Archive for September, 2008

Outback Queensland

September 14, 2008

Shortly after arriving in Cairns  I met up with a mate – Tony Kinread and between the two of us we decided to head west to Georgetown.  Unlike tropical Cairns its dry and outback-like.

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Along the way I spotted my first Pale Headed Rosellas.  At a large wetland area just past the dry town of Georgetown we set up camp and I couldn’t believe the bird diversity!  Many species of Honeyeaters, budgies, doves and waterfowl and of course other parrot species as well.  Like my first Red-winged Parrots.  

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I saw Red-tailed Black Cockatoos but so far away they might as well having been Aussie Ravens.  The great thing is that I would obtain fantastic footage of RTB Cockies later.  Tony and I were attracted to the sound of digging and spotted a huge Sand Goanna digging out the eggs of another reptile (another goanna?) only a couple of meters from us! The big reptile was enormous and we guesstimated it was at least 1.75 meters in length.

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From Georgetown back to Cairns at dusk I learned a really tough lesson.  Despite decades of experience driving with an abundance of dodgy wildlife on Canadian roads I was unprepared for the zillion roos we would encounter. No warning … nothing…  just a sickening Whumppp!!!!  The next thing I know an agile wallaby (not agile enough) was dead and I had a huge amount to pay the rental car company for the damage to the front end.

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A Quick Visit to Uluru and Then off to Cairns

September 12, 2008

Okay I couldn’t be from North  America and not visit Uluru!  Only problem is that it was going to cost hundreds of dollars extra to head out to “the rock” from Alice Springs.  I was headed to Cairns so how was this all going to work?  When I first booked my ticket I decided to boycott Uluru because of expense.  Guess what? That flight got sold out!  Then it gets real cool…  the next flight I scheduled had a 2  hour lay over in Ayers Rock en-route to Cairns!!!!  I simply headed out on foot over the dunes from the airport and got to visit this amazing landmark!

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No offense Melbourne, Perth, Sydney etc. but Cairns is by far my favorite city.  Easy to get around in and fun and friendly and at the gateway to tropical adventure.  Being from Canada my idea of luxury is stepping outside at 1 AM and its still 26 degrees or so!  If I had my dream I would live for 6 months in Cairns and 6 months in North America!

The Elusive Princess Parrot

September 8, 2008

This experience was a  once in a lifetime encounter.  While I was still engrossed in filming, the Princess became more alert as the afternoon wore on.  Finally the entire flock in 2 groups launched themselves out of the casuarina they were perching in. As dreamlike as it had began the Princess then launched themselves into the air.

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I have never seen a parrot fly so fast -like they were being shot out of a gun.  Perhaps the other 2 members of the Polytelis genus- the Superb and Regent parrots fly as fast.  In an instant they were gone.  Over the dunes they shot with those long tails trailing gracefully behind calling to each other to keep in contact as they went.

PrincessDonaftersitingI just had to sit down in the desert sand and drink in what I had experienced.  I was stunned by my good fortune.

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We whooped and sang for joy as we headed back to Alice Springs to turn in “Sherman” (short for Sherman tank) our 4×4 Nissan to the rental company.  Back at the Alice Motel we treated ourselves to the first food of civilization in 10 days and celebrated by clinking coke cans together to celebrate our fantastically successful Princess trip!

After so Much Planning-A Dream Finally Realized!

September 7, 2008

To date I still had no footage of princess but this was to change later that day when I chose to take a stroll into the dunes with Greg and poke around.  As an afterthought I grabbed the camera.  No tripod (arrrgggg!!!!!) but I had the cam.  While I was filming Rainbow Bee-Eaters Greg thought he heard parrots!  The next thing he is bolting down over the dunes in the direction of a some large Casuarina trees.

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Then there they were!!!!!!!!!!!!!  6  Princess relaxing in a gently blowing casuarina tree.  Some were sitting sleepily enjoying the afternoon warm breeze, others were courting – the males using rapid horizontal head swings and clacking calls just like they do in aviaries all over the world!  What an amazing treat and great views!  As a grown man I still couldn’t hold back my emotion and tears of excitement as gratitude to God came.  A dream come true!!!!

Search for the Princess Parrot -An Amazing Find!!

September 6, 2008

I had heard that Princess Parrots were best seen flying over the vast dunes in the outback.  Driving along on those remote desert roads, Greg and I kept our eyes peeled for anything that even resembled this elusive and beautiful species.  I kept hoping and literally praying to God that we would even catch a glimpse of one. Mile after mile of beautiful desert but no Princess.

