As promised, we have begun our winter migration! We are currently sitting on our apartment balcony in Mermaid Beach, Gold Coast. This is a vast digression from our usual travels, and we find ourselves here, purely to visit Alby's daughter and two grandchildren. The huge amounts of humanity and noise are rather foreign to us, and the adjustment process has been interesting. We are now on our last day here and have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Kylie, William and Ella. We are also very much looking forward to escaping from the glitzy Gold Coast, to the more serene Binna Burra.
We returned from a very successful (birding wise) and relaxing two weeks on Norfolk Island at the start of March. Two days later we were leading a BirdLife camp at Clarkesdale! Rather hectic. Having never been leaders before, we found this challenging and extremely tiring. We did enjoy the experience though (enough to do it again?!?) despite the fact that the birds were rather light on. We then spent time at our still new home, luxuriating in all the creature comforts, after years of living in a thirteen foot caravan.
So, come May the first, we were ready to head north again. The starting point was Balranald, for the Echuca Birdlife three day outings. These events are always well worth while and the area around Balranald, especially Yanga NP particularly pleasant. We set off a couple of days prior to the outings beginning, with the view to birding and relaxing around the Willows camp at Yanga. Upon arrival, to our dismay, the campground was closed due to recent and expected further rain. Now what? We tried all the National Park camps, only to find the whole area closed. With very few other options for a long term stay, we headed to the caravan park. Not our idea of a brilliant way to fill in a couple of days prior to the main group arriving. It is a great park (if you can bear the highway noise), but after two days of close to freezing temperatures and torrential rain, we were getting close to spitting the dummy and heading home. Luckily P&J arrived and saved us from that fate.
Striated PardaloteStriated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) race "substriatus". Taken 04/05/2014 Balranald, New South Wales
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, f/5 @500 mm, 1/3200, ISO 250, No Flash ngs proved very enjoyable, despite the fact that we could not gain access to the National Park. We have certainly seen more of the Balranald area than we ever would have expected. The next stage of the trip, saw us driving some long distances. The cold weather is tedious, living in a tent, so gunning it north, is a good way to speed up some warmer weather. Our first night was spent at a disused quarry north east of Cobar. A beautiful spot with some lovely dry country birds and mercifully, after being right on the highway at Balranald, on a very (2 cars in 18 hours) quiet back road.
Another big drive the next day found us at Lake Yarrie, just out of Narrabri. We had a small celebration here, as we had been without our thermals for over 24 hours. Things were looking distinctly warmer! Lake Yarrie was a lovely spot, unplanned by us, but just happened to be at the right place for a nights stop. It is like a caravan park on one side, with some powered sites and facilities block. Much to our delight, across the far side of the lake are some peaceful, private camp sites with a pit loo. Just what we were after. We enjoyed a magnificent sunset over the lake and were a little disappointed we didn't have another day spare to stay longer. We are usually more flexible, but with bookings at both the Gold Coast and Binna Burra, we were on a rather strict timeline. One to bookmark for another time perhaps?
Interestingly, we managed to drive almost the entire way from Balranald to Narrabri on dirt back roads. This made for a very interesting and far more relaxing trip than taking the highways. Not having to worry about road conditions and dust inside, is certainly one of the benefits of not towing.
Next stop, Inverell, where Alby's son Heath is now living with his partner Sharon and their young son Wilson. We spent a couple of enjoyable days seeing them again, as well as catching up with the chores such as washing clothes and selves.
The following three days were particularly pleasant. We found a little known NP out of Kyogle called Toonumbar.
Noisy PittaNoisy Pitta (Pitta versicolor) race "versicolor". Taken 14/05/2014 at Toonumbar National Park, New South Wales
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, f/3.2 @300 mm, 1/400, ISO 800, Flash It is a rainforest area and our first real stop of the trip. We had a lovely private camp site nestled right in the rainforest. Our campground birds were Logrunners and Noisy Pitta! Wow. We also saw other great birds such as Paradise Riflebird, Regent Bowerbird and Green Catbird all within 500m of our camp site. Unfortunately, although we heard Sooty Owl calling, we were unable to track one down, so dipped on a new tick. We had an amazing time, thoroughly enjoying the birding and lovely walks the area had to offer.
A relatively short drive took us to our current location, Mermaid Beach. After the quiet of Toonumbar, we were initially well out of our depth. We did have one day off visiting with the Southport Pelagic where we endured rough seas for great sightings of three species of
Wilson's Storm PetrelWilson's Storm Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus) taken 17/05/2014 on the Southport Pelagic out of Southport, Queensland
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, f/5 @300 mm, 1/1250, ISO 320, No Flash Storm Petrels. Having been here nearly a week now, we have adjusted and look forward to our early morning exercise sessions along the beach. I am still trying to understand the massive attraction of the area though, as to me there are far nicer places in Australia. But hey, great so many people love it here as it keeps them away from our favorite places!
Next stop a luxury week at Binna Burra, then further onwards and upwards.