Hi, and welcome to my blog.  It occured to me that when you view the images in my galleries, that you would like have some idea as to the how, when and where.  Therefore, through this blog, I will attempt to provide some background and detail about the photo trip that resulted in the images posted on my site.

AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 4)

December 21, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

CHAPTER 4

 

The morning Qantas flight from Brisbane got us to Hobart, Tasmania, early enough to check in at the historic Lenna Hotel and do some exploring along Hobart’s waterfront.  We had actually arrived in Hobart the day before our three-day, private, Tasmania tour with Luke O’Brian Photography and packed as much exploring as we could during our day-and-half in this provincial capital of Tasmania.  That afternoon we walked the fashionable Salamanca Place, a redevelopment area with restored warehouses that now contain shops, galleries and upscale restaurants.  Around four o’clock that afternoon we happened upon the Pearl & Co., a waterfront oyster bar and restaurant, during their happy hour and stopped in for a glass of wine then stayed for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast at the small, bustling, but cozy Harbor Lights Café, we joined a walking tour, which Jane had arranged ahead of time, around Hobart’s historic downtown.  Like much of mainland Australia, Tasmania was first colonized and developed by British convicts.  After years of being downplayed, this unique history is now being touted with statues and informative plaques on buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that afternoon, we learned that public tours were offered at the Tasmania Parliament House and, on impulse, decided to take the tour.  As it turned out we were the only ones on the tour that day and enjoyed the personal attention given us by our guide, a legislative analyst.  We visited the House of Lords chambers and those of the House of Commons, both simply decorated in an ornate, governmental sort of way.  We learned a lot about Tasmania’s system of government and voting process, most of which I have already forgotten.  Evening cocktails were enjoyed in the hotel lounge that reminded me of an old gentlemen’s club, often seen in British movies.  Dinner that night was seafood pasta at an Italian restaurant on Salamanca Place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday morning, November 8th, day 43 of our Australian Odyssey, was when Luke O’Brian picked us up at the hotel to begin our Tasmania photo adventure.  I was very much looking forward to some landscape photography after beating the bushes for birds in New South Wales, Northern Territory, and Queensland.  Cradle Mountain was our destination.  We made a refreshment stop at Ross, a small village in Tasmania’s Midlands, along the Macquarie River.  Ross exemplifies Tasmania’s convict heritage with the historic Ross Bridge over the Macquarie River having been built by convicts and the historic Ross Female Factory, a workhouse where thousands of female convicts worked in the mid 1,800’s, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Luke also made a short detour on our way to Cradle Mountain to drive through Sheffield, known as the Town of Murals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cradle Mountain Hotel was our home for the next three nights. After checking in and a short respite, Luke and I headed to Dove Lake for some night sky photography.  Jane opted to take a break from activities and stayed at the hotel.  Luke and I arrived at Dove Lake in plenty of time to get in some sunset photography of Cradle Mountain reflected in the still water of Dove Lake.  As dusk and darkness approached we changed our vantage point to increase our chances of getting a shot at the Milky Way, although this time of year at Cradle Mountain the Galactic Center would be below the horizon.  As darkness crept in so did a full moon start to light the sky.  Conditions were perfect for night sky photography with a clear, cloudless sky and windless conditions for a glassy lake surface.  Only the bright full moon was problematic with its light obscuring the intensity of distant stars.  Just as we resigned ourselves to a wasted effort, the night started to get darker as the moon entered into full eclipse.  What an unexpected surprise that was.

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We spent the next two days hiking and photographing rain forest scenes, wildlife and waterfalls around Cradle Mountain.  A couple of return trips to Dove Lake were made to photograph at sunset with marginal success as a colorful cloudy sky never appeared.  We visited the Devils @ Cradle, a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary and got some photos of the infamous Devils, although in captivity.  During our time at Cradle Mountain, Luke escorted us to an area that Wombats frequent.  Jane and I both developed an affection for these small, cuddly marsupials with their squatty frames nibbling away at the tussock grasses.  Like all grazing animals, they rarely looked up from their constant foraging, and it was difficult to get a facial portrait. 

