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Newsletter No: 01/12 (26/1/12) (First one for the 2012 Gypsy Twitcher Tour)
Hello from Tassie!!
We are currently in a little town called Waratah sitting out some poor weather (can't complain, we have been here nearly 2 weeks and have had fantastic warm, sunny days so far and besides....this is Tassie!!). Since our last newsletter, we survived the festive season, enjoying the main day with Sarah and family and P&J. The BOCA camp at Dartmoor was most enjoyable and then a few days at 'home' before heading over Bass Strait. Since being here, we have spent time at Riana, Leven Canyon, the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Cradle Mountain and now here at Waratah. Read on if you want further details, or simply end here if you were just curious as to where we actually are.
The last ever BOCA camp at Dartmoor was really enjoyable. We were pleased to see some interesting new attendees, injecting some new life and ideas into our get togethers. We always enjoy meeting and certainly welcome new members. The specialities of the camp were, Rufous Bristlebird, Southern Emu-wren and the graptogyne race of the Red-tailed Black-cockatoo. We also experienced the hottest day in the state early in the new year.
Our few days at our block at Maldon saw us getting ready to travel again with car services, food shopping and packing of all our 'stuff' into the van and 4WD. We spent a couple of days in Melbourne doing a few visits before catching the Spirit of Tasmania ferry on Sunday the 15th of Jan. We chose the day sailing and were rewarded after many hours of observation with a new life bird, the Fairy Prion (672). We also had good looks at Shy Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwater and Gannets. The crossing was very smooth and uneventful even if it did get a little tedious by the end.
On arrival in Devonport, we went straight to a caravan park and were met with the unappealing sight of large groups of loud drinking parties!! A loud night not being the way we had envisaged starting our Tassie adventure. Luckily, it all died down before too long. We left early the next morning, heading to the Riana Pioneer Park, where we knew fellow birder, Marilyn was staying. We spent a very peaceful 3 nights there exploring the nearby Mount Montgomery State Park. Without much effort we managed to tick of some of the Tassie endemics fairly early on, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Black-headed Honeyeater, Green Rosella, Black Currawong, Tasmanian Native-hen, Tasmanian Thornbill and Tasmanian Scrubwren. Other beauties were, Pink Robin, Olive Whistler and Striated Fieldwren.
We next headed to a great spot, Leven Canyon. This is a spectacular valley with waterfalls and great views. It also has a lovely little camp area and some great walks. The birds and pademelons around camp were rather special too. The overnight temperature was a little cold, but complete with thermals and polar fleece, we were ok. The hilly, windy roads of Tasmania were taking their toll on our fuel bill and patience, so we decided to only travel an absolute maximum of 100km on a travel day to keep our stress levels and costs down. Next stop was a fantastic camp spot we had all to ourselves for 4 night on the edge of Lake Rowallan in the famous Walls of Jerusalem area. Here we picked up some more endemics, the Yellow Wattlebird, Strong-billed Honeyeater and Dusky Robin. Other wildlife highlights were a Spot-tailed Quoll, an Echidna and the screech of a Masked Owl which we unfortunately couldn't find. We tackled the Walls of Jerusalem walk (18km return straight up and down) and were thoroughly rewarded with magnificent lush vegetation, beautiful altitude lakes and of course the magnificent walls. Tassie really has some magic places.
After being all alone for a few days, we braved the main tourist route again and ended up at the O'Neills Creek camp at Gowrie Park. We were horrified by the amount of people there as well as the smoke from fires all day, but most people kept to themselves and it turned out ok. We stopped for half a day at Cradle Mountain and did the true tourist thing. We have been to Cradle mountain a few times before (the most memorable being on our honeymoon when we did the Overland Track) and walked many of the tracks. We have never before done the drawcard walk, the Dove Lake circuit, so thought we should this time. It was indeed spectacular (if you could push all the other people out of the way!!) We managed some great photos complete with enough gear between us to make Canon smile widely. The weather was perfect and we really did enjoy the afternoon at this breathtaking spot.
This takes us up to our current location at Waratah, an old tin mining town. The caravan park is council run and very nice. We have a lovely lake outlook, the only problem is the wild weather today. We will sit out the Australia day long weekend here before heading west to Corinna for a few days of exploring the famous Tarkine area.
Hope you are all enjoying the New Year. Take care and regards…(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No:02/12 (25/2/12)
Our last newsletter came from Warratah at the end of January. One month on, we have progressed to Bruny Island and are enjoying a day of TFB and temperatures tipped to reach 38!! Amazing for Tassie.
Having waited out the long weekend as well as some rain at Waratah, we moved on further south. We travelled via Corinna in the heart of the Tarkine an area of majestic old growth rainforest, a dwindling commodity here. We had planned to stay at Corinna, but arrived to find the caravan camping area to be the gravel day use car park. We though paying $20 a night for the privilege of parking in a car park a little steep, so continued on over the Pieman River by barge (luckily our 4WD and little van just scraped in under the maximum allowable length). We spent a night at one of many of Tassies hydro dams where we had a sweltering 36 degrees. The dam made for a refreshing dip (never thought I would need to swim in Tassie due to the heat). From here, we travelled through Zeehan which seems to have prospered a little since our last visit and also sports an excellent IGA and Queenstown, which in contrast seems to have become even more rundown. We headed south from Queenstown to an area at Darwin Dam and set up camp. Our reason for staying here was to do the Kelly basin walk. Apart from looking like a nice walk to do, it took us to the basin which is relatively close to Birch's Inlet. This is one of only 2 areas known for the highly endangered Orange-bellied Parrot and we had the vague hope that we may come across one at Kelly Basin. Unfortunately we very quickly realised that the habitat was totally wrong, so gave up hope of the parrot and simply enjoyed the walk through the magnificent rainforest. At the basin are ruins of what used to be an old town which produced timber and bricks, a nice change to a simple bush walk. The rain set in shortly after and we spent the remainder of the day huddled in our trusty van.
Next stop was a lovely bush camp at Lake King William, just opposite the entrance to Lake St Clair National Park. We had a great private site with good birds and really enjoyed 3 night there exploring the Lake St Clair area. We did a longer hike to Shadow Lake as well as some shorter ones around the lake itself. We met an interesting couple at this camp who are full-time travellers and heavily into Geocaching, a hobby as irrelevant as our birdwatching, but certainly keeps them entertained on their travels. Nice to know there are some other people doing the same (but different) thing as us.
