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Day 3 on the Road to Cairns

tbutler

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blog-0458928001397347481.jpg Sunday, April 6, 2014. Our travels north continue. Leaving Mackay we drove on almost until noon. Our lunch stop was a park in a small town, Ayr. Louise fixed sandwiches while I went in search of a restroom. The restrooms were behind the information booth so I stopped in there to see the two ladies who were sitting outside in front of the building this sunny warm day. We talked, they inquired about our travels and then loaded me up with information both verbal and written. One of the ladies was very knowledgeable and made several good recommendations. They asked me to sign the guest book which was on the table outside. I sat down and did so then visited with them for a little while longer. I shared with them our travel history and a little of our travels in the US and Canada.

Louise met me as I returned, carrying our lunch out to a picnic table near the campervan. We were visited by eight Australian White Ibis. If you aren’t familiar with ibis, they are large wading birds and have very long bills which curve downward. Their normal method of feeding is to probe the mud in a stream or lake in search of various small animals and insects. I have observed these birds probing grasslands with great efficiency. How they get that long bill 2 or three inches into the ground is beyond me. I sometimes have trouble getting a tee into a manicured golf tee box. Anyway these large white birds with dark heads and bills are quite impressive to all but the most jaded. Australians are jaded when it comes to ibis which are quite common. Animals which are common are usually seen as a kind of nuisance. These we had within a few feet were used to being fed or picking up snacks from picnickers. I enjoyed watching them and later got a few pictures though they were much more cautious when we no longer had food in our hands.

We decided to walk around the grounds to get a little exercise after our long morning driving. On the walk I spotted three bush stone-curlew, another long legged bird which is as at home on land as wading in the water. These were skittish but I still managed to get a picture or two and enough information to be able to identify them when we returned to the campervan and pulled out our book on the birds of Australia. The bush stone-curlew would be our new bird for the day.

While I had the book out, I checked on a bird that we have been seeing during our drive on the New England Highway and now on the Bruce Highway. It was a dark colored hawk of some kind. Driving down the road it is hard to observe birds and have great detail but sometimes a distinguishing feature can help. This bird had a swallow-like tail. The edges of the tail were longer than the center of the tail. That and the general shape of the wings were enough to identify it as a black kite. This is a raptor that is seen throughout Australia so I’m sure we’ll see plenty of them. It is a large bird with an impressive 40 to 50 inch wingspan.

In the afternoon we covered another 200 kilometers and managed to get into a campground in Cardwell, a small coastal community on the Bruce Highway. During the day we filled the diesel tank twice, not wanting to test its limits on these long stretches of roadway with few petrol stations on a Sunday afternoon.



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