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Evolution creates unique solutions to ensure survival of a species and the wombat is a great example.  Wombats live in long, deep burrows that they dig with dirt being kicked out behind them. If wombats had belly pouches like wallabies and kangaroos, all that dirt whipping by the pouch would have been lethal to developing joeys.  Evolution solved that problem for wombats by creating a backward facing pouch that protects joey wombats from flying dirt.  On one of our hikes among wombats, we observed a developing joey stick its head out of the rear facing pouch.

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Our Cradle Mountain adventure ended all too soon.  Luke drove us back to Hobart via Queenstown, with substantial buildings constructed by convicts, Nelson Falls and Lake St. Clair.  He dropped us off at the airport Travel Lodge where we spent the night before flying back to Sydney the next day.  In Sydney, we spent the night at the airport Rydges Hotel to repack and organize for our next day’s flight back to San Francisco and eventually Albuquerque.  We arrived home on Monday, November 14th after 50 days of travel.

 

 


AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 3)

December 16, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

CHAPTER 3

Trogon’s Photo Tour started in Cairns, Queensland.  We met our tour leaders, Kylie and Frank Pankas as well as our fellow photographer Rich Frank on Sunday evening, October 23rd.  Jane and I had arrived in Cairns two days earlier and had already taken the scenic train ride to the quaint artisan village of Kuranda.  There we had our picture taken holding a soft, cuddly koala.  We had also taken a helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forest around Kuranda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michaelmas Cay, a small, low, sandy island located some 20 miles east of Cairns, along the Great Barrier Reef, was our first photo destination.  This tiny little spec of sand hosts thousands of breading seabirds.  We were ferried to the islet from our excursion boat and spent an hour or so photographing Brown Boobies, Lesser Frigatebirds, Crested Terns, and the Brown Noddy.  Snorkeling was included as part of our morning’s sail to the Barrier Reef.

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Next morning the five of us were out early looking for birds to photograph around Cairns.  Trogon’s Photo Tour was very much a birding tour as we searched for birds at the Centenary Lakes, Cairns Botanical Garden, and Flecker Botanical Garden without much success.  By mid-morning, we were on our way, through the farming district of Dimbulah on the Atherton Tableland of Queensland, to Ironbark House.  This very comfortable holiday house was totally “off the grid”, with its own solar power and harvested rainwater.  The accommodation was new, well appointed, with a modern flair.  A small water feature off the back patio provided some good photo opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin and Rachael, proprietors of this 1,345 acre remote “outback” property, were outstanding hosts.  Each morning Kevin would drive us around the property looking for birds and rock wallabies to photograph.  Each evening Rachael and Kevin would provide us with a delectable dinner, family style, served on the patio.  Afternoons were spent at the Black Swan Farm, a nearby accommodation where Kylie and Frank stayed.  Black Swan Farm was “on the grid” and Jane and I enjoyed air conditioned naps there.  At Black Swan Farm, I was attracted to some very noisy, distant bird calls.  I searched for the origin of this noise and found a small group of  Sarus Cranes, in a nearby pasture, squabbling among themselves.

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Ironbark House was a very comfortable stay for three nights after which we were off again for two nights at the Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodge.  This turned out to be a typical accommodation set in the thick of the rain forest where a boisterous catbird kept our interest.  There not being much to photograph on the grounds of the lodge, we ventured out to find more productive photo areas.  The small village of Yungaburra provided some good photo opportunities including a platypus sighting along Peterson Creek.  Some new bird species were found in the Hasties Swamp area.  Curtain Fig National Park turned out to be very interesting.  The Park has a fig tree with extensive aerial roots that drop nearly fifty feet to the forest floor creating a dense “curtain”.  We finished our stay at Chambers with some night photography of a sugar glider, a small nocturnal marsupial, that feeds on tree sap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in Julatten was our next destination.  We were on the road by 7:00 AM stopping at Mount Hypipamee National Park to search for a Cassowary, a large flightless bird, but without success.  Lunch was at Mount Molloy Café a Mexican establishment where Frank ordered a hamburger with “the lot” that included everything that could be stacked on a burger.  We reached the Kingfisher in time to do some afternoon bird photography before heading for dinner at the National Hotel & Pub in Mount Molloy. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher is the iconic bird that nests on the Lodge grounds.  The bird migrates from Papua New Guinea and had arrived at the Lodge in time for us to photograph this colorful Kingfisher.  Carol Iles, our owner of the lodge, told us that somewhere during the migration from Papua New Guinea the Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher had lost its long signature tail feathers.  So, my picture of the bird is sans tail feathers.  Carol was very helpful and told us about a couple of other birding hot spots, Brooklyn Village caravan park where we found a Tawny Frogmouth on its nest with a chick, and a ranch area where we found a male Australian Bustard exhibiting its mating display.

