Being a mail carrier in Australia must be a bit of fun for you get to ride a motorbike and wear boardshorts! You also get to drive across people’s front lawns, right up to the letterbox, to stuff in the new mail. No walking around, trudging along with a big mail bag and sore feet. Makes perfect sense, the way they do it here. Same with school buses. In Australia, the regular city and county buses become school buses in the morning and afternoon. Citizen bus runs stop running, the front placard on the buses switch to say “school bus”, and there you go, no wasted fleet.
Just survived a rather vicious thunderstorm tonight, accompanied by heaps of rain. For part of it we were in the car, trying to make it home from Red Rock, but got stopped by the thick of it all and parked at a pub with a drive-through bottle shop. My thinking was that if hail started to fall, we were going to scoot under the cover of the drive-through and save our car! That’s right, hail storms can be very damaging and twice now in the last week, nearby communities here have been so pelted. One caravan park, about ten miles away, was hit hard, the hail shredding tents and pock mocking cars. Reports indicated golf ball and bigger! Imagine hail like that striking your Subaru!
I mentioned Red Rock earlier. We went up to have lunch at the home of a couple we met on a bird watching field trip last week. They are about our age and have offered us the opportunity to stay in their house while they are gone over the Christmas season! Wow, we hardly know how to respond. And to make the afternoon even more amazing, we had lasagna and their own garden salad for lunch, with real coffee and homemade chocolate chip cookies for tea. I had been dreaming about lasagna for we cannot make anything like that in our tiny caravan kitchen :-). So now we are dreaming of a living room with a large flat screen TV for which to watch our bowerbird movies on, a kayak to explore the estuary, bikes, a vegetable garden to tend, and even our own driveway! Most likely we will save up for these luxuries and spend the week over the Christmas-New Years at their beautiful house and give our little 6.5’x12′ camper home a rest.
But don’t start thinking that our life is only about yummy pieces of lasagna and driveways. We are still working hard in the bush bowerbirding it! Here is one quick story in which a man named Wally played a crucial role. The route to our study site goes over a new bridge spanning the grand Pacific highway project. Wally was a traffic monitor on the east side of the bridge, which happened to boarder a nice forest reserve. We had stopped many times at the edge of the reserve, right off the road, to listen for bowerbirds, but had never really detected much. We had also left a piece of blue tape on a white post thinking that if there were any bowerbirds about, surely they would find the blue tape and steal it. But mostly, during working hours, we stopped and stayed in the car until Wally gave us permission to cross the bridge.
One day, Wally noticed the magnet stickers on the side of our car that show a bowerbird and captioned, “The Bowerbird Project”. He became interested in our work over the weeks and would relay information to us about any bowerbirds he had seen in the little patch of woods on this day or that day. We always thanked him and encouraged future reports. One day he told us he had seen two bowerbirds fighting and chasing each other, which I thought odd but didn’t say anything. That night I told Sara that I thought Wally had all along been seeing spangled drongos and not bowerbirds. Drongos are also black and about the right size and they do seem to fly around a lot engaged in some type of aerial displays with one another. We never let on and each time we passed the forest reserve, and especially when the work crews had quit for the day, we’d hope to see bowerbirds.
Well, guess what? Wally was right! Here’s how we figured it out. Yesterday, as we approached the bridge we stopped the car to look at a dead snake. For the first time in a while we could finally pay attention to the sounds of the forest for the work crews weren’t about; I think the bridge is about complete. Before getting back into the car, from far, far away (down where Wally would often stand) I heard a telltale call from a bowerbird. So we drove down and parked, saw a male, and started looking. And sure enough, within minutes, Sara found the bower not five feet from the new grass growing along the bridge embankment! So in honor of Wally, we named it Wally’s Bower. We are not sure if we will ever see Wally again to be able to show him his bower, but we surely hope that we do!