Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Prep for Australia

My wife and I are headed to Australia for a vacation in just over a week now and I'm frigging pumped. I haven't birded out of the country since 2006 when I went to Ecuador with a couple of non-birding friends. I didn't see very many species on that trip, but also put no real effort in.

This is going to be different (don't tell my wife). I am going to see a ton of insane Australian birds, from improbable sounding families (shrike-thrush? emu-wren?? duck-parrot??? [last one not real]). I can't wait. We're spending a few days in the Cairns area in and around the Daintree rainforest, then a couple days down in the Whitsunday Islands, then a few days cruising around the Top End near Darwin and Kakadu NP.

Holy crap, I've got a lot of preparation to do.

Other than a walk or two with people at the Cassowary House near Cairns, where we're staying for two nights, I won't have anyone guiding me or showing me around. I prefer birding this way (I think), but it means it's all on me to make IDs.

I'm studying hard. Some friends at Princeton University Press sent me two stunning field guides to check out that are my nightly textbooks.

The first is the brand new Australian Bird Guide, by Peter Menkhorst and a crew of other authors. This thing is a stunner, fully illustrated with every bird seemingly ever touched a talon on Australian soil. This'll be the guide I bring with me in the field.

Friday, August 4, 2017


I had some time after a recent work trip to Colorado, and I used it to take on my arch enemy: the White-tailed Ptarmigan.

I lived in Colorado from the end of 05 to the end of 06, but never saw a ptarmigan. I took subsequent trips to the famous Medicine Bow Curve in Rocky Mountain NP at least once (eBird says once but I'm pretty sure it was twice), but didn't see a ptarmigan. I was going to see one this time.

I started with an early morning dash up Mt. Evans, just west of Denver. I got top the top -- an insane 14,130 feet -- just before sunrise. It was spectacular. There were two families of Mountain Goats just hanging out and a handful of Bighorn Sheep, each with cute youngsters that I would have tried to pet if not for the threat of taking an angry mother's horn in my spleen.

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