Australia Travel Diary - p 1 of 2

6 Sept 2013

Welcome to Sydney, home of the world-famous Opera House.   Also home to the $61 cab fare from the airport..  Oh well, let's have a cup of coffee.  That's $6, you say?  Do I get a refill?  No? 
   At our Sydney Harbour cruise tonight, complete with dinner & show, they brought all those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries up to the stage.  Charlotte and I had the (dubious?) honor of being married longest - 44 years.  It wasn't even close.




Sydney Opera House


Southern Cassowary  

9 Sept 2013

With Charlotte off on a diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef, I've put up at the Cassowary House near Cairns, in northern Queensland.   The lodge's namesake appears for grain put out by the owners. 
    Related to emus and the like, the endangered Southern Cassowary has the roles of the sexes reversed.  It is the female who is larger and more colorful.   The male builds a ground nest where the eggs will be laid.

With one or two exceptions, there's nothing remarkable about Australia's waterfowl.  This oddly-named Pacific Black Duck was on the Barron River near the village of Kuranda late in the day.  Sunlight reflecting off the rainforest on the opposite bank provided some color to the water at least.  

Pacific Black Duck


Laughing Kookaburra The places to look for many common Australian birds are picnic areas and caravan parks.  Here is where fruiting or flowering trees are often planted; many attending birds are quite tolerant of humans including photographers.
    Other birds are just looking to cadge a handout, such as Laughing Kookaburra here, which is a forest kingfisher.  How tame was this bird?  After I photographed it, the bird flew down and perched on the metal support on my Better-Beamer flash extender.  It sat there for a while as the campers, Aussies and a mix of Germans, Dutch, and the like, took photos of it with their smart phones.




10 Sept 2013

The main nectivores in Australia are parrots and honeyeaters.  Members of the latter group behave like hummingbirds and sunbirds, aggressively chasing away their rivals for a nectar source.

But that is where the similiarities end.  Honeyeaters are mostly medium-sized, quite often the dullest birds around.  This Blue-faced Honeyeater is in fact one of the more colorful ones.

The honeyeaters were beginning a nest in an open snag in one of the "gums" (Eucalyptus) trees at the caravan park.   A juvenile came to the nest once or twice, so Blue-faced may be another species which has juvenile helpers at the nest.

Blue-faced Honeyeater
Kangaroo-Paw.jpg (306403 bytes)  

13 Sept 2013

Yesterday we flew across the continent to Western Australia -  cold, rainy, windy Western Australia, this still being early spring. Today we rented a campervan in Perth and drove north.  The star attractions here are the wildflowers.
   This corner of the country is surrouned by ocean and desert, making it a perfect "biological island."  Its isolation, combined with nutrient-poor soils, makes it a biodiversity hotspot - over half the plants here are endemic to the region.
   Many are just plain bizarre, such as  Red-and-Green Kangaroo Paw, Anigozathos manglesii.  It is the official floral emblem of Western Australia. 




With a name like Western Flora Caravan Park, 300 km north of Perth, you'd expect to find wildflowers and folks who love them, and this is the case. 
   Braving winds and the occasional rain squall, we hike out to find the common and rare.  Among the former is Milkmaids, Burchardia umbellata.


Burchadia-umbellata-Milkmaids.jpg (194041 bytes)

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