We then headed to Mt Field National Park, where we set up camp amongst all the bikers touring around Tassie. The campground was packed, but luckily we found a nice large site as far away from the toilets and other people as possible. It seems National Park camp grounds are becoming more and more about the cheap (or free in most cases as many people seem not to pay) camp fees as opposed to an appreciation of the bush and all it has to offer. A great shame in our view. Anyway, we enjoyed out time there, completing the Tarn shelf walk as well as all the walks around the main area. Alby managed to pick up a good photo of the Scrubtit, which was not all that easy.
We then headed further west to one of our all time favourite areas and camps, Huon camp at Scott's Peak dam (Lake Pedder), South West National Park. Unfortunately on arrival (in the driving rain), we were met with the sight of a group of fishermen (with a dog!!) who had pulled out the restraining barrier at the camp they were in to gain better access and were running a very loud generator. Once again we felt extremely frustrated at the lack of respect for the bush and wild animals, all for a free camp. Luckily they left before long. We had our first spot of really great birding here, sighting Ground Parrot, Beautiful Firetail, Blue-winged Parrot, Southern Emu-wren and Striated Fieldwren as well as many endemics and other good stuff. We enjoyed the campground birds, a lame Brush Bronzewing and a curious Bassian Thrush. Again our time here was magic, a great place, amazing views over the Lake and the Western Authur's ranges (which we climbed in another life) and quality birding. We were also lucky enough to meet an inspiring couple who had opted out of the high flying corporate world and opted for the simpler, but much more rewarding life of travel.
On our way out of the National Park, we stumbled across a pair of Superb Lyrebirds on the side of the road. These birds are introduced in Tasmania and only inhabit this immediate area. A great Tassie tick. Next stop was Hobart for some much needed washing of ourselves and clothes. The highlight of our stay was Salamanca market. We had a thoroughly enjoyable day wandering the market, picking up great fruit and veg and soaking in the atmosphere. We also spent some time perusing the amazing array of outdoor wear shops Hobart sports. We drove up Mt Wellington which was inevitably under cloud, headed to Peter Murrell reserve in an (unsuccessful) attempt to find Forty-spotted Pardalote and did the necessary shopping, washing etc. A highlight of our stay at 7 Mile beach was a very cute and unafraid Southern Bandicoot which we came across on our morning run. The mammals in Tassie really are exceptional. After our time in the big smoke, next stop was back to the bush in the Tasman National Park at Fortescue Bay. We stopped and did the mandatory Tessellated pavement, blowhole and Devil's kitchen. All spectacular and very popular. We spent a couple of nights here, enjoying the lovely bay. With still 2 days to fill in before our much anticipated pelagic trip out of Eaglehawk neck, we decided on Lime Bay. A very pretty area, but rather too well used for our liking. The first night was lovely and quiet, but the second attracted weekenders from Hobart and was somewhat noisy. The day before the pelagic, we travelled back to Eaglehawk neck and had a lovely happy hour and dinner at the Luffra hotel with the other birders who were staying there.
The pelagic itself was great for us, netting 4 new birds; Buller's Albatross (673), Common Diving-petrel (674), Grey-backed Storm Petrel (675) and Sooty Shearwater (676). For the experienced pelagic birders, not a great trip with only the expected birds making an appearance. Alby managed some brilliant photos and fortunately, neither of us was at all seasick. A great day and a highlight of the Tassie tour. Undecided as to the next stop, a stock take of the accumulated photos made us decide to head back to 7 Mile Beach for a night to upload and sort everything. Not a bad decision as the rain came again, so a housekeeping day on power was a wise choice. Bruny Island was next on the agenda with probably the best birding Tassie has to offer, providing habitat for all 12 endemics. We stayed at 2 separate campgrounds, the Neck in the middle and Jetty Beach in the south. We managed to find and photograph Forty-spotted fairly easily, this being our last endemic to pick up. Other highlights included a very early morning to watch the Little Penguins and Short-tailed Shearwater head back out to sea and the very friendly camp birds, Dusky Robin, Olive Whistler, Tasmanian Scrub-wren as well as others at the lovely Jetty Beach campground. We think a dip in the sea today will also be welcome.
Our website continues to evolve and grow with many more bird and wildlife images as well as additional tasty vegan recipes.
Hope this find everyone healthy and happy as we continue our Tassie adventure.(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 03/12 (19/03/2012)
Here is the latest instalment from the Gypsy Twitchers and the last from Tassie. Our time here is drawing to a close and once again we have thoroughly enjoyed this southern island state.
We are spending our last few days at one of our favourites, Narawntapu National Park. Since Bruny Island we spent some time down the Huon valley, through the central highlands, along the north-east and now back within striking distance of the ferry at Devonport.
The Huon valley region is an area we have not visited before. We were treated to some wonderful fresh cherries which were so nice and cheap, we bought and ate 4kg very quickly. The Soutwest National park at Cockle Creek was a treat. There are numerous campgrounds down that area and although rather crowded, the Boltons Green camp which is within the National Park itself does not allow fires or generators and so is not as attractive to most people (but far more so to us!). We pulled the van out of the way and had a peaceful 3 nights. The walk down to South Cape was great and we managed to flush a few Ground Parrots which was a real highlight. The beaches were also lovely. We were really lucky with the weather here as it is a place where it rains more often than not, but we struck some pleasant sunny days along with only a little rain.
From Cockle Creek, we went into the Hartz Mountains area. Unfortunately there are no camps within the National Park, so we set up in a poky little picnic area run by Forestry at Arve River. It is a beautiful spot, but has a very limited area for camping. We walked to Lake Esperence and Ladies Tarn, quite an easy walk which sports some magnificent scenery and vegetation. This is probably the easiest place to reach the Tarn plateau in Tassie and well worth a trip. The camp was very full by nightfall, but seemed peaceful enough......until 11.30 when a car full of backpackers arrived and continued slamming doosr, making meals and generally having a good, loud time of it until well after 2!! Not happy. There was some justice however, when sadly for them, one boot managed to make its way into the middle of the river.
Next stop was a very pleasant surprise. I particularly wanted to stop off at Waddamana, an old Hydro town where I had a great family holiday when I was about 7. We had a bank holiday house and I remember having a ball. It turns out that the whole town is now privately owned (and for sale) and acts as an educational camp as well as having about 5 houses available for rent. As the weather was forecast to be particularly bad for a few days and the price of a house particularly reasonable, we decided to lash out and rent a lovely cottage style house for 2 night of luxury. I could not remember which house I had stayed in as a child, but with the help of some of my father's photos (thanks John) I had on the laptop, I was able to work out it was the one next door. We really did enjoy our time out here and the rain certainly came down, making us feel as though we could justify deserting the van.
