Big Twitch: One Man, One Continent, a Race Against Time—A True Story about Birdwatching
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hotel, insisting I come up and have a drink with them. I felt like John Wayne rolling into some town in the Old West, but instead of showgirls with a heart of gold these ladies turned out to be a Kiwi nurse and her aunties…with hearts of gold. The niece had been working in an Outback hospital further north and was heading home to New Zealand. Her aunties, who lived in Australia, had decided they would go up and drive her down to Adelaide, giving them all a holiday. They certainly were festive
with a spinifex understorey. It all looks the pretty much the same which explains, though not excuses, how I managed to get lost one day despite having GPS and a compass. I climbed to a small ridge under a fiercely blazing sun and sat down under a scraggly gum tree to try and work out my bearings. There was no sign of my camp. All around me was wilderness. A hazy figure seems to materialise before me. Perhaps it is a fellow lost soul – or perhaps I’d been in the sun too long for it assumed the
Botanic Gardens, QLD 270 Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Lonchura castaneothorax, Feb 12, Hope Island, QLD 271 Common Tern, Sterna hirundo, Feb 12, Brunswick Heads, NSW 272 Little Corella, Cacatua tenuirostris, Feb 12, Brunswick Heads, NSW 273 Bar-shouldered Dove, Geopilia humeralis, Feb 12, Brunswick Heads, NSW 274 Osprey, Pandion haliaetus, Feb 12, Ballina, NSW 275 White-cheeked Honeyeater, Phylidonyris nigra, Feb 12, Evan’s Head, NSW 276 Gull-billed Tern, Sterna nilotica, Feb 12, Ballina,
the dust in a final act of defiance before it finally met up with the cool change sweeping in from the south. Everything was bothered and unsettled. Everyone you met was shitty because they hadn’t had a good night’s sleep due to the heat. I loved days like this. I never feel more invigorated than during episodes of extreme weather, even my very discomfort was a visceral reminder that I was alive. And there were few better destinations for a birder to be alive in than the little town of Chiltern.
White-bellied Storm-Petrels. Exactly one minute later, the first of the passengers lost their lunch over the side. When I left the island the next morning, I looked back from the plane and the sun broke though the clouds shining exactly as it had in my dreams all those years. CHAPTER 27 1 November, Nullarbor Plain, South Australia: 625 species Sighting the Australian landmass as the plane from Lord Howe approached Sydney, I was struck with the daunting reality that in the next few