Australia Travel Diary - p 5
11 July 2002
Yesterday I crossed into the state of Western
Australia, where they confiscated my potatoes because of a vegetable quarantine. At
least the landscape is more interesting - red sandstone cliffs, spear grass, and the
strange boab tree (Adansonia sp), whose leaves drop during the dry winter.
Boabs are also found in Africa and Madagascar, a reminder that the southern continents
were part of the Gondwana supercontinent, and have moved apart by continental drift.
12 July 2002
I'm photographing birds near Lake Argyle this
morning, and who should come by but James Brown. Not the Godfather of Soul, just a
park ranger with the same name. Golden Gate Creek road, he says, is the best place
to see and photograph finches. There I pick up another handsome estrildid, the
Long-tailed Finch, drinking from a roadside pool. I'm becoming obsessed with these
finches. Long-tails, or Blackhearts as they are sometimes called, are just as shy as
their other finch kin.
13 July 2002
North of the oasis town of Kununurra lies the Ord River
Irrigation Project., It's a bit like southern California - canals carry water from Lake
Argyle to create farmland in what would otherwise be desert. Birds flock to the
water here. Along an overgrown roadside near a canal are four species of estrildid
finches - Star, Double-barred, Crimson, and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin. The Crimsons
feed by working their way up a grass stem, plucking the seed on other stems within their
reach. It's tricky, because the grass stem keeps bending down from their weight.
Other by-now familiar birds join the late afternoon feeding flock:
Red-winged Parrots, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Golden-headed Cisticolas, and the
ubiquitous Willie Wagtail, a black-and-white flycatcher that is practically underfoot.
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