Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Part 4: Great Bowerbird and that delicious Raspberry Soda

So it came to pass that on the fifth day... or was it six? seven? fourth?...  we found ourselves in Mt. Molloy.

Despite the completely different setting, this little town seemed entirely familiar. It was like that small town USA that I've stopped in countless times in previous adventures. On the surface seems completely dead, but you know there are a few surprises buried just beneath.

On the hot and dusty day, I was in for a few of those surprises. Stopping at the convenience store, I uncharacteristically purchased a popscicle and a raspberry soda. I have never recalled either tasting as good in all my years! Pleasant surprise number one!

Now one of the great things about small towns is that everyone knows what's happening, and upon seeing our binoculars, the local fellow kindly directed us just a minute down the road to the little town park. Here, he advised we would promptly see Great Bowerbirds and their bowers. Sweet! Pleasant surprise number two!

Having been schooled in bowerology by David Attenborough, and having been lead straight and true by the convenience store clerk, I was all smiles as the birds were found dashing here and there, never straying too far from their lavish bird cribs.

In all of life's myriad experiences, it can sometimes be hard to pin the essence of a trip, an experience, or an event. To realize the moment and accompanying feelings or quick actions that embody a great journey.

That day, having strolled down the sun scorched road with the taste of raspberry lingering on my tongue, I touched on the realization of the present. I was on the opposite side of the world from my home looking at birds that for me, personified the "Down Under". I had found that moment.

Realizations aside, the journey would continue. Sweeping past the sleepy town it was on to Abbatoir Swamp. Despite the name, we witnessed no animal slaughter. To this day, I wonder what great horror occurred there to earn such a black name. The promised Northern Fantail, who's holy light would have broken the evil that the name conjured up, did not materialize. Instead, we were mocked by the calls of the White-browed Crake and the Pale-vented Bush-hen, eternally damned to stalk the grassy marsh unseen.

The peaceful edge of Abattoir Swamp

A lone figure, clothed in white and after the fashion of Steve Erwin appeared in our midst. Who could this character be, we wondered. We quickly quickly realized he was a birder. Would he bring us birding salvation? For not only was this the first  Aussie birder encountered in our travels, but he was also a local guide and self -professed expert on birds of the region.

With the usual pleasantries exchanged, I let forth the questions that my heart so desired to have answered. Questions that all birders in foreign lands must have; where can the birds be found? Do they really exist or are the books just a cruel joke depicting forms that never evolved to grace this world with their beauty?

Expecting satisfaction, I was left with disappointment. He was not very forthcoming despite sitting on a vast wealth of bird knowledge. Even with a little coaxing, he manged but a few spots for us to explore, and with it, came a slightly grating personal reflection. He could not tell us where to find everything or he would not have any business.

I will only briefly reveal the holes in this logic. First, I will remind you in case you have forgotten, that we were three 24 year old boderline-broke Canadians. We hadn't showered in what felt like an eternity - minus the wash at the White-browed Robin spot -, we were living out of a dinky hyundai camping every night, and seemed to be subsiding on only canned tuna and beans! The potential for one of this fella's future clients to choose this type of "adventure" upon hearing from one of us that indeed species X  can be seen in location Y, is approximately zero. People that pay for guides are of a different spirit then the ones that return to Abattoir Swamp at night to sleep in the shelter of the viewing blind!

Despite the paucity of new information we did have one new spot to check; the local elementary school usually holds Squatter Pigeons (we thought we had missed our chance) and maybe a Red-crowned Parrot or two.

Normally, adult strangers strolling onto school grounds, binoculars ablaze, might raise a few eyebrows, especially in the good old United States of America where the media would have us believe that child abductors are waiting around every bend. However, in this delightful corner of the world, for our troubles we were rewarded with great looks at Red-crowned Parrots, and a kindly word from one of the teachers telling us that unfortunately, the Pigeons hadn't been around for the past few weeks and she was sorry we missed them. Now that's an attitude that I can get used to!

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