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After two nights at the Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge we were on the road again back to Cairns for a flight to Brisbane and drive to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  O’Reilly’s was a busy place with lots of guests and a myriad of activities.  Although we hiked many of the trails looking for birds, most birds hung out right by the entrance to reception where you could buy wild bird seed and feed the birds.  Parrots, Bowerbirds, and Cockatoos were all over you once you had seed in your hand.  Our last day at O’Reilly’s was charmed when we found a Paradise Riflebird, female Australian Logrunner and Albert’s Lyrebird all on the same trail.

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The last two nights of the Trogon Photo Tour were spent at the unimpressive Shangri-La Gardens in Wynnum, a suburb of Brisbane.  Kylie and Frank did their best to find us some birds to photograph, but it was slim pickings.  We lunched at the Pelican’s Nest Café where Frank assured me again that I would get to photograph flying foxes (large fruit bats).  Sure enough, a short drive from the Pelican’s Nest Café, Frank drove us through some neighborhoods to a Black Flying Fox roost with dozens of the large bats hanging from tree branches. 

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We celebrated the end of our Trogon Photo Tour with a delicious seafood dinner at the lively Manly Boathouse Restaurant with its great view of Moreton Bay.  Early next morning, Sunday, November 6th, forty-one days after leaving home, Frank shuttled us to Brisbane Airport for our flight to Hobart, Tasmania. 

NOTE:  Bird photographs can be found on the Home Page – Bird Gallery – Birds of Australia

Other trip photographs can be found on the Home Page – Austalia Gallery

 


AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY (CHAPTER 2)

December 11, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Chapter 2

Our Australian journey started in Albuquerque on Sunday, September 25th with a neighbor giving us a ride to the airport.  We arrived in Sydney early on Tuesday morning September 27th, having lost a day crossing the International Date Line.  Sydney was our home for a week.  We had arrived two days early for the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour (Chapter 1) and had five days in Sydney before the start of the Trogon Photo Tour (Chapter 3).