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Then on the morning of September 6th this all changed!  While strolling around the dunes on foot I spotted 10 Princess flying only about 30 meters from us heading off into the distance.  In an instant Greg had them too!  They were gorgeous! Losing all composure I yelled I was so excited and of course the princess bolted out of the area.    We split up and I took my video cam with me.  Greg saw 12 individuals all by himself but I lucked out.  

The following day we took a drive deeper into the desert near the Canning Stock Route but the habitat looked wrong and we saw nothing.  We turned back to our original spot and camped again.  The next day on September 7 Greg by himself saw 4 of them flying near our tents.  I was crestfallen I so badly wanted to film this rare species and so far had nothing on film.

 

Remote Outback and Budgies

September 5, 2008

Now hundreds of Kilometers from the nearest civilization along the Gary Junction Road we spotted our first budgies.  Its one thing to see these resilient amazing little birds in a cramped cage.   Quite another to hear the roar of so many tiny wings as they fly free in their native Australia!

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I couldn’t get enough of watching the small wheeling flocks coming down to drink. At one spot the budgies were having to compete with camels for drinking space!

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Life in the Desert

September 4, 2008

Gradually the subtle pastel colors of the desert seeped into our hearts and we fell in love with the remote beauty.  At one point we traveled hundreds of Kilometers for 2 days and saw no one.

Nothing but the sound of warm breezes and singing honeyeaters

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My home for the next 6 months would be my Sierra Designs ClipFlashlite tent. Although it only has just enough room for 1 man and a backpack I found it to be a real winner at less than 4 lbs and easy to put up and very weatherproof.

 

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By now we were well over the Western Australia border and miles from anywhere in the Gibson desert.  Getting lost or injured could easily result in this being the final day of ones life.  Fuel stops like this one were often days apart.  Fortunately we had extra fuel because we picked the wrong day to show up at this Aboriginal Community.  The store and pumps were closed!

Desert Dogs and Other Creatures

September 3, 2008

One night I heard the unmistakable sound of a canine howling.  It was great to hear my first dingo off in the distance but I was surprised to see it had paid us a nocturnal visit.  I always envisioned my first dingo would be the typical tan colored phase but instead was surprised when a jet black one appeared out of nowhere.  It was drawn to the sound of us pumping water at a remote water bore.DingoblacksideDingotracks

Greg was a regular Steve Irwin and was always catching things. What a little beauty eh?

 

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If it wasn’t miniature Goannas he was grabbing it was Blue Tongued Lizards.  I couldn’t even identify what I was seeing let alone have the wherewith-all to grab it!

Waking up to my first Outback Parrots

September 2, 2008

We camped near an old abandoned well operated by a defunct windmill. After waking up in our tents to our first outback sunrise, we spotted small flocks of Galahs, Australian Ringnecks, and Mulga Parrots. All within a short distance of our tents!

Mulga female and 2 males enjoy a drink

Mulga female and 2 males enjoy a drink

 

I was like an owl on steroids twisting my head back and forth everywhere we drove hoping to get a glimpse of even more parrot species!  I was simply stunned at what I could only see in aviaries in North America flying wild and free everywhere!

Mulga parrot male getting a drink at a cattle trough

Mulga parrot male getting a drink at a cattle trough

Princess Parrot Expedition

September 1, 2008

I had been captivated by Princess Parrots for many many years.  I dreamed of traveling to where they lived in their natural habitat and actually seeing one in the wild. 

Greg was as excited as I was to travel to Princess Habitat!

Greg was as excited as I was to travel to Princess Habitat!

 Later I learned by researching on the web that to see the Princess  was no small undertaking!  Although common in captivity this is a remote desert species which is rarely seen in the wild.  

 

 

I learned of folks who had paid literally thousands of dollars more than once to see this bird!  They had joined Princess Parrot Expeditions mostly traveling along the remote Canning Stock Route.  Despite being keen and full of hope most never see one.

ShermansplashWe traveled over 800 KM from Alice Springs and our roads were sandy and dry…  Most of the time!

We had plenty of water, satelite phone and emergency gear

We had plenty of water, satellite phone and emergency gear

outbacklunchWhether its having lunch or using the bathroom the sand was soft and lended itself to “creativity”