We then left the highlands and headed north east. Blackman's Lagoon within the Waterhouse Conservation area is known for Australasian Bittern, so we thought we would give it a shot. The camp area is basic, but we had it all to ourselves which was a real treat. After 2 days of wading through boggy water and reeds, we decided if it existed at all, the Bittern did not want to be seen by us. Mt William National Park was next. The campgrounds at the north end (Stump's Bay) are all really nice, but our particular favourite is number 4, so we headed there and were amazed to find our preferred site available. The wind was fierce, so being back a bit from the beach was good. A pretty little Eastern Froglett greeted us from the pay station box and Bennets Wallaby were everywhere. Nice campground animals are always a winner for us. The camp was very quiet and we enjoyed 3 nights here, walking to Mt William and a few other places. This area is always a highlight for us.
Another target bird whilst in Tassie was the Masked Owl. We had heard that this was not too hard to find at the Scamander Forest Reserve, so headed there. Trout Creek is a very pretty campground, but is very popular with the trail bike sector, so not a good place to be at weekends or on holidays. Luckily we arrive around midday on the last day of a long weekend and so they were all packing up. We soon had the campground to ourselves with a very pleasant creek frontage. The camp birds were lovely and this turned out to be one of our favourite campgrounds. Unfortunately even with some night time jaunts, we were unable to locate the owl. Not having much luck lately.
We got in touch with our new friends, Jodene and Nick who we had first met at Huon camp and found they were heading to Narawntapu National Park prior to catching the ferry back. So enjoying the change of not having to decide where to go next, we headed in that direction. We stopped one night at the Lilydale falls reserve and were amazed to find that (it seemed) every person in the whole of Tassie drove this minor C road overnight!! A surprisingly noisy night, considering where we were.
Some heavy rain was forecast, so we decided to plug into power at the Springlawn camp at Narawntapu. Solar power is all very good, but not much help when there is no sun. After 34ml of rain, we were pleased to have had power whilst huddled in our little van. We spent a very pleasant few days with Jodene and Nick (as well as Marilyn and Rob who also turned up!!). This camp ground is absolutely brilliant for Paddymelons and Wombats. They wander through camp, totally unafraid and make this place incredibly special. The weather was kind after the initial rain and we enjoyed some short walks and some quality time reading our e-books.
So as I said, Tassie is now essentially over and we now look forward to 6 weeks back in Victoria before heading north.
Newsletter No: 04/12 (20/05/2012)
Having spent around 6 weeks in Victoria after our Tassie jaunt, we are now in the process of "heading north". So far we have avoided most of the other Grey Nomads escaping the cold by staying on dirt tracks and by not going so far north as to be in the really warm weather. We are currently enjoying Sturt National Park, with the next areas being Bollard's Lagoon, through to Innaminka and on to Birdsville and the Diamantina.
We spent an enjoyable time back "home" in Victoria visiting friends and family, soaking up our lovely bush block, getting the 4WD and van ready for another tough outback tour of duty and most importantly attending Emma's 40th. Upon the arrival of the first Flame Robin (always a sign that the cold weather has set in) on our block on April 29, we knew it was time to leave. So on April the 30th we headed off, stopping for the night with fellow travellers and birdo's the Olivers before setting of in proper for our first stop, Swan Hill. Here we had the van serviced and did some final grocery shopping. We then spent a few days at a little known National Park just east of Balranald, Yanga. There is a wonderful campground with huge individual sites and best of all was that we had the place to ourselves. Here we were able to re familiarise ourselves with some of the hardy dry land birds such as Blue Bonnet and Striped Honeyeater as well as old favourites, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and Crested Bellbird. The days were pleasant, but the nights freezing...literally, so time to make a large step north. We had intended to stay next at Brewster Weir, just out of Lake Cargelligo, but on arrival there found that the camp area was under water. We pushed on to Round Hill Nature reserve which too was very wet and boggy. We were unable to venture off the main road, so had to find a place simply to prop for the night. The birding here is great with gems such as Southern Scrub-robin and Chestnut Quail-thrush. Unfortunately as we could not really access the park proper, we had to move on. Next stop was Gundabooka NP, a park we had gone to some years prior on our way home, but we had been so badly accosted by blow flies, that it very quickly lost its appeal. This time, there were no flies to speak of and we had a very enjoyable 3 days there. There are some nice walks around and the birding was pleasant although not brilliant, the speciality probably being White-browed Treecreeper. The daytime temperatures were definitely rising, but the nights still way too cold.
We next made a dash into Queensland to Bowra Sanctuary, an old sheep and cattle station recently purchased by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). There is still some stock present, but hopefully will be fully de-stocked before long. The day to day management is currently being undertaken by volunteers from Birds Queensland, with an AWC manager proposed to be appointed later this year. Once again our time here was magnificent with a species list of over 100. We managed to see and photograph most of the target birds, Plum-headed Finch, Hall's Babbler, Chestnut-breasted Quail Thrush, Bourke's Parrot and Painted Honeyeater. We also lucked on a Spotted Nightjar sitting, in the day, a first for us. Unfortunately we dipped on Grey and Black Falcon. We had a great time here, birding all day and enjoying happy hour at the Lagoon. Pam and John joined us and after 6 great days, we headed off on the 2012 trip for real.
Our first target was Grey Grasswren, an elusive little bugger which lives in only a couple of isolated locations and when you finally get to their habitat, they generally hide in thick lignum, so even if they are actually there, the chances of seeing them is remote. With this cheering thought in mind, we headed to Noccundra where Pam had been told by some unknown birder that they were "easy". In our experience the words Grasswren and easy should not be associated in the same sentence and this occasion proved no different. No joy there, so onto plan B, a remote station on the NSW/Queensland border which boasts the Bullo River overflow, probably one of their best know habitats. After gaining the station owners permission, we headed out what was, in places little more than a cattle track, up to the target area of Adelaide Gate. Much to our dismay, about 8km from our intended destination, we ran into a great lake which was once the track. Good for inland water birds, but not so fantastic for reaching our Grasswren destination. Nevertheless, we stayed here 2 days, trying vainly to conjure up these sought after birds. Again no luck. Some good birding was had though with species such as Australian Painted-snipe, Redthroat, the spectacular Orange Chat, Bustard and Flock Bronzewing, so not all was lost. We also enjoyed the largest numbers of Pink-eared Duck and Red-kneed Dotteral that we have ever seen. Two striking birds bizarrely named to highlight their most insignificant features!! Following this, was a refreshing few days in Sturt National Park which amazingly we seemed to have to ourselves, along with some great birding, bagging a group of at least 20 Inland Dotteral, Cinnamon Quail-thrush and Ground Cuckoo-shrike.
