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October 17, 2001

Overland Australia - Update 68

October 17,
Day 86

A Kingfisher in route

Between Adelaide River and Batchelor

It began at the mouth of the Starcke Creek with “Ooh! A Brahminy Kite!” and continued on through the Darters and Jacanas of Lakefield National Park; the Custard-heads of the Quinkan Reserve near Maytown; the majestic Brolgas of the floodplains; the little Corellas of the grasslands; the pink Major Mitchell Cockatoos of the Centre; the dainty Fantails of the MacDonnel Ranges, the Western Bowerbird and the Quails at Trephina Gorge, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos of the larger river systems, the Honeyeaters of Gregory Park, and the two which have hounded us incessantly for the entire trip – the vociferous and disorderly Rose-breasted Cockies (a.k.a. Galahs), and the ever-circling, hovering, waiting Fork-tail Kites (hoping they’ll get some road kill dinner out of us).


Yes, for the past eighty-six days, the team has had to listen to my relentless rhetoric on the parrots of Australia; dodge me as I cycle with my neck craned up to the treetops, swerving across the track; deal with answers like essays to the simplest bird questions (the most they hear out of me all day) and admire, again and yet again, the photograph of my pet (NOT caged) Eastern Rosella which I carry everywhere with me, and with which I regularly accost various team members. But they’ve coped terrifically - and have been brilliant at pretending they’ve never seen my photograph before; at sounding interested when, after eighty kilometres in the hot sun, I call “look look! Psittaciformes Calyptorhynchus banksii!”; and at indulging me with today’s theme.


Only occasionally, when the Trichoglossus haematodus become all too much, will Jason be prompted to tease at my Black Cockatoos: “Look - more Crows! Vermin! Get the Twenty-two!” However, I hope it’s not all for my sake, and that we’ve all learned something as we’ve marvelled at the butterfly-like flight of the Red-Winged Parrot, or the acrobatics of hunting Kingfishers. And I'm sure we’ve all had interesting experiences with hedonistic Apostle Birds and with sassy and smart-alecky Jack Russell Falcons – an impertinent Bird of Prey who has it in for our truck.

Birds have suffered from human insensitivity more than any other organism on this earth. From budgerigars in tiny cages, to battery hens being force-fed chemicals, to the poisoning of cockatoos in horticultural areas, they’ve had it all. I’ve taken the opportunity to being a bit tender and pathetic over seeing wild cockatiels and parakeets in their natural environment. After working in a pet store, listening all day to corellas repeating inanely: “What are you doing? What are you doing?”, it’s fabulous to see Budgerigars in flocks of hundreds chirruping and wheeling through the air above us, whose greatest danger is to end as road kill on the Tanami.

The most popular caged bird in the world, ‘Budgerigar’ is an Aboriginal word meaning “Good Tucker”. Australia is infinitely lucky to have such a remarkable collection of spectacular parrots. They are immediately appealing, and have enjoyed (or endured) popularity since the reports of John Gould (born 1863), a British naturalist who made the greatest contribution in history to the research and recording of Australia’s Fauna, with emphasis on birds. (See today’s history and e.s.d. updates for information on John Gould and Australia’s most beautiful bird).

Despite being just one and a half days from what used to be “our distant goal” our days continue much the same - biking along singing 1980s disco classics, with perhaps just a few more lamentable puns about Darwinists than usual. So next time I pull out a tattered picture of a handsome red and rainbow parrot, just answer, like Joshua, “Yep. Groovy.” And keep searching for the elusive Jack Russell Terrier Bird.


*Aboriginal place-names of the day:

PARRAWEENA: Parrot’s Camping Place
NURRUNGBAH: Place of the Long-nosed Shark
NUTHERAMNATHERANN: A Pleasant Valley WARRAPANILLAMULLOLACOOPALLINE: A Water Hole with Cane Grass, Shaped Like a Man’s Leg with Trees Growing Round About.

We would like to thank Down Under Tours for their contribution to the expedition. Check out their web site at: www.downundertours.com

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Posted on October 17, 2001 4:10 PM