Monday, November 15, 2010

Werribee Victoria


Well, I had quite a day today.† I feel worn out, even though I didnít do anything physical to speak of.† Iíll tell the story in chronological order.


I slept pretty well again, and was up about 6, I think.† I was awake a couple of times for a while during the night, but not too long each time.


I showered, made my brekkie and my humble lunch, and was out of here by 7:30, to pick up my local birder mate, David, at 8:00.† I got some gas on the way and made it to his place by 8:03, which I thought was pretty good.† He was waiting out front, and we set off for a day of birding.


After yesterday at the Western Treatment Plant (WTP), I was pretty leery about taking my zoom-zoom rental car out onto the unpaved tracks at the WTP again, and Dave was amenable to a change in plans.† We detoured to the beach near his house to look for Common Terns, which would be an addition to my Aussie list (and trip list, of course), but the tide was too high.† Oh yes, first we walked down to the little wetland near where he lives, but we saw nothing interesting.† Also, I had mentioned European Greenfinch, and he knew a place nearby where he usually saw them, so we drove there and walked out to see.† Sure enough, almost as soon as we arrived, we got European Greenfinch, sitting on a wire, so that was one trip bird down, before we really got started.


That is when we went looking at the beach for the Common Tern, and the tide was too high, so there werenít any terns around, as all the rocks were submerged.


So, we headed south, and along the way decided to stop at the south part of the WTP to look for Singing Bushlark, a bird I had missed yesterday and one that he usually saw in this particular part of the WTP.† It meant going out on the unpaved tracks again, but they looked pretty good, so we did it.† This was a different part of the WTP than I had been to yesterday, and mostly the tracks were grassy or had good solid gravel surfaces.† We drove around and looked, but no Bushlarks.† Eventually we came to a place where there was a pretty big puddle in the road, and I didnít want to chance it.† I donít remember now if I stopped first and then couldnít get going in reverse, or if I actually bogged down at that point and then couldnít reverse.


Either way, we seemed stuck.† The soil was very gooey clay, even under the grass, which was very deceptive.† Anyway, I rocked the car back and forth a bit, switching from drive to reverse and back, and with David pushing form the front, managed to back up and almost got out.† But, I turned the wheel too much to one side, and we got really stuck this time.† The wheels would spin (rear wheel drive), but they just couldnít get any traction in the clay-like mud.† The car didnít really dig in or anything, but it couldnít get going, either.


So, there we were, bogged.† Not sunk in to the axle or anything, but the wheels only spun when I tried to get out.† David had had a back injury years ago, and he couldnít really push, and he has never driven a car, so he couldnít drive while I pushed.† What to do?† We could see some workers maybe a half mile away, but honking the horn didnít get their attention, and it would have been mile or two to walk back along the tracks and down the road to where they were.


I was surprisingly able to get a very marginal signal on my cell phone, and David had an emergency number to call at the treatment plant headquarters, so we put through a call.† The guy who answered was very polite and very willing to help, but he said they were busy and it could be an hour or more until they could get someone to us, to rescue us.† I said that was fine, we would still be here.† It was about 10:45 am by then.† The weather was good, mostly sunny in the morning.


So, we waited about 15 minutes, and saw a truck coming down the road toward us.† Would it turn in at the gate we had come through?† Yes!† It stopped and the guy opened the gate and came into the area where we were.† He made his way to us, and rescue was at hand.


But, this damn car I had rented not only has very low clearance, it had no easy way to get a rope onto the frame, to pull us out.† Finally he managed to get his rope around the front axle, by reaching under the car and getting very muddy, and he pulled us out with his 4 WD truck.† Even his 4 WD truck had a hard time in this sticky mud in the area, but he got me out and onto some grass.† But, when I tried to turn around, to get out, I got stuck again.† This time was harder, as I was now sideways across the road.† After unsuccessfully trying to pull the front of the car sideways, he crawled under the back of the car and got his rope around the back axle and pulled us out backwards.


This time I was even more careful about turning around, and we managed to slowly make our way back to the paved road.† We thanked our rescuer profusely.† David thought it would be inappropriate in the Aussie culture to tip him, so we just gave him a lot of verbal appreciation.† He was a very nice guy and very willing to do what it took to get us out.† A true blue Aussie.


So, that little escapade had cost us about an hour, and we hadnít even seen the Singing Bushlark we had gone looking for.† During the adventure, I had looked at the tires of this rental car, and they are totally ridiculous.† They are almost completely smooth!† No wonder we couldnít get any traction!† They were somewhat worn down, but mostly, it was just the design of them.† I swear they were deliberately designed so that you could spin the wheels and ďburn rubberĒ.† Between the low clearance, and the tire treads, you couldnít choose a worse car to be out driving in the mud in.† After seeing that, I was finished with the Western Treatment Plant, in that car.


So, we headed up to the You Yangs, a small range of hills to the west of the WTP.† There are birds there, and I have birded there before a couple of times.† We stopped at the Serendip Sanctuary and had our lunch, but didnít really look around the sanctuary.† It could be an interesting place to look for birds, but it would take some walking, and none of the birding literature ever mentions it much.


Once at the You Yangs, we parked at the visitor center and walked around a bit.† We were especially looking for lorikeets.† I had seen Musk Lorikeet way back at the start of the trip, at a distance, but I still needed Little Lorikeet and Purple-crowned Lorikeet.† David heard some lorikeets, and we could see them feeding in the tops of some tall trees.† We looked for them for ten or fifteen minutes, and then got some very good looks at both Musk Lorikeet and Purple-crowned Lorikeet.† So, that was one for my trip list, and I was also appreciative of the much better looks at Musk Lorikeet than I had had earlier in the trip.