Upon arrival to this dynamic, cosmopolitan city, we stayed at the Pullman Hotel on College Street across from Hyde Park.  Located in Sydney’s central core, the Pullman, with great views from the rooftop, was a great home base for our exploration of the City.  We were in walking distance of the city’s major attraction, the Sydney Opera House.  And, walk we did!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our flight from Los Angeles had arrived too early in the morning for us to check in at the Pullman.  So, that very first morning in Sydney, we parked our luggage at the hotel and, with street map in hand, started our explorations.  Quickly, we got our bearings, learned to stay left and with Jane’s excellent navigating skill stayed on course.  We found a convenience store adjacent the hotel where we could stock up on bottled water and a wine shop around the corner so we could enjoy a glass of chardonnay to relax in the evenings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The initial couple of days in Sydney were spent getting familiar with the area.  We found that College Street provided convenient access to the Australian Museum, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hyde Park Barracks, the old Mint, New South Wales Parliament House, and the State Library.  The hustle and bustle of the Central Business District was only a short walk further as were the opera house and Royal Botanic Garden.  Hyde Park, across the street from the Pullman proved a convenient short cut when returning from our forays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we returned to the City after completing the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour, we stayed at the five-star Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay.  We splurged a bit staying at the Sir Stamford but the location was perfect, right on Macquarie Street across from the Royal Botanic Garden and only a ten minute walk from the opera house.  The Sydney Opera House is a spectacular architectural venue and we spend quite a bit of time visiting the area.  We viewed the opera house from Circular Quay, from the Royal Botanic Garden, and from ferries crossing Sydney Harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scheduled opera performances did not fit into our schedule.  Instead, we booked a tour to see the interior of this iconic facility and got tickets for L’Hôtel, a cabaret performance, in one of the ancillary theaters at the opera house.  Lots of Édith Piaf style singing, a magician, acrobats and the “coup de grâce” was the manly hunk behind the “hotel” check-in counter who ended up pole dancing in his briefs.  Lots of fun was had with hoots and hollers from the enthusiastic audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the Royal Botanic Garden just across the street from the Sir Stamford, Jane and I visited the garden several times.  Walking the various paths in the garden was relaxing as we viewed the many species of flowers, shrubs, and particularly the amazing variety of trees.  Appropriate for a “royal” garden, the grounds were meticulously maintained.  We particularly enjoyed the Calyx exhibit with its plant covered walls.  A couple of the paths in the garden provided excellent views of the Sydney Opera House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before leaving home, I had envisioned an image of the Sydney skyline at dusk with light emanating from high rise buildings that I wanted to capture in a photograph.  To capture that image meant crossing over to the north side of Sydney Harbor.  To make that crossing meant we had to learn about the elaborate ferry system leaving from Circular Quay.  The anxiety of using the ferries quickly dissipated when we found using the ferries to be much simpler than expected.  Good signage led us to the appropriate pier and platform for the ferry we needed and then it was simply tapping a credit card to access the ferry and again when leaving.  I photographed the evening skyline from Cremorne Point, straight across from the opera house.

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Just can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed Sydney.  One morning we joined a walking tour of the old harbor area known as the Rocks.  We learned a lot about how in 1788 the first crew of convicts arrived in Australia.  Mostly, however, we created our own walking tours finding interesting places to discover, like the State Library and cozy little bistros.  During one of our forays into the sky scraper lined business core, we discovered a subterranean food court under Martin Place.  With scores of vendors, food from all over the world was available along with an amazing array of pastries.  As we left the food court, after lunching on sushi, we happened upon the Theatre Royal where Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” was playing.  Of course, we had to get tickets for that famous murder mystery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On October 21st, half way through our Australian Odyssey, we somewhat reluctantly left Sydney on our flight to Cairns and the Pacific Hotel for the rest of our journey.  Chapter 3 will cover the Trogon Photo Tours portion of our trip.

 

 

 


AN AUSTRALIAN ODYSSEY

December 10, 2022  •  Leave a Comment


Introduction

As the crow flies, it is just over eight thousand miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Sydney, New South Wales, in Australia.  Jane and I did not fly as the crow, we instead traveled first from Albuquerque to Denver, and then from Denver to Los Angeles, before boarding our fourteen hour, United Airlines flight to Sydney.  And that is how the seven week long journey to our seventh continent began.

This was a momentous journey with more adventures to relay than one Blog can contain.  So, I will detail this journey in several separate chapters.  But first, here is a short introductory recap of our Australian odyssey.  To begin, the trip had been planned for a 2020 departure but was postponed until 2022 due to that persistent coronavirus.  After this long delay, the journey finally started on Sunday, September 25th and ended fifty days later on Monday, November 14th.  Crossing the International Dateline going over and coming back caused some confusion with dates as did the sixteen hours of time zone change.  In summary, this long trip included twelve separate flights on three different airlines, including two fourteen hour Pacific Ocean crossings.   We scurried through eleven airport terminals and slept at seventeen different accommodations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was truly a monumental journey and can be separated into four distinct sections.  Each of these four sections will be a separate chapter of this Blog and will be published sequentially. Upon arrival in Australia, our first undertaking was a two week excursion with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (VENT).  This tour was focused on birding and started in Sydney, New South Wales, and ended at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory. Jane and I were two of ten participants on this tour and I was the only serious photographer.  Chapter 1 will describe our adventures on this portion of our trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the VENT tour, we flew from Uluru back to Sydney for a five night stay on our own.  Our days in cosmopolitan Sydney are detailed in Chapter 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Sydney we traveled north to Cairns, Queensland, for a two week excursion with Trogon Photo Tours.  Jane and I were two of only three guests on this tour that started in Cairns and finished in Brisbane, Queensland.  The Trogon tour was to be a photo tour but turned out to be very much a birding tour as well.  Details for this portion of our trip are in Chapter 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobart in Tasmania was our next and final destination.  I had arranged a private tour with Luke O’Brian, a local Tasmania photographer, for three days of photography at Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park.  Chapter 4 details our visit to Tasmania and encounter with the Tasmania Devil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

