About 25 hours to go for our VicTwitch 2010.
Yesterday we drove from Ouyen to Murrayville, then south along the famous
Murrayville Track into Big Desert. For the first part of the journey we
looked for Crimson Chats, but had no luck. For the southern part of the
Murrayville Track, and then west along the Red Bluff Track, south along the
Border Track and east along Red Bluff Road, we searched for Bustards, but
did not see any. The Border Track is cut up so badly that it became
impassable south of Red Bluff Road, so we had to abandon that part of the
search and headed east along the Red Bluff Road - which was interesting as
it basically goes through paddocks. It has long been a goal of mine to drive
the Murrayville Track, so even without seeing Bustards at least one goal was
After unsuccessfully searching Big Desert and the area between Big Desert
and Telopea Downs for Bustards we head headed south through Kaniva then
through Little Desert, completing a full-house of Victoria's Mallee Parks.
We decided to overnight at Hamilton so that we could search for Masked Owls
to the west, but have easy access to Portland in the morning without having
to drive for hours. After dinner we headed west to Casterton, then to
Strathdownie to search for the owls. We searched Grubbed Road and Wilkin
School Road in areas where the forest abuts open heath. We had no success,
so decided to call it a night around midnight. We were driving along Grubbed
Road heading to the Glenelg Highway, in a spot with forest and open heath
between two plantations. In the headlights of the car, we saw an
intermediate morph Masked Owl - a largish bird, brown wings and pale but
quite noticeably mottled breast and underparts. FINALLY! This bird (along
with Bustard) has been a bogey-bird for us for the entire year! Masked Owl -
number 387 for the year! The owl noticed us and, grabbing its meal, slowly
flew off to the forest in the distance.
This morning we headed to Portland and spent some time searching for
Baillon's Crake at the Aloca Wetlands with Rob Farnes. The weather has been
so mild and still recently that there is not much point in seabird watching,
as nothing is being blown into shore. From Portland we called in to
Killarney Beach - but few birds there (not even the usual Sanderlings).
As we were driving home the car began to shudder - uh oh, something was
wrong. At Inverleigh we pulled over into a service station and checked the
wheels and tyres, but could find nothing wrong. I called my local Mitsubishi
dealership and persuaded them to have a look at the car and sort out the
problem first thing in the morning. Anyway, we proceeded to drive home and
on the Princes Freeway near Werribee there was an incredible noise from the
front right of the car, the car pulled violently to the right and I could
see bits of something flying everywhere. I managed to pull over into the
emergency lane, and waited for a gap in the traffic to assess the situation.
I got out and saw that the front driver's side tyre was completely shredded
- our FOURTH shredded tyre of the year and our SECOND shredded tyre of the
last two weeks.
I called RACV and they informed me that a tow truck would be there within
the hour. I have to say that it is pretty hairy sitting in the emergency
lane of the Princes Freeway with the trucks and cars zooming past, just
inches from the mirror. At least it gave us a chance to check up on emails,
make some calls and check Birdline. What should we notice? Two TEREK
SANDPIPERS at the Western Treatment Plant. Now that is the definition of
frustration - sitting in a disabled car with a bird we desperately need for
our year list not more than a few kilometres away! By the time the car was
sorted out we had lost light, and could not go for the bird. Let's hope it's
still there in the morning!
So tomorrow we will search for the Terek at the WTP and continue our search
for Baillon's Crakes anywhere we can think of to look!
Paul Dodd and Ruth Woodrow
Currently back in Melbourne...
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