can still see a little debris now.  OK, I know that almost no one who reads this is actually going to do all that, but you have the opportunity, and if you don’t take it, that is your problem, not mine.


When I finished with the Twelve Apostles, I moved on down the road.  I had some ideas about back roads that I might take, getting up into the hills, to look for birds up there, but each one that I came to turned out to be an unpaved road, and I wasn’t willing to take on unpaved roads in my low slung zoom-zoom car, and it is against my rental agreement besides.  I did see a few birds, from time to time, though, and it was an interesting couple of hours.


One of the birds I wanted to see in this area was the Forest Raven.  Australia has five corvids (the family of birds that includes crows and ravens) that look very much alike.  Mostly people determine the species of a corvid by the voice.  I had learned the calls of several of the species, and I had counted four of the five by now, and the one I still needed was the Forest Raven.  This area is part of their range – the first time I have been within their range on the trip.  But, two other species live here, too – Australian Raven and Little Raven.  I do know the calls of those two, though, so I had hopes that I could identify a Forest Raven while here, by elimination.


As it turned out, I saw a number of corvids, but most of them didn’t make any sounds, and those that did were either Australian Ravens or Little Ravens, I thought.  There are some very subtle physical differences among some of the species, and I decided I might be able to tell a Forest Raven by the size and shape of its bill.  I took a lot of pictures of four different corvids I saw today, and when I got back here, I looked at the pictures and decided that two of them, at least, were Forest Ravens.  I based that mainly on the size and shape of the bills, but also on the length of the tail and the environment they were in.  I could be wrong, but I am counting the Forest Raven as trip bird number 231.


Along the way, I stopped at Melba Gully picnic ground and had my humble lunch.  No birds, but it was a pleasant bit of rainforest habitat.  I had stopped along the road at one point and saw a couple of little birds I decided were Brown Thornbills, and also an Eastern Yellow Robin.  Neither of those were trip birds.  Later I got great views of a couple of Swamp Harriers, but couldn’t get into position fast enough to get a decent picture.


Eventually, I ran out of places to wander, and I didn’t want to get any farther from “home”, so I came back here, and got here about 2 or so.  I stopped at the local general store, here in Port Campbell.  I wanted to see if they had anything frozen that sounded good for dinner.  There was very little selection, but they had a package of 8 frozen “hamburgers with bacon”, and I had some canned baked beans that I needed to eat, so I got them.  I didn’t read the label, though, other than to see that I would need to pan fry them, rather than microwave them, as I have done for all my meals so far.


So, a little while ago, when I was ready to eat dinner, I got them out, and I did read the label.  It turns out that they are 66% meat.  Hmmm.  Not what I had in mind.  I thought hamburgers were all meat.  And, it got better than that.  The meat was listed, in this order, as “chicken, mutton, and/or turkey, beef, bacon (10%)”.  That is their punctuation – I don’t know what they have in them, but it certainly isn’t anything at all like what I thought of when I read “hamburgers” on the package.   In addition to “meat”, they contain textured soy protein, water, breadcrumbs, oat bran, and sesame seeds.  Plus a lot of  minor things, like salts, herbs, spices,etc.  To top it off, they have more grams of fat in each one than protein.


Well, I did cook them all up, and I even ate four of them, with my baked beans, but the other four went into the bin.  To get my protein, I had one of my protein bars that I brought from home.   All the time I was cooking them and eating them, I was laughing and thinking what a riot it all was.  It is a good thing that I can eat anything.  I have a very sensitive sense of taste, meaning I can detect spices and flavorings in things, but I also am willing to eat almost anything and enjoy it.  I am definitely more of a gourmand than a gourmet.  I love McDonalds.  No more need be said.


Anyway, back to this afternoon, I passed the time planning what I will do tomorrow, along with other computer stuff.  Tomorrow I need to move along to my final destination, Werribee, which a town near Melbourne.  I have five nights there, in an interesting place.  It is a cottage, with three or four bedrooms.  I supposedly have one of the bedrooms, with its own “ensuite” bathroom, and the other bedrooms share a bathroom, I gather.  The kitchen and the rest of the cottage are common space, for the use of anyone staying there.  It sounds like the owner doesn’t live there.  I have never stayed in such a place, and I will be interested to see how it works out.  I don’t know how many other people might be there while I’m there, and I’m there for five nights.  I just hope that I do indeed have the bedroom with its own bathroom within it.


There isn’t a phone in the house, but they installed wi fi a couple of months ago, supposedly.  I’m automatically skeptical about internet access, based on my experience on this trip, so I will be very interested to see if it actually is there, and if it actually works.  There is no extra charge for it, which is great.  I will need to see it to really believe it, though, based on all the problems I have experienced on this trip.  There is a McDonalds in town, and I guess that is my back up plan.  There is also a Woolworths in the adjacent town, and I plan to stock up on groceries there when I get to town tomorrow afternoon.


Did I already mention the weather forecast?  It is supposed to rain all day tomorrow.  I was going to stop at a couple of places on the way and do some birding, but I can’t do that in the rain.  That is why I was planning my day tomorrow this afternoon, to plan out a more direct route to Werribee than I had originally intended to take.  If the weather looks ok in the morning, then I will take the original route and try to stop to bird.  If it is just raining and looks socked in, then I will take the more direct route and forget about birding.


So, that is my story for tonight.  I have one more night here (in the comfy bed), then five nights in Werribee in this cottage with other people, maybe, then I head for home.  I have local birders lined up to take me out on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but the weather is going to be a factor, so we will see.  Sunday morning is supposed to be rainy, changing to showers by mid-day.  That doesn’t sound very good for birding, when I have two guys showing up at my cottage at 7:30 am.  After that, it is forecast to be showery, which can mean anything, of course, so the next three days will probably be ok, but we will see.


At any rate, my thoughts are turning to home.  I am interested to see what birds I can see in the next five days, and it will be interesting to meet the local birders (the Tuesday guy is someone I have birded with three times before, and I’m looking forward to seeing him again).  But, many of my thoughts are of home now, when I’m not caught up in the day to day stuff of the trip.  My own bed, my own car, back on the Zone diet, not having to pack up and load the car every day or two – it all sounds good to me right now.  But, I have five more days to enjoy Australia, and I certainly wouldn’t want to wish them away, so bring them on.  Time enough for home stuff, once those last five days have been lived.


The Old Rambler