We met our eight fellow travelers for the Victor Emanuel Nature Tour for lunch on Friday, September 30th, at the Pullman Hotel in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.  Our tour was led by Dion Hobcroft, an exceptional birder with over twenty years of experience leading birding groups for VENT.  Dion wasted no time.  After brief introductions and lunch we were off in the minibus, with Janene Luff behind the wheel, to our first afternoon of birding at Sydney’s Centennial Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day, we were up at 4:15 AM to be out by 5:00 for an early start of birding at the Royal National Park about an hour’s drive south of Sydney.  That morning we hiked along the Lady Carrington Drive trail.  The birders, equipped with their binoculars and scopes, and me with my camera, followed Dion eagerly as he spotted and identified Australia’s birds.  The morning weather was gloomy with off and on light rain, making for low light photography.  After a picnic lunch, we traveled to Burraneer Park where Dion was able to locate a pair of Australia’s largest owls, the Powerful Owl.  This pair, perched high in the upper canopy of a large tree, was raising chicks.

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That same afternoon, while the rest of us were back birding with Dion at the Royal Park, one of Dion’s associates (Steve) was scouting the Engadine section of the park looking for koalas.  Finding a koala in the wild is not easy but Steve had lots of experience and was familiar with the habitat koalas frequented.  It did not take long for Steve to return with the news that he spotted a koala.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that the eucalyptus tree with the koala was located near the bottom of a very steep ravine.  Everyone in the group, however, was game for bushwhacking ourselves down the sheer, forested terrain.  The reward was seeing a koala in the wild and for me photographing the cuddly little marsupial.  To top the event off, while engrossed with the koala, a Rock Warbler, the only endemic bird species of New South Wales, flew into the area.

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After three days of birding the Sydney area, on Monday, October 3rd, our small group of adventurers journeyed west to the Blue Mountains for an overnight stay at the Blackheath Motor Inn.  From Blackheath, getting started before sunrise, we scouted the Blue Mountain region for birds.  Enthusiastically, Dion guided us through Glen Alice, Glen Davis and around Lake Wallis.  Even along the busy motorway back from Blackheath to a hotel at Sydney Airport, Dion called out bird sightings that only those in the front seats could see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day we were off on a Qantas flight to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory.  Situated at Australia’s “top end”, Darwin’s climate is similar to that of other tropical countries near the equator, hot, humid and sweaty.  Even a short foray into the field for birding resulted in clothing sticking to wet skin.  We were an intrepid bunch, however, and followed Dion eagerly to find that new bird.  The Adina Hotel was our home for a couple of nights as we sojourned the Darwin area looking for more new bird species.  Howard Creek, Knuckey Lagoon, Buffalo Creek, and Lee’s Point were all visited as Dion continued his tireless search.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooinda Lodge in Kakadu National Park was our next destination.  The nearly four hour drive to Kakadu started after some early morning birding around Darwin.  It was a long haul getting to Kakadu National Park with lots of “road train” trucks on the two-lane highway.  A much needed break was lunch at the Orroboree Park Tavern with its huge crocodile statue in front.  There was much birding to be done in Kakadu National Park but I was attracted to the pristine aboriginal rock art found in the park.  While the rest of the group was searching for illusive feathered creatures, I concentrated on finding and photographing this very unique x-ray style of rock art.

