Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Part 2 - The Tablelands Begin

We arrived at Crater National Park at dusk. My bird finding guide to Australia promised Grey-headed Robin and Bridled Honeyeater in the car park (parking lot for us foreigners). Through the gloom we could make out a few birds, but morning would come soon enough, and with it, better light.

The Cows in this part of Oz are tough!

 That night began the "camping". I use quotation marks because, while we were certainly camping, invariably it occurred in spots where camping was, shall we say, not an official use of the area. That particular evening, we raised out tents in the car park.

The sun rose, but the forest remained dark. True to the book's word, the robin and honeyeater where easily found poking around just outside of our tents. With those two in the bag, the birding would get tough as we set out to try and find a Victoria's Riflebird. Foreign bird sounds reached my ears, and the novelty of a wholly new ecosystem stimulated and confused my senses. Peering into the dark canopy I searched in vain. Thankfully I had companions, and Nicole, in top form, had spotted one for me. My first bird of paradise! Like so many times in my life, that unbridled boyish joy could not be contained. A moment to savor in what I hope is the first of many as I journey through life. As is the case with most of the wonderful birds and places I dream of, my hope is that I reach them before the proverbial "progress of man" does. Better yet, I hope that from their shaded rainforest homes, the birds sing out to remind us of the world's endless forms most beautiful, lest we fire up the chainsaws and make our planet a much lonelier and poorer place.

 Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, my hunger for new birds enveloped me as I eased into my element. Through the park we went, binoculars poised and ears tuned to even the faintest rustle of leaves. However, the tropics can deny even the most ardent pursuer their catch. The Golden Bowerbird and the Fernwren would not yield from the gloomy forest regardless of my internal yearnings. 

Nicole taking a break from birding

 With only 12 days and lots of ground to cover, it was time to move on. As we began the slow drive out, not one, but four Southern Cassowary wattle on to the forest road. Two adults and two young, we couldn't' have been any luckier. Ignoring us, they worked the road and then as quickly as they came, melted back into the forest. These birds, with insanely powerful legs and a don't mess with me attitude, are the guardians of the forest. They eat up to 50 different kinds of fruit and maintain its diversity and health by propagating seeds throughout the forest.

Slipping by.
 This trip is going to be one hell of a ride!

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