We drove around the park some more, and stopped a few times, but didnít see anything else.† I did take some pictures, which will eventually get up in the next Photos.


So, the day was getting on, and I wanted to check out one more potential birding site, which is back up near where he lives Ė Point Cook Coastal Park.† So, we went back up the freeway to look for it.† I had a map, but the signs seemed to be directing us, and as we were approaching what we thought was where we wanted to go, David suddenly said ďbushlarkĒ.† I stopped and backed up, and David got a better look and said it was indeed a Singing Bushlark, sitting on a fence post.† I maneuvered the car back and across the road so I could get a look, and I could see that it was indeed a Singing Bushlark, and I had an excellent look at it.† It is amazing that it sat there so long, and that I got such a great view of it.† If you will remember, the Singing Bushlark is the bird we had been looking for this morning when we got bogged in the mud.† I thought it was pretty ironic that we got that bird on a side trip that I hadnít really expected to see anything on Ė I just wanted to check out the Point Cook Coastal Park, to see how it looked compared to the last time I was there, in the very dry year of 2006.


But, it gets even better than that.† After seeing the bushlark, we discovered that we werenít really in quite the right place.† We had missed a turn, so we went back.† But, if we hadnít missed the turn, we wouldnít have even been on the road where we saw the bushlark.†† It is a pretty funny old world, if you ask me.† A whim and a mistake, and I got the Singing Bushlark.† Not to mention Daveís eagle eye that spotted it as we drove past.


We checked out the place I had wanted to see, and it was very disappointing.† Nothing but Starlings and gulls.†† I had gotten three birds for today, though, so I was pleased, and we headed for Davidís home, which wasnít far away.


Along the way, we went along a lake, though, and we saw some little birds on the shore, so we stopped.† They were pretty far away, but interesting enough to get our scopes out and take a look at them.† Mostly they were Red-necked Stints, the most common little shorebird here.† But, a couple were larger, and I thought they were Common Sandpipers, which would be a trip bird for me.† It was hard to tell, though, and they flew before David could get a good look at them.


They only flew a little ways down the beach, though, and we got them again, farther away.† I was pretty convinced of my call of Common Sandpiper, and David was supportive, although I sensed that he wasnít at all sure of it.† He hadnít had as good a look at them as I had had when they were closer.† Then he noticed that there were other birds about the same size, mixed in with the stints, and they were Curlew Sandpipers, another bird I hadnít seen yet on the trip.† They flew back to the closer vantage point, and I got good looks at them and could see that they were indeed Curlew Sandpipers.† Still another trip bird.† Later, while driving home, I thought about it and decided that it would be too big a coincidence if there were two Common Sandpipers and also a gang of about 6 or 8 Curlew Sandpipers in the same little flock, so I decided that my first two must have been Curlew Sands as well.† They are the same size and look the same except for a very minor difference in bill length and shape.† Since Dave hadnít seen them well enough to really have his own opinion, I have decided not to count the Common Sandpiper and only count the Curlew Sandpiper.† So, that put me on 4 trip birds for the day, which was great, as far as I was concerned.


But, before I took Dave home, we re-visited the place where he has been seeing Common Tern.† The tide had gone out and a lot of rocks were showing by then.† At first glance, we didnít see any terns, but David saw a few, and we got out our scopes.† Sure enough, there were four or five Common Terns there, with a larger Crested Tern for size comparison.† Score!† That was one for my Aussie list, but not a lifer, as I had seen Common Tern in Britain (I think).† Iíll have to check to see that this is the same species, but I assume it is.


So, I got 5 species for my trip list today, bringing me to 247 for the trip, of which 13 are lifers and 15 are additions to my Aussie list.† A good birding day, but an even better ďadventureĒ day, with the bogging.† I was glad to get ďhomeĒ and have a drink, I can tell you.


So, now the car is quite muddy and I will have to try to clean it up a bit before turning it in.† I hope they donít penalize me for violating the contract and going on unpaved roads.† I think the only penalty is that insurance wouldnít have covered me if I had had an accident, but I donít really know.† I would imagine that the underside of the car must be a real mess, and I donít know how I would be able to clean that up, so I think it is going to be obvious to them that I had it on unsealed roads, no matter what I do.† They might charge me extra for cleaning it up.† Oh well, if they penalize me, it is only money.† It sure as hell was better to be stuck in the mud at the WTP than if it had happened in the mallee country a couple of weeks ago, many miles from any civilization.† I was never really worried today, and it makes a good story to tell, so I can laugh at it now.


Tomorrow is another day, and another early start with an Aussie birder.† This one is going to be really early, I guess.† I need to be in Melbourne, a half hour up the freeway, at 6 am.† That will mean getting up at 4:30 and out of here by 5:30.† It is just starting to get light at 5:30.† I had hoped that Richard, my Aussie mate for tomorrow, would be able to pick me up somewhere in Werribee, so I wouldnít have to drive into Melbourne, but he hasnít answered my email, and my damn worthless phone wonít get me a signal here at my cottage, so I canít even phone him to ask him about it.† I emailed him yesterday morning, but havenít gotten a reply.† Not having a phone is a pain in the ass.† I could go looking for a pay phone, but that would be a pain in the ass, too, and I might not get him on the first try, and I donít have a number he can call me back on.† I guess I will just set my alarm and get up at oh-dark-hundred.


So, thatís the story of my adventurous day today.† Adventure and five trip birds Ė what more can you ask?† What a life!