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From the Cooinda Lodge at Kakadu we ventured to Knotts Crossing Resort in Katherine, Northwest Territory, birding along the way, of course.  The indigenous purple backed fairy wren was on everyone’s want list and Dion knew where to find it.  So, next day we were on the road at 4:45 AM for the two hour drive to the Victoria River crossing at Gregory.  Finding this diminutive bird was not easy.   For well over an hour, we trudged back and forth through dense flood plain vegetation.  Only Dion’s persistence kept us going and resulted in finally locating this illusive little bird.  I was not fortunate enough to photograph the bird, however.  The next day was another long one on the road as we traversed back to Darwin to catch an afternoon Qantas flight to the remote town of Alice Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Springs is a small community in the "red desert" of the Northern Territory.  The Mercure Hotel was our home for the night.  Temperatures continued hot in the desert but humidity became more tolerable.  The terrain changed noticeable to a desert environment with vegetation more open and geologic features more prominent. The ubiquitous large termite mounds continued to be a dominant feature of the landscape as we birded the Alice Springs area.  We searched for birds in the Simpson Gap, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Ellen Gorge areas.  Then it was off again in the minibus for the 270 mile drive to Uluru, the massive sandstone monolith formerly known as Ayer’s Rock.  On the way, lunch was consumed eagerly at the Erldunda Roadhouse, at Stuarts Well, an establishment typical of those along the Stuart Highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first Europeans explorers arrived at Uluru in the late 1800’s but tourism to this amazing geologic feature did not get started until the 1950’s when less than 3,000 intrepid travelers braved the 12 hour primitive travel from Alice Springs.  An entire tourist village was planned and constructed in the 1980’s and today, with completion of massive upgrades to the village, more than 350,000 visitors arrive to experience this sacred UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

By mid-afternoon, we arrived at the Desert Gardens Hotel where we all enjoyed an afternoon break after a long, bumpy ride through the “Red Center” of the Northern Territory.  That evening, Dion treated us to a champagne sundowner at the Uluru sunset viewpoint.  It was a perfect setting for our last night together.  But, next morning, Dion had us up early again for sunrise at Kata Tjuta, “many heads” in the aboriginal language, a group of large domed sedimentary rock formations about 16 miles to the west of Uluru.  The Victor Emanuel Nature Tour ended at Uluru and after lunch the resolute birders headed to the airport for their flight back to Sydney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane and I, on the other hand, stayed behind as we had booked two extra nights at the Desert Gardens Hotel.  Although we had thoroughly enjoyed the company of our birding friends, it felt really good to be on our own again after fourteen days of communal touring.  After bidding adieu to our fellow travelers, we prepared for a sunset helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta and Uluru.  We followed that up with a Uluru sunrise tour to complete our trifecta of sunrise, sunset and from the air views of the Uluru monolith.  I had also booked a night sky tour to photograph the Milky Way over Uluru, but unfortunately, the desert experienced one of its rare cloudy nights and that outing was cancelled.

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On Sunday, October 16th, twenty days after leaving home, we enjoyed a much needed sleep-in and leisurely breakfast, after which we shuttled to the Uluru Airport for our flight back to Sydney.  Our days in Sydney are described in the following Chapter 2 of the Blog.

NOTE: Bird photographs can be found on the Home Page - Bird Gallery - Birds of Australia Sub-Gallery

          Other trip photographs can be found on the Home Page - Australia Gallery

 

 


"On The Road Again"

September 20, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Borrowing words from a Willie Nelson song, late August 2022 saw me “on the road again”.  This late summer road trip was with my San Diego photo buddy Bruce Hollingsworth.  Bruce had driven from San Diego to Albuquerque for a week of photography in New Mexico.  It had been three long years since Bruce and I had hit the road together.  (See the 2019 “October’s Whirlwind Tour” blog for that trip with Bruce.)  I had picked a handful of New Mexico locations for this photo adventure.  After three years of not photographing together, we easily fell back into our normal travel routine with lots of humorous conversion along the way.  I should not forget to mention that my trusty and reliable Toyota 4Runner also thoroughly enjoyed being “on the road again”.

Bruce and I started this journey literally in my backyard with a short walk to the community gate into Petroglyph National Monument.  Two species of wren forage among the lava boulders scattered along the mesa escarpment, the rock wren and the canyon wren.  In the past, I had had success with calling the birds using an app on my phone.  It worked this time as well and we were able to obtain images of both birds.  After photography, it was a short hike back home for lunch.