Next stop is hunting for the cousin of the Grey Grasswren, the Eyrean Grasswren in the sand dunes out of Cameron Corner. We are hoping to have more luck here. We still have 2 more stops up our sleeves for the Grey, so will keep our fingers crossed. Also high up on the agenda is a meal and bottle (or two) of the local speciality "Big Red" at the Birdsville Pub.
The weather is definitely improving, seemingly in direct proportion to the increase in the number of flies and mozzies!! Can't have it all.
Newsletter No: 05/12 (22/06/2012)
This newsletter finds us in Burketown in the heart of the "Gulf Country". Our days have been filled with some hard core birding (surprise, surprise!), so for the non-birders, this newsletter may be fairly boring....here are the basics; Cameron Corner, Innaminka, Birdsville, Diamantina NP, Mt Isa, Boodjamulla NP, Kingfisher camp and now finally, Burketown. The weather is perfect 13-30, we are well and so too are P&J. This may be all you need to read. For the birdo's or the very brave, feel free to continue for further details.
The great Grasswren hunt continued at the well known Eyrean Grasswren location west of Cameron Corner. We first stopped off at CC for the compulsory photo of Camp Dog on the marker and to check road conditions. All was well with the road, so we proceeded. We located "the" big red dune (hard to really tell one from the other) complete with suitable looking cane grass and began the hunt. Pam picked up on the calls fairly early on and soon after we had some wonderful looks at these cute little birds. A new tick for P&J, so a good one there. The yellow bus we had planned to camp at is now a definite no go zone, so we had to discretely pull off the road for the night and made an early morning getaway. Alby and I tried again the next morning for a better photo of the Grasswren. We managed to find them without difficulty, but they were still rather uncooperative in terms of obtaining a quality photo.
We drove on to Innaminka which was a pleasant trip with great looks at Flock Bronzewing and Inland Dotteral along the way. We had a lovely campsite on the waterhole and surprisingly it was not overcrowded. With the Walkers Crossing track closed, we decided to try the Cordello Downs road. This was a beautiful trip, very scenic with lovely creek lines and some interesting history, including Australia'a biggest woolshed. The road was probably rougher in parts than is really suitable for a van and consequently we broke the cooktop. Nothing serious though and worth it for such a lovely drive. Rain was forecast, so we pulled next to an attractive waterhole for the night, prepared to be there for some time. The clouds built and it certainly looked gloomy, but in the end nothing eventuated, so the next day we were unexpectedly able to push on to Birdsville. We set up camp here, did the necessary washing of ourselves and clothes, then returned to find the van on a serious angle, our first flat for the year. A fortuitous place to have it as Alby was able to roll it straight over the road for immediate repair.
Next day saw us heading south along the Birdsville track to a place we had seen Grey Grasswren in 2009. Shortly after pulling up at the exact same location, we heard and then saw a small party of these elusive birds. Another great sighting and again a new tick for P&J. As Birdsville now has Next G coverage, we were able to catch up on phone calls and of course more importantly check Birdline. We saw that a recent party of birdo's had seen Letter-winged Kite (LWK) close to our next destination. After a few phone calls and e-mails, we were able to lock in the exact spot. After a few days relaxing around Birdsville and enjoying (although we thought not as good as 2009) a meal at the pub, we set off into the Diamantina area. We arrived at the LWK site late afternoon and immediately saw the target kites perched. Wow!! We counted 15 birds and as the sun began to go down we were treated to a fabulous display. One curious bird came very close and sat on the fence begging to have its photo taken. Another great birding moment and the 3rd tick of the trip for P&J. We certainly appreciated the fantastic directions regarding the location of these birds from the team at the Australian Reptile Park (John Weigel is doing a "Big Year" raising money for the Tassie Devil and their tumours issues-I'm sure any donations would be gratefully accepted. He also has a fantastic website; http://www.birdingfordevils.com.au/ . Next morning as we were heading to Diamantina NP, we stopped at a creek line for morno's and were amazed to see hundreds of raptors circling, incredibly including more LWK's. We had to do a double take as the very similar Black-shoulderd Kite's were also present. (the only noticeable difference in these birds is the underwing marking and that fact that the LWK is very rare, and the BSK common).
We arrived at one of our all time favourite camps at Gumholes, Diamantina NP in time to set up camp and relax for the afternoon. We had the campground to ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Again there was the threat of rain, with such amounts forecast that the ranger came around to advise us to leave if we didn't want to be stuck. We decided to stay put as we had not been there for as long as we wanted. Luckily (again!) the weather did not live up to the forecast and we evaded the wet. It seems we were indeed very fortunate as we later found out there had been over 60ml and consequently widespread road closures all around us. We must have just been in a lucky dry spot. We had a very relaxing, peaceful time at Diamantina, enjoying some casual birding (the best find being the Plum-headed Finch which was slightly out of its area) and some general exploring of the park.
From Diamantina we continued on to Boulia for a night at a van park for washing etc. It is a lovely setting on the river complete with 1,000's of screeching Corellas! Next stop was in hunt of the elusive and once believed extinct Night Parrot. We thought with the rain having been so good over the last few years, there was just an outside chance we would luck on one. So, armed with our trusty copy of every birdwatcher bible, Thomas & Thomas, we located the site, just south of Cloncurry. The Spinifex looked good and we were quickly greeted by some beautiful Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens, a very nice second prize, but not THE prize. We stayed up late (yes, even after sunset!) as unusually, this bird is aptly named and does indeed only venture out at night. We had no luck at all (hardy a surprise) and snivelled back to the van. Having every intention of getting up before first light for another go, our hopes were quickly dashed by a convoy of 3 trailer road trains thundering down the road just before 5. We thought that the chances of any self respecting parrot still being anywhere close enough for us to find had now decreased from around zero to even less. We did still get up and made a token effort, not at all surprisingly without result. We decided that with the amount of mining vehicles travelling the road, we would most likely be wasting our time staying another night, so we packed and headed to "the Isa".
