Friday, 22 May 2009

Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles

I have just returned to Sydney from a 24 hour trip to Coonabarabran ('The Astronomy Capital of Australia') and back. This was actually supposed to be an astronomy trip, meeting some friends from the States who I know from the Texas Star Party, and not a birding trip. I say 'supposed' because it didn't turn out that way, thanks to the worst weather that Australia has experienced for 35 years...! Cyclone conditions ensured that a metre of rain has been dumped here, along with high winds, and the northern NSW and south-east Queensland coasts have borne the brunt of it with flooding, damage and deaths. The good news is that the drought here has ended, with dams almost full instead of almost empty, but it could have waited a week! I have had a lot of bad weather on this trip and can't help feeling slightly miffed about it.But now the Aussies have no grounds to take the piss out of the British climate! Still, the birding's been good here, even if the astronomy has been a no go.  We, that is my friends from the States and I, went to a local astronomy club meeting in  Coonabarabran (or 'Coona' to its friends and people who can't pronounce or be bothered to say 'Coonabarabran') which was entertaining and informative. The hoped-for clear sky didn't materialise and the rain went on all night. A fellow astronomer and birder, Anne, and myself were sharing a room and so we looked at my photos on her Mac until we gave up on the weather and went to bed at 1am. I have to say that I am very pleased with how well most of the pics have turned out, despite the conditions a lot of the time being poor for photography.  I'm hoping that the weather's better in peninsular Malaysia and southern Thailand, it should be, the monsoon is further north, although the term 'rainy season' is relative as, according to Lonely Planet, it doesn't always rain any more than the non-rainy season.

Despite it being a washout as an astronomy trip, it wasn't a wasted one as I ended up with some new species, including Emu and Red-rumped Parrot, and I was able to - at last - photograph a male Superb Fairy-wren still in all his blue glory. Most have moulted out of their spectacular breeding plumage but a few are late changing into their drab colours and this little blue boy was one of them. I don't know how the pic will look on a computer but I am hoping it will polish up enough so I can put it on my site eventually. We went to the Warrumbungles National Park yesterday morning, where I was able to take pics of Emus and kangaroos, but it was a brief trip as I had to get a bus from Coonabarabran to Lithgow (very scenic) and then a train to Sydney Central (not scenic because it was by then dark and properly pissing it down). I am going on a pelagic from Wollongong tomorrow so I had to get back for that. It was a pleasant journey until I got back to Sydney Central and ran into a smashed-out-of-his-tiny-mind, probably intellectually-challenged weirdo who was roundly abusing all and sundry, calling everybody 'gooks' (a nasty, perjorative name for Chinese and south-east Asians) no matter what their race.  As I had my stuff with me, I got out of the vicinity as quickly as possible, with a terrified young Chinese woman in tow and trying to assure her the bloke was just stupid and drunk. I wasn't scared, just annoyed at stupid people who get wasted and then aggressive. If I hadn't been lugging my belongings with me and in a hurry to get to my hostel as quickly as possible I'd have got the twat nicked. I just hope the idiot did get arrested.

Mentioning the pelagic, I was concerned this morning in case it was cancelled due to the wild weather south-east Australia is experiencing recently, but on phoning the SOSSA folks I was told by a cheerful lady that the pelagic is very much on as the forecast is improving and the storms moderating. I have booked a hostel for tonight and Sunday night in Wollongong. Unfortunately they only have dorms available, but I hope that a cancellation might open up a single because I hate sharing. Sharing with friends is great but sharing with a bunch of strangers, particularly backpackers who get pissed off and whinge at you when you go out birding at 0630 is not (lazy, drunken student bastards will just have to put up with it!).

With the additions to the list from the trip out to the Warrumbungles, I am now up to 195 trip lifers and the pelagic tomorrow should hopefully provide a few more.

[caption id="attachment_160" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Male Superb Fairy-wren, still mostly in his breeding plumage."]Male Superb Fairy-wren, still mostly in his breeding plumage.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_162" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="Galahs on telephone wire at Coonabarabran. Took pic while waiting for my bus to Lithgow."]Galahs on telephone wire at Coonabarabran. Took pic while waiting for my bus to Lithgow.[/caption]

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