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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Travel 2000 – 2004: the World at my Feet

August 2001 (3-19) saw the fulfilment of a life's ambition with a two-week trip to Kenya and Tanzania with Exodus Overland Tours. Here is the full itinerary. In the truck we visited a number of National Parks including the flamingo salt lakes of the Great Rift Valley, the Serengeti, Lake Victoria, the Ngorongoro Crater and also the Olduvai Gorge, scene of the famous Leaky family’s excavations of hominid fossils that have contributed so much to our knowledge of human evolution. The journey ended up on Zanzibar Island. I amassed a species list of 140, including my obligatory (and rather modest) targets of Ostrich, Jacana, Oxpecker and Secretary Bird.

2003 was travel-free until Boxing Day when I flew Malaysian Airlines via Kualur Lumpur to Sydney, Australia, for a four week visit to friend Simon Cotter and family, as a treat to celebrate my recent 60th birthday. Generous hospitality, and so much to do and see, with their home in Bowen Mountain adjacent to natural forest in the Blue Mountains range. Memorable was the trip into the desert at the Kinchega National Park via Dubbo and Broken Hill. We stayed at a disused sheep ranch, converted to camping cabins, but the six of us had the place to ourselves. New Year's Eve was spent in the atmospheric old shearing shed lit by candles and with Simon's wife Bonny playing music on her flute and Simon entertaining us with runcible Australian songs as bats were flitting about the shed. Birds at Kinchega included Emu and the colourful Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, not to mention kangaroos and reptiles such as the goanna.
Later in the trip Simon and I spent three days at the Barren Grounds Bird Observatory, inland from Kiama, near Jamberoo (where there is a pub that sells very good Port). Despite its name, this endangered habitat of dry heathland is far from barren and supports a high diversity of plant and animal species. Although we failed to find the elusive Ground Parrot, we did have an excellent view of the endangered Eastern Bristlebird. Noteworthy also was the research conducted by the resident warden with whom we were able to examine Pygmy Possums and other small gliding marsupials at close quarters. It was here, too, that I encountered my only wombat and echidna. Finally, a day's birding around Sydney with members of the local Cumberland Bird Observer's Club was highly productive. And a meal with Simon and Bonny in view the Harbour Bridge and Opera House was unforgettable. Sadly I had to depart on 10 Jan 2004, with a species list of 160, and a resolution to return.

Later in 2004 (April 15-21) saw a long awaited (since a brief visit in 1997) return to the Everglades National Park in Florida, this time with birding companion Carolyn H. Accommodation was at Day's Inn Motel in Homestead, the gateway to the best birding areas of the Everglades National Park. Motoring down to Flamingo and exploring the trails on two or three occasions we saw most of the "goodies" such as Swallow-tailed Kite, Anhinga, Wood Stork, Black Skimmer, Black and Turkey Vultures, loads of herons, various migrants and even, very luckily, a Bald Eagle. Not to mention both alligator (in large numbers) and the endangered crocodile, the latter at disconcertingly close quarters during a canoe ride. One of the main "targets" of the trip was the stenoecious Everglade Snail Kite and we had excellent views of these from an air boat ride near Forty Mile Bend along the Tamiami Trail.
Another highlight was a drive all the way out to Key West where the order of the day was a circular bus ride round the island followed by a boat trip in a glass-bottomed boat out to a coral reef. The speciality sought here was Magnificent Frigate Bird which duly obliged when several flew over the boat. The day finished with some wading birds on the shore followed by a charming meal of spicy chicken sitting outside the restaurant overlooking the mangroves, when another Frigate flew over.
One of our targets, Limpkin, kept us waiting and it wasn’t until a ‘farewell’ visit to the Anhinga Trail, late in the afternoon of our last day, that Carolyn spotted one.

See also:

Travel 2000 -2004: Europe beckons!
2005 - My Ryanair Year


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