On arrival at Mt Isa, we soon found that most of the van parks were booked out. Luckily though, being only lunch-time, we found a space. The park was very aptly named Sunset caravan park, possibly because it was located on Sunset Drive, but to my way of thinking, more likely as a reflection of the age and activity levels of the clientele. Far more appropriate to name it Sunset than Sunrise in any case as I think most were not far from that inevitable personal sunset!! We spent a few days organising car services, shopping and doing all those things we hadn't done really since we left Vic. on the 1st of May. Unfortunately P&J found they had car troubles and were delayed getting that sorted out. We spent many hours hunting for yet another Grasswren, this time the Kalkadoon. We have seen it on a previous trip, but P&J had not. Recent sightings had been at the water tour at the end of Pamela Street, but numerous visits saw us dip out. One afternoon however whilst P&J were away sorting out their car issues, Alby and I returned and finally got a distant, but good look (only an average photo). Sad for P&J and of course, the pressure was really on then! We took a day off Grasswren hunting and went out to Lake Moondarra, where we were lucky enough to locate a pair of the Cloncurry form of the Australian Ringneck, a sub-species we had not seen before. Next day we headed for another Kalkadoon location, Mica Creek. Here we had a brilliant morning, with fabulous looks and photo opportunities of both a male and female Kalkadoon (this is probably only one of very few birds where the female is more attractive!). A large sigh of relief from P&J and to top off a good day, John went to the pub to watch the footy and Geelong actually won!
Alby and I hung around for a few extra days with P&J before heading off to the Loretta mine road in search of the Carpantarian Grasswren. It took us a while, but we did eventually locate a pair, unfortunately having only an average sighting. The vegetation at this site seems a lot thicker than 3 years ago, making it much harder to see these incredibly shy and elusive birds. We camped nearby and tried again the next morning without luck. We then moved on to one of our 'favourite ever' places, Boodjamulla NP. We first stopped at Miyumba bush camp which has the Gregory River running beside it. Here we felt we had finally made it 'up north' with tropical vegetation and of course the corresponding birds. We were wooed by the soft call of the Bar-shouldered Dove, had lovely looks at Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens and were serenaded at night by an entire kennels worth of Barking Owls (yet another aptly named bird...seems someone got a few of them right after all). We had a chuckle to ourselves after complaining about the dogs howling all night at Mt Isa, only to remark how wonderful the Barking Owls were. Strange how the birds are great, but the exact same noise a great cause of consternation when simply 'dogs'! We walked to the Riversleigh Fossil centre which is interesting as a change from birding. We had the beautiful campground to ourselves which is a real novelty as you get further north.
A short drive saw us heading into the Lawn Hill Gorge area of the NP. Three years ago, the campground was an open dust bowl and rather unappealing. This visit however, extensive changes have been made and it is a great campground with lovely individual and relatively private sites. We regretted not having booked for longer (you must book in advance, there are no sites for anyone just turning up). Strangely we had internet and phone range and were luckily able to book an extra night, making 4 in total. We would have loved to stay even longer though as the walks were great and the birding excellent. The best part was the campground birds, including Buff-sided Robin, Great Bowerbird, Crimson and Double-barred Finches along with the inevitable doves. We also saw Sandstone Shrike-thrush, Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens and the golden-backed form of the Black-chinned Honeyeater. We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful facilities at the campground and the swimming at the creek. We would recommend a stay here of at least 6 days.
We then travelled along the 'gate' road to Kingfisher Camp. This is a camp ground on a station, situated on the Nicholson River. It offers some good birding, but is not quite our scene, with numerous smelly fires and generators, both working flat out for most of the day. We did however see Gouldian, Long-tailed and Masked Finches, which made the other campground annoyances bearable. Finally, you are all saying, I am reaching the end. We have stayed 2 nights here at Burketown and spent today birding, just for a change. This is an unrecognised, but in our mind very good birding area. We have seen Mangrove Robin, Mangrove Golden Whistler, Arafura Fantail and Red-headed Honeyeater along with other good birds. The weather is perfect, so we are just soaking it all up. Those dogs are at it again...give me an owl any night!
Newsletter No: 06/12 (10/08/2012)
From Burketown, we headed east.
We had a couple of roadside stops along the Savannah way, one being at Cumberland dam, a lovely birding spot and a place we always spend a couple of days at if heading this way. Once again the birding was pretty special with Cotton Pygmy-geese, Red-browed Pardalote and a few other firsts for the year list. Unfortunately, it is now totally overrun with free campers complete with dogs, generators and our favourite, the stinky, destructive campfire. Of course hand-in-hand with campfires comes a complete lack of understory and fallen timber and consequently the inevitable dustbowl. We were not overly impressed by the whole thing and although, yes, the birds are good, probably not good enough for us to want to stay there again. Another lovely spot which has fallen victim to the "Camps 6" invasion.
We next made it to a major stop, the Atherton Tablelands. We always stay at the Lake Eacham Caravan Park, a very small family run business which is also the local shop, post office and fuel depot. It is a great spot for birding in the actual park and is only a short walk from Lake Eacham itself. We spent 11 days here and had some brilliant birding days as well as some time out. The best moment for us was, finally a new tick! Maybe nothing to be proud of some may say given the calibre, but a tick is a tick in any ones book. Now after such a build up, I'm sure you are all waiting with baited breath to find out what bird number 679 is.........Red Junglefowl!!!! Yes, the humble chook. Apart from this spectacular birding moment, we say many beautiful and sought after birds, Southern Cassowary, Chowchilla, Tooth-billed and Golden Bowerbird, Wompoo Fruit-dove (yes, we actually managed to see and photograph it!), Topknot Pigeon, Fernwren amongst so many others. Alby was thoroughly challenged by the rainforest photography and had many chances to use all his high tech flash equipment. This is also the place where the drizzle and heavy mists set in. Unbeknownst to us at the time was that this perpetual state of wetness was to stay with us for the next month!!
Whilst at Lake Eacham, we were able to sort out the great Kindle drama. Both Pam and I on the same day, back at Kingfisher Camp, had our Kindle's fail. The screens became unreadable whatever we did. At the first opportunity in range, we managed to "chat" online to a Kindle support person who promised to replace them both. Great customer service. The drama was where to get them sent and then how to return the old ones within 30 days. With some to-ing and fro-ing and some angst, we managed to get it all sorted out and our brand new Kindles back in action. I do have to say, that Amazon was spot on with the service and help.
