Australia Travel Diary - p 5Boab Tree (66960 bytes)

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.    



Long-tailed Finch (62112 bytes)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.



Crimson Finch (62986 bytes)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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