A great way to end the year. Any tick is uplifting, but some are more special than others. It's nice to cross off a bird from your 'Not Yet Seen' list, but it's even more special to add a bird to your lifelist, which hitherto has not even been on the Australian list. Very special indeed.
Philip organized our bookings. We were flying to Newcastle, hiring a car, driving to Old Bar, ticking the terns and returning the same night, arriving back in Melbourne before 9 p.m. Ha!
As usual, I was totally organized. Everything ready to go the day before. Bag packed, clothes out, alarm set. The plan was: I was to drive to Philip's, arriving at 4.45 a.m., and James would drive us both to the airport. I spent a sleepless night, listening to the radio and wishing 4 a.m. would come so I could get up and start the day. Eventually I hopped out of bed to check the time, to see how much longer I had to lie there waiting. It was already 5 a.m.! I was seriously late. I would have to tell the others to go without me. I rang James and he told me that he'd pick me up. I have never dressed so quickly. I was standing on the footpath outside our house, still buttoning up my shirt, when James and Philip arrived. Good friends that they are, they didn't curse me. James drove skillfully and quickly. We parked close to the terminal and ran to the gate. Those gates are a long way in T4. Breathless, we arrived just in time. Steve was there already, waiting impatiently for the three of us to arrive.
I calmed down on the plane and enjoyed an uneventful flight to Newcastle. We picked up our car and drove to Old Bar. The temperature climbed gradually to an unbearable 43 degrees. When we parked in the carpark, there were several cars there already, but no indication whether they belonged to birders, surfers or fisher people.
We'd read that it was a kilometre walk along the beach. It seemed much further to me. It was already hot. One interesting phenomenon was a large number of dead and dying cicadas on the beach. Where did they come from?
Signs informed us of nesting Little Terns, so we carefully avoided this clearly fenced area. Hard to believe that not all birders would walk around a tern colony. You can (perhaps) understand nonbirders taking a short cut, but I cannot comprehend anyone who calls himself a birder walking through a colony of nesting birds. And, before you object, let me tell you that they are all hims! I've never witness a female doing such a thing.
We arrived at the bar. There were waders, terns and cormorants. We made our way to a small group of birders and enquired about the Aleutian Terns. I think they said a light plane had flown low over the birds and the terns had been spooked. Aleutian Terns, which had been present earlier that morning, were now nowhere to be seen. There was nothing for it but to wait for them to return. Suddenly, it seemed much hotter.
David Stowe was one of the birders present. He was not prepared to wait patiently like the rest of us, and wandered off looking at birds. Bless him! Amongst all the terns and waders, he quickly found an Aleutian Tern! We all hurried along the beach and all managed to admire the bird through a friendly birder's scope. Tick!
Our bird flew to another sandbar, and was soon joined by several other Aleutian Terns. Notwithstanding the presence of an osprey, the terns remained, giving us all good views and the photographers good photos. Of course, the photos were never good enough and the photographers had to wade into the water to get closer. Such is the nature of photography. There is always a better photo if only you get a little nearer.
|Aleutain Terns, photo by Steve Castan|
That's the story really. The drama of Newcastle airport being closed because of lightning strikes, many flights cancelled and expecting to be stranded overnight does not seem quite so important any more. We were not stranded. Our flight was delayed. Then delayed some more, but finally left. Thanks to James I was home safely at 1 a.m.
Thanks, Philip, for all that organizing. Thanks, James for your driving. And thanks Steve for your photos. A wonderful way to end the year.