From the Atherton area, we next stopped at Kingfisher Park, one of Australia's birding Meccas. As always when we are here, the wish bird is the Red-necked Crake. After 4 visits, we are yet to see it and this time proved no different. We sat at the Crake (now renamed Crakeless) Pond for hours on end all to no avail. We did however as always, have a wonderful stay here with great birds such as Blue-faced Parrot-finch, Papuan Frogmouth and Rainbow Pitta. The reptiles and frogs were also spectacular, with Boyd's Forest Dragon and Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko being highlights. We enjoyed some time with Marilyn and Rob which was great as we had not seen them since Tassie. Interestingly we also caught up with 2 couples we had spent some time with at Gunlom in 2010 which was also fun. Unfortunately we did have lots of rain which hindered our wanderings and made it unwise to go up Mt Lewis.
From here the trip "up the Cape" began. A recent sighting of Guineafowl outside Lakeland was our first target. As we came to the area, we saw some of these comical spotted chooks, but in all good faith could not tick then as we felt they were way too close to human habitation to be free ranging. So without a new tick, but with our integrity still in tack, we sadly moved on. Musgrave was first on the agenda, for no other reason than the Golden-shouldered Parrot. This beautiful bird is found no-where else in Australia and is highly sought after as there are not too many left. We were lucky to run into local expert and station holder Sue whilst booking into the roadhouse camping area. She gave us the exact location of the birds current whereabouts and we were able to fairly easily locate them that afternoon. We had great looks and Alby managed some spectacular shots. Unfortunately the Red Goshawk was not so easy and we had to leave without sighting him this time.
At Musgrave we met up with other friends Jodene and Nick who we met in Tassie. They had a bad day with a shattered back windscreen, but still managed to laugh about it all as we all tried to do a patch up job with a tarp and lots of electrical tape. Of course the rain really set in whilst they were trying to sort it all out.
A one night stop at Archer river with at least 100 other campers, made us keen to never return this way in the full peak season. An awful lot of beer and Jack Daniels was consumed during the course of the afternoon and evening (not by us). The main road up the Cape is now a super highway and full of people intent on 'doing the cape' with the sole aim of getting to the tip as quickly as they can whilst consuming as much alcohol as possible.
We were glad to turn off the main road and head into Kutini-Payamu NP (formerly Iron Range). The road in here is now very good with only the last section being a bit narrow and pot holey. We first headed to Chilli beach as the new booking system meant there were only vacancies at each camp at certain times, so we had to juggle it all accordingly. We did at first think the booking system rather painful and unnecessary, however the more we saw, we think it probably is a good thing. It restricts the amount of people allowed in and therefore protects habitat and makes for far more peaceful and enjoyable camping. On arrival, we did have some stressful moments, with our protective glass stove cover shattered into a million little pieces and Jodene and Nick's fridge door swinging by one screw!! Not great. Luckily Nick was able to fix the fridge door and as we had asked Trakmaster to remove the stove lid in the first place (they said they couldn't due to automatic gas safety cut off), we were not too upset either. We had a lovely campsite near the beach, but slightly protected by the fierce wind which was great. Pam and John had a site further back and more sheltered which was also really nice. The beach is spectacular, even more so with the Frigatebirds soaring overhead and the Beach Stone-curlew wandering about. We had a couple of days drizzle, but then 2 fine ones which was great for long beach walks. We visited Portland Roads and slowly got our eye in for rainforest birding. After 4 days we were sad to leave and could easily have stayed longer.
A short trip to Rainforest camp saw us set up right in the middle of the action. The amazing calls of the Magnificent Riflebird and Trumpet Manicode greeted us. A brilliant 10 days was spent birding in and around this immediate area. We managed to see all the endemics except the Fawn-breasted Bowerbird and with much patience and skill, Alby was able to photograph most too. The rain was painful, with 80ml falling in under 24 hours, making it impossible to dry anything. The mould set into the van, tent and everything else. The birding and photographic highlights were, the Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Northern Scrub-robin, Yellow-legged Flycatcher and Green-backed Honeyeater (new bird for Pam). Good looks at Eclectus and Red-cheeked Parrots as well as Palm Cockatoo were also fantastic. Once again, this place proved to be an all time great for birding.
Anything after Iron Range is hard to match, however we were now on the trail of a Spotted Whistling-duck which had been reported a few weeks ago at Mungkan Kanju NP, a bit further south and further west. We headed to Chong Swamp where they were reported from and upon pulling into the camp, noticed a foul smell. We soon realized that the burning smell and smoke was coming from our fridge. After grabbing the fire extinguisher, some investigation deemed that we had a small electrical fire in the fridge wiring system. Luckily it burnt itself out and was just a smouldering black mess. Needless to say, the fridge did not work!! So as usual when as far north and totally out of civilisation as possible, we were without a fridge. The off road van is great and puts up with whatever we dish out, but the appliances which are just standard van fittings are just not up to it. Just to add insult to injury, there was not a Spotted Whistling-duck to be seen. We spent 4 days here, it was beautiful and peaceful, but the midges were fierce and the disappointment of a 'dip' dampened the mood somewhat.
After stopping in at Coen to make some calls regarding the fridge, we passed through Musgrave again, hoping to see the Red Goshawk. This time we had more luck, with one bird sitting on the nest and shortly after our arrival, another bird flew in to perch. A magnificent bird and fantastic looks. We continued on to Lakefield NP, once again hunting for a new bird. This time Grass Owl. As you will be aware, we are not good at Owls as they tend to be active after dark when we very definitely are not. So we didn't hold out much hope as our Owl record is abysmal. We set up camp in a lovely (if not very friendly for van access) camp ground at Saltwater Crossing, the closest camp to the Nifold Plains, where the Owl supposedly is. We stayed up until after dark (not too hard I suppose in the middle of winter) and drove out to the plains. To our amazement, we very quickly spotted what we believed to be a Grass Owl!! Looking so similar to Barn Owls, we were not quite convinced until we heard the very distinctive call of the Grass Owl. WOW. New ticks (680) are hard to come by and Owls for us seem especially so. We were wrapped and had a great night spotlighting, seeing in excess of 6 Grass Owls as well as a fantastic look at a Large-tailed Nightjar (with lovely photos).
