Thursday, 29 March 2018

Australia Trip Report: Part 1


The Beast from the East arrived in the UK with ice in its heart and a bag load of snow in its clouds. Apparently. I was in the Valleys in South Wales watching Red Kites and whilst it was freezing cold (-8c most of the time) I was happily avoiding most of the precipitation and getting excited about my imminent trip to Australia. And then bang - red warning of snow for Bristol Airport for when I was flying back to Newcastle. Flights cancelled, new hire car and 500 miles later I am back at home via Newcastle. I'd escaped the South-west before the big fall but I'd seen how much was out East. The Pennines however were shut. The following day and I'm packed and ready to roll on my Australian adventure but still there was no way across the Pennines - M62 shut, A66 shut, Cat & Fiddle shut, A69 shut, Snake pass shut, Woodhead pass shut. In the end I had to make a 100 mile detour south to Uttoxeter round the hills to get to Manchester but I arrived frazzled but ready. All this excitement meant that in the 25 hours of travelling that followed I didn't get a wink of sleep.



A Cold Welsh Hillside. The start of the journey


My sleep addled brain found this to be the most interesting part of Abu Dhabi Airport

A steady flight out to Abu Dhabi contained a couple of superhero films and little else. Arriving at the airport in darkness I waited around the gate after a coffee pep up scanning for birds. Obviously the first ones were Feral Pigeon and then Ring-necked Parakeet commuting from hidden roosts to feeding grounds nearby. Some House Sparrows lived inside the terminal, high above the people milling below. A brace of Laughing Doves were looking for tidbits cleared from the planes by the cleaners in the Etihad team. My first lifer of the trip were a pair of Common Mynas which flitted between the aircraft and that was it. Hardly mindblowing but good to get a lifer, albeit feral under the belt.

Straw-necked Ibis
The flight through to Melbourne was very long and uneventful and soon the sun was coming up in the terminal. Little Raven was my first Australian bird as a few messed about on the tarmac. Before long I was winging my way to Canberra on the last leg of the journey. I was greeted by my nephew who I was meeting for the first time, Patrick. He was far more interested in the planes than me (rightly so). Soon we were headed across town for some lunch. I was flagging after a beer with my burger but a walk round Lake Burley Griffin in central Canberra perked me up. Thousands of Flying Foxes were roosting in the park and the first Wood Ducks and Pacific Ducks were messing about along with Little Pied Cormorant and Silver Gull around the lake. Cockatoos were prevalent and a female Red-rumped Parrot was in a tree. Welcome Swallows were hawking over the lake. My first Straw-necked Ibis was wandering around the grass like a crow and there were plenty of Australian Ravens about. My first honeyeaters were Noisy Miners which shared the place with invasive Common Mynas.

Female Red-rumped Parrot - confused the life out of me to start
We drove back and a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles were displaying over Banks, the suburb where my brothers family live. They were seen again from the decking and on and off throughout the trip. After a power nap Tom and myself headed out for a walk for a look over the neighbourhood. Here there were my first Kangaroos. Around the house were Willie Wagtails, Crimson Rosellas and Galahs. A family of Superb Fairy-Wrens chattered away nearby. Pretty soon jetlag got the better of me and I retired. This was the start of one of the best holidays I have ever had.


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How brains and birds become mutually exclusive