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Shortly after lunch we headed west on Interstate 40 to El Malpais National Monument.  Not quite in my backyard but only about an hour and half up the road.  I had planned two photo objectives at El Malpais.  First, to photograph Mexican Short-Eared Bats as they emerged en masse from their lava tube cave, and second, some night sky photography with the Milky Way rising over the ruins of the historic Garrett Homestead.  Both these objectives were achieved.

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After a sleep-in the next morning, the plan was to drive to the small town of Truth or Consequences (referred to as T or C locally) and stay at the Sierra Grande Lodge for guided tours onto Ted Turner’s Armendaris Ranch.  Frequent blog readers may recall my September 2, 2021 blog where I had attempted to photograph Swainson’s Hawks preying on bats as they foraged for bugs on the Armendaris Ranch.  That was the plan also for this trip with Bruce.  Unfortunately, the plan did not work out.  Resent monsoon rains had made the dirt tracks on the ranch impassable.  Consequently, I had to improvise an alternative objective.  So, instead of touring the Armendaris Ranch, we scouted the area around T or C for a night sky photography opportunity.  Fortunately we discovered an old steel windmill within easy access of the paved road that made a great foreground for the rising Milky Way.  So, all was not lost at Truth or Consequences.

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Out next photographic target was the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.  Bruce and I had been there thirteen years ago, about the time we first started photographing together.  At that time we spent all our time on the lower portion of the petroglyph site.  This time, however, we concentrated our efforts on the “upper trail” where we had not photographed before.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of petroglyphs pecked into the boulders at the Three Rivers site and we found and photographed many new and fascinating panels.

After our morning shoot at Three Rivers, we turned north towards the small village of Mountainair where we planned to have a late lunch.  As it turned out, much to our chagrin, there was no restaurant in Mountainair for lunch.  We did find a deli counter hidden in the back of the grocery store where cold cut sandwiches were available.  The visitor center for the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is situated in Mountainair and that is where we photographed next.

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There is little light pollution at the remote location of this national monument.  As a result, I included this location on our itinerary with the intent of getting images of the Milky Way with the Abó Pueblo Mission ruin in the foreground.  Night access for photography required that I obtain a Special Use Permit from the Park Service.  During the process of obtaining the necessary permit, the park ranger suggested that if I volunteered to be a guest night photography instructor they would waive the permit fee requirement.  That was all arranged, Bruce and I would volunteer to assist with photography and the Park Service would arrange a night sky astronomy event at Abó for the evening we arrived.  I estimated that about 25 people participated in the night sky event.  Not all were photographers, but Bruce and I assisted those that were.  The evening turned out to be highly successful.  The Park Service was happy, Bruce and I were happy, and event participants were happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We spent the night in Mountainair at a funky roadside motel with few amenities and the constant rumbling of freight trains going by.  Needless to say, that was not a happy night.  We headed back to Albuquerque after that for a more restful night.  The next morning we were off again, this time north to the Santa Fe and Taos areas.  We photographed at a couple of other petroglyph sites.  The first was the La Cieneguilla site near Santa Fe, and the second was the Mesa Prieta site near Taos.

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The Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project (aka The Wells Petroglyph Reserve) is on private land and only accessible with a tour.  The site has an extensive collection of unique, undamaged petroglyph panels and I had wanted to photograph them for some time.  Fortunately, private tours were being offered again after a two year Covid hiatus.  Tours consisted of two hour hikes over boulder strewn hillsides.  I had arranged for two private tours, one in the afternoon and one the following morning.  Our docent guide was Cathy and her knowledge of local pueblo history and insight of the petroglyph panels made the tours very special.

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We concluded our week of New Mexico photography by visiting the Highway 64 steel bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge for some panoramic compositions.  Also open again after two years of Covid shutdown was the Taos Pueblo were we spent an hour or so as our last photography location.  After learning about the pueblo and its people, we packed up the photo gear and set the GPS for 9104 Lake Isabella Way Northwest.  Early the next morning, Bruce slid into his German made luxury sedan, set the cruise control for highway speed, and enjoyed his ride back to San Diego.  In retrospect, it was totally sweet for me to be back “on the road again”.

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