We sadly left the Cape and went on to Cooktown, where we currently are, for some badly needed fresh food. A block of ice in the fridge sufficed for the interim, and we spent some time giving the van, 4WD, ourselves and our clothes a much needed wash. The weather is beautiful and it is good to be able to catch up with family and friends as well as some internet time. On Saturday we will move on for a couple of nights back at Kingfisher Park, then onto Cairns. Whilst in Cairns, we will attempt to get the fridge repaired as well as hopefully catching up with Jodene and Nick again (who also had 'technical difficulties' up the cape). At this stage we will sadly wave goodbye to P&J who will be slowly returning to Vic (in time for the Grand Final of course).
Newsletter No: 07/12 (30/09/2012)
It seems an age ago now, but since our last newsletter, we first up enjoyed two weeks in Cairns. The best part being the pair of resident Stone-curlews who guarded our van most of the time we were there. We birded the foreshore, the botanic gardens and some other areas. We also enjoyed the luxury of large supermarkets and a daily shower! Without undue hassle we had the van fridge repaired and were very fortunate that in the interim, the van park we stayed at had a great camp fridge. The weather was great and the morning exercise along the Esplanade very enjoyable.
Pam and John left us after a week to begin the trek south, so once again we were on our own. Whilst we were at Cairns, the Stone-curlews laid two eggs which had us very excited, the dilemma then being whether we should hang around to watch the progress and the eventual hatching. We weighed up our options and decided we probably should move on. Very reluctantly, we left our charges, whom we had grown very fond of. It was apparent that they did not feel the same way about us though. They had taken to standing at our van door, hissing loudly every time we came close. We missed them immensely when we did eventually leave.
Unsure of where to head next, we decided on Mission Beach in the hunt for good looks and photos of a Cassowary. The van park we stayed at was very pretentious and unfriendly (all for the pleasure of $40 per night!), so once we had netted our Cassowary, we moved on. Still feeling a bit unsettled about heading south, we did an about turn, back through Cairns (so close to going back to 'our' Stone-curlews) and to Mossman for a few nights. Reports were that there were 'tickable' Helmeted Guinea-fowl nearby, so we thought we would give it a go. Unfortunately we could not find a single Guinea-fowl, free roaming or otherwise. We did however enjoy a stroll through the rainforest at Mossman Gorge although the gorge itself was remarkably unremarkable. A day trip to Port Douglas to see how the beautiful people live was fun; the Op shop had great quality goods and a lake by one of the housing estates had a lovely White-browed Crake. Probably not the normal persons activities for a visit to Port Douglas.
From Mossman we went to the Daintree area where we had not been before. We stayed at the National Park campground at Noah beach which was magnificent. The beach was beautiful and uncrowded and the campground very pleasant. Whilst sitting around enjoying a morning coffee, we had a tip off from the ranger that there were those 'Red-headed Crakes" down at the nearby boardwalk. Having been hunting for 5 years for a Red-necked Crake, we were off in a great hurry. Unfortunately we did not find them then, but being late morning, were not really surprised. We returned at 5 that evening and were quickly greeted by a loud, booming "kark, kark kark" which could only have been this elusive bird we were seeking. We had visions of horror where it kept calling, but did not appear, but after patiently waiting, there it was!! Finally after many years searching, the Red-necked Crake (681). We spent about an hour there watching a single bird coming to the edge of the rainforest and ducking back in. Brilliant. Getting a photo was difficult, with the low light and distance of around 10m, but given that, the results were not bad.
The next morning we returned and were again rewarded by calls and sightings of a pair of birds. We left the area feeling very pleased with ourselves. We headed back through Cairns (again thinking of stopping in on our growling friends) and on to Murray Upper NP. This is a very large open camping area and not too busy. We enjoyed the short walks from there as well as great looks at a Superb Fruit-dove at eye level. Amazingly we also heard Red-necked Crakes calling at two separate locations. For years we had been unsuccessfully looking and now it seemed they were everywhere. From Murray Upper, we stopped at Big Crystal Creek campground within the Paluma National Park. We had never been up Mount Spec before and were keen to catch up with a Golden Bowerbird now that breeding season was underway. We were well rewarded with brilliant up close looks at a male bird which was rather special. We settled in for a nice quiet night back at the campground until we were interrupted by the call of a White-throated Nightjar....another on the wish list. Dishes were quickly abandoned, binos, torches and cameras snatched up and we were off on the hunt. Finally as we got closer to the call, a bird flew overhead which was unmistakably a nightjar, calling the White-throated call when it again settled. Incredibly, another new tick in such a short space of time (682). Up again at 5.30 the next morning, we got much better looks when a bird perched high on a dead limb. The unmistakable red eye and lack of white wing flashes gave him away along with of course the call. Interestingly, Large-tailed were also in the area. So with a great feeling of success, we moved on in search of a Zitting Cisticola (no it's not contagious!)
Unfortunately, Alligator Creek campground in Bowling Green NP no longer allows caravans, so we spent a few hours birding there and unwillingly moved on. We saw a Blue-winged Kookaburra trying to bash to death an enormous steak he had obviously stolen from a weekend BBQ. Although he seemed to think it was the find of a lifetime, he didn't seem to know how on earth he was going to deal with it. We stopped for the night at a well know site for Zitting Cisticola and huddled inside, sheltered from the howling wind. Luckily the next morning was much calmer and we were able to hunt down many Cisticolas. It seemed they were all Golden-headed, until we heard a different call and zoomed in on a single Zitting. Not very satisfying and too far for a photo. Another couple of hours did not get us any closer, so we packed up and moved on.
We thought we would have one last beachside stop before heading south in earnest and had heard people rave about Airlie Beach. After a fairly long day on the very busy and aggressive Bruce Highway, we arrived at Airlie Beach only to be very disappointed. We found it tacky and highly overrated and not appealing enough to even stay the night. So much for our final beach stay! We pushed on till late for us-5.30 to Eungella. The final leg of this being a 12% climb to the township. Last time we had done this was with the Hilux with a wet road and we had the very uneasy feeling that we would slip down at any moment. Luckily conditions were dry this time and knowing what was in store, we made the climb somewhat more easily. Amazingly it was clear and the view back down the valley towards Mackay was awesome. We spent a very relaxing 4 days here, birding and just enjoying the area. The close up's of the Eungella Honeyeater and a surprise male Regent Bowerbird were the highlights.
