Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Werribee, Victoria


The trip is winding down fast now.† As I posted on Facebook this morning, I managed to get things changed for today, and Richard and Jason came here to Werribee at 6:30, instead of me having to meet them in Melbourne at 6:00.† This was pretty much on their way anyway, and we wanted to take two cars, besides.


So, I was up at 5:30, and ready to go by 6:30.† Our plan was to go up to the Brisbane Ranges National Park, which is only about 35 or 40 miles away from here.† I followed them up there, and we left one car at each end of a 2 mile walk up a canyon, so we could walk just one way.


It was pretty quiet for birds, but it was a very nice morning, and a beautiful walk up the Anakie Gorge.† I only picked up one trip bird on the hike, the White-naped Honeyeater, but it was really a nice walk in the woods.† There were a number of creek crossings, and three of them meant getting your feet wet, to one degree or another.† Again, a very wet year and more water than normal.† We saw two koalas on the walk, which was something that Jason had wanted to see, and I certainly enjoyed it.† Pictures tomorrow maybe.†


Jason is a young man (30ís? early 40ís?) from Ohio, at the end of a six week solo Aussie birding trip, just like me.† He came in two days after I did and leaves tomorrow.† He is a much more advanced birder than I am, and I felt like I was kind of dragging the group down, but they didnít indicate that, which I appreciated.† He has seen well over 300 species on his trip, while I just hit 250 today.† Of course, we were in completely different places for the most part, but it still indicates his relative skill as a birder to see so many birds.


After the walk up the gorge, we drove around in Richardís car (actually, it was his wifeís car), and while doing that, we saw a pair of Scarlet Robins and a pair of Satin Flycatchers, both of which were trip birds for me, to bring me to the 250 total just mentioned.† That puts this trip in the middle of my five trips.† I saw 218 in 2002 (a 4 week trip), 206 in 2004 (a 5 week trip), 266 in 2006 (a 6 week trip), 288 in 2008 (a 6 week trip), and now 250 in 2010 (a 6 week trip).† Of course, they all covered different places, so they arenít really directly comparable.† You might remember that my ďexpected valueĒ for species on this trip was 243, so Iím pleased with 250.† I only saw 13 lifers, which is a bit lower than I had hoped for, and I saw 15 new species for my Aussie list, to bring it to 440 species.† OK, that is all the numbers Ė I had to get them out of my system, for the record.


We had our lunch back at the parking lot where we had left my car, and then we looked around there for a while for birds.† After that, we headed back in both cars, but stopped along the way to look for a couple of species of little field birds.† We did see Singing Bushlark, which is one that Jason wanted to get, and I got some great pictures of the little cutie.† It was the species that I had seen yesterday afternoon, the one that we were looking for when we got stuck in the mud at the WTP.† But, Iím sure you remember that, or could see it from the extensive notes youíre taking.


I was back here by about 4, and I have been processing pictures finally, as well as Instant Messaging with my buddy Fred in California.† I am going to post Photos24, which will cover Sunday and Monday, but not today.† Iíll do today tomorrow.† In processing the pictures from yesterday, I am really struck by how minor the ďstuck in the mudĒ pictures look.† We really were not so much stuck in the mud as stuck with a car that was totally hopeless in any kind of situation that called for traction.† The track was not all that muddy, and we werenít all that dug in or anything.† It was simply that the damn car could not get any traction at all with those worthless (in mud) tires.† They just spun, and I didnít see any point in just digging us deeper into the mud.† Maybe they would have spun down until they could get traction, if I had kept spinning them, but that goes against all the advice they give for that situation.†† If I had had a couple of good pushers, we could have gotten out on our own, Iím sure, but David couldnít push because of his bad back.† In retrospect, taking that car out there was dumb, but I just didnít realize how bad it was.† I had driven it all over the WTP on Sunday, but we hadnít been in this particular spot, with its really gooey mud.† Anyway, my point is, the pictures look really benign, and indeed, it was not really so much the bad conditions, it was much more my lousy rental car and its ridiculous tires.


Another little side story.† You will see four pictures in Photos24 titled ďWaderĒ.† On Sunday, Brett and I had seen this bird, and it was a real mystery.† We looked at it for a long time, in two different locations, and we ended up deciding it was a Ruff.† I may have mentioned it.† Well, the Ruff would be a rare bird here, so I am not very enthused about publicly claiming to have seen one, but I just donít know what else it could have been.† Probably it was something much less rare, but I donít know what it could be, based on the books I have.† I was just going to keep quiet about it, but I mentioned it to Richard today, and he wanted to pursue it, just in case it was a Ruff, because if it was, it should be reported.† If that is what is was, then other birders will look for it.† As I said, I expect it is something else, but I donít know what.


So, I sent a link to these four ďWaderĒ pictures to Richard, to get his opinion.† It will be interesting to see what he says.† If he canít tell me what it is, then I will post to my Birding Australia forum, I guess, and get a wider opinion, or maybe I wonít even wait for Richard, but will just post the link and ask for help.† Whatever it is, it was certainly a trip bird for me, so it really doesnít matter to me, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.† A nice little side story.


So, when I got back here to my digs, I found a note from the landlady that there would be other guests tonight.† They have arrived, and it is an older couple and their daughter.† So, I have room mates.† The two women are here now, watching TV in the living room.† I would prefer to have the place to myself, of course, but it is plenty big enough for all of us, and I have the bedroom with my own bathroom, so it is not really very inconvenient.† I think they are only here for the one night.† Iím using half the dining room table for my computer, books, etc.† It is a very interesting situation, sharing a house with other people.† In a ďnormalĒ bed and breakfast, it would mean sharing not only with other people, but with the host(s) as well, so this is really not much different than that, really, it just feels different.† Part of that different feeling comes from having it to myself for two of the three nights so far.† I guess if they can stand me, I can stand them.


So, tomorrow I plan to just take a day off.† I might walk along the river, looking for birds, if the weather is good, but I wouldnít expect to see anything else.† If I were a real birder, there are various places I could go tomorrow to look for one or two or three more trip birds, but I just donít feel like it.† I am also currently feeling like I will just turn in my rental car all muddy, and live with the consequences, if any.† I donít think there will be any consequences, anyway.† It isnít nearly as muddy as my first car was, it is just that this one was not supposed to be taken off of paved roads.


So, the trip is almost over, and home is only a couple of days and three plane flights away.† Melbourne to Sydney, which is about 2.5 hours, I think.† Then Sydney to LA, which is about 13 hours.† Then LA to Seattle, which is about 2.5 hours again.† Of course, there are a couple of hours in Sydney and a couple of hours in LA, in between flights, so the whole thing will take almost 24 hours, especially if you count the time driving to and from the airports.† A long, long day.† Maybe I can drink myself into a stupor and sleep part of the way on the Sydney to LA leg.† That last leg to Seattle is always really hard for me; I usually feel so weary that I feel almost sick.† At least it is first class, so Iím not crowded in, and when I get to Seattle, my honey will be there to take me home, and I can just collapse.


Thanks to everyone who has traveled along with me and provided feedback.† It is really necessary to me to have that feedback from home.† Iíll have one or two more of these, to wrap it up, but the birding is over, I think.† Home is right around the corner (knock on wood).


What a life!