Not sure where the next stop would be, we looked in at Eungella dam where we had spent a couple of days back in 2009. This time, it just was not as appealing. A bit of a dust bowl and very little level ground. We decided to push on and before long found ourselves at an unknown (to us) National Park-Homevale. It is on a back road out of Eungella and was rather pleasant, especially as we had it all to ourselves. The road into the campground was a challenge towing a caravan and we were very pleased to have only a small van and especially needed the cut-away rear end! From here it was only a few long travel days before we were back where it all began; Bowra. We were not entirely surprised to see Marilyn's caravan parked in her favourite spot and were glad to catch up with her for the second time this trip. We spent 4 days birding, being shown all the good spots by Maz and were sad to be leaving. I think we too could easily become semi-permanent here, like some others!
We returned to Round Hill NR in the hope of spotting a Red-lored Whistler now that it is Spring and they should be calling. Lots of Gilbert's, but sadly no Red-lored. Round Hill is a magnificent piece of Mallee and a very nice out of the way spot to do some good dry country birding. After that a quick one night stop at Cocoparra was nice (although the Patterson's Curse has sadly taken over) where again who should we see but Marilyn! A last happy hour with her was great, although by 5 now getting rather brisk to be outside. Welcome back south!!
We did a bit of a detour to say hello to the Ostriches out of Barham, always a good year tick, then on to Terrick Terrick NP for our last night away. We were surprised to see two other campers when we arrived as we had expected to have it to ourselves. This was a pleasant way to reintroduce ourselves to our local birds before spending a night with P&J and finally back to our block 5 months after we left.
All is well there, the council five months on are still sitting on our planning permit, not that I am overly surprised. Some very cold (zero) nights have had us wondering what on earth we are doing back, but the wildflowers and spring birds go some way to making up for that. We are now south for the next four months and will spend our time between Halcyon (our Maldon block), Melbourne and of course travelling around Victoria. Come February 4, we are off to Christmas and Cocos Islands then on to Kuala Lumpar.
Newsletter No: 07/12 (30/09/2012)
This newsletter finds us in Victoria battling to come to grips with what we now find bizarre weather. One day under 10 degrees, the next over 40!! Give me the good steady 20-32 that we are now more accustomed to up north any day.
After about 4 weeks back 'home' we got itchy feet and headed off again. This time with a slightly different pitch. We had just bought ourselves a brand new cabin style tent. Why you may ask when we have a perfectly good, very comfortable caravan? We seem to be pushing our poor van further and further past its limits every year and we thought it was time we gave it a break for our next trip. We plan to head out into the western deserts (primarily hunting for Princess Parrot), and a van is definitely not suitable for this type of travel. So our short trip in November was a test to see how we coped with tenting. The result was interesting. We found that really we are caravan people. The tent was extremely roomy and comfortable and the putting up and taking down was acceptable. What we did struggle with was the bedding (very sore backs after a few weeks of sleeping on thin thermarests, one of which seems to be self-deflating as opposed to self inflating!) and the total chaos of living out of the back of the car. We though we had it all so well organized, but anything you ever wanted always seemed to be totally inaccessible. So quite a learning experience, still some adjustments to be made.
Back to the trip itself. We started with a few days at Little Desert NP before heading to the Birdlife camp at Glendinning. As always, we enjoyed catching up with our birdo friends and finding out who had been where for the year. Next stop was Bool Lagoon in SA near Naracoorte. We were keen to go here as P&J had camped there last January and seen Australasian Bittern. Any chance at a new tick is well worth the trip. It seemed positive on our arrival with lots of shallow water and reeds everywhere. Throughout the first night, we heard the Bitterns booming constantly, but had no luck locating any for a look. For the next two days, we kept searching the reed areas without luck. Finally on the boardwalk from the campground, we flushed one of these amazing, cryptic birds. A new bird (tick number 683).
The plan had been to next head to Gluepot reserve where the Scarlet-chested Parrots were again breeding, as well as being a good time of year for other Mallee species such as Red-lored Whistler. We both love Gluepot and were looking forward to spending around a week there. Of course when birding, plans can quickly change. A Franklins Gull in Paynesville was the culprit this time. So with maps out, we worked out the route and decided we could make it in a day at a push. We dismantled the Taj Mahal tent and put up the small one for the night to facilitate a quick get away in the morning.
We were away by 5.30, keen to get to Paynesville by late afternoon. By all accounts, this would be an easy tick, the bird was almost constantly sitting outside the hardware store, even joining the local seagulls for a feed of fish and chips on occasions. We couldn't wait to see this rare bird which had never shown up in Victoria before. We ploughed on without a lunch break or anything and finally arrived at around 4.20. We were surprised to see at least 10 other cars lined up at the exact spot. Needless to say, there were many other mad birdos already there. Our monumental drive was nothing compared to some there who had flown from Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney. So armed with binos, we got out of the car and stretched our cramped legs all ready to tick off the bird, have a celebratory drink and retire to a hard earned cabin for the night. Unfortunately birding does not always work to plan. No bird!! By 7.30 we gave up in frustration, had a much needed shower and a meal at the boat club with some of the other frustrated birders and collapsed into a bed (yes one of those comfortable things actually off the floor).
All of us mad birders tried again the next day, but still no luck. Tears of frustration were shed by the interstate twitchers who had to leave to make flights home. By 2 pm there was no-one left, us included. We headed to Log Crossing camp area where we set up the small tent and had a relaxing evening.
The next day saw us heading further into east Gippsland and to Croajingolong NP. Amazingly, given that it was not a holiday period, the Thurra River camp area (with 40 odd sites) was nearly full! Another example of the staggering amount of people traveling about now. We were there at the same time of year in 2007 and practically had the place to ourselves. Luckily we did find a nice site and set up. A couple of very relaxing days were had. The birding was not brilliant, but there was enough around to keep us amused. Malacoota was the next stop, where we treated ourselves to a cabin for 3 nights. We were very happy to have a few Wonga Pigeons wandering past the door at regular intervals as well as a male Satin Bowerbird tending his bower out the back. We enjoyed the luxury of the cabin and made particularly good use of the washing machine. On our way back to Maldon, we stopped in again at Paynesville in a vain attempt to try to locate the gull. A expected we had no luck.
We are now back at our block and enjoying the Tawny Frogmouth family who are living here. We will be spending time here and in Melbourne in the lead up to Christmas. The plans for next year are: Christmas/Cocos Islands with P&J in February, Kuala Lumpur, then on to Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. We have a one way ticket, so will take it as it comes. We may be away for only a couple of months or it may extend for most of the year. We will have to wait and see.
Our very best wishes to you all for an enjoyable festive season and a happy and healthy 2013
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