Monday, February 23, 2015

Return to Oz

Many of you loyal blog readers will recall with fondness my 6-month stay in Australia in the winter of 2012/2013 (well.... it was summer down there). Many adventures were had, cool reptiles touched, and several vehicles barely made it out of the outback. Not only was Australia a lot of fun but it's also the main reason I jumped over to New Zealand to visit some friends--one by the name of Lisa... and well... the rest is wonderful history! To crank the nostalgia dial back just a little more, the main reason I came to Australia, was because I had bumped into Nigel Jackett and Jaime Hall (an Aussie-Canadian and Canadian-Canadian respectively) in BC as they were completing their cross-Canada cycling birding big year. Nigel jokingly invited me down to Perth where they lived, and I took it seriously and showed up on their doorstep a few months later. Well all these 2 years later Nigel and Jaime were getting married and Lisa and I were more than happy to hop the Tasman and make a holiday camping week of it!
Russ & Lisa: Back in Oz together for the first time since a brief Easter weekend together in Adelaide in 2013. I think this was taken on the waterfront in Ulladulla--a few hours down the New South Wales Coast from Sydney. We were both filled with Thai food, love, and the inherent joy of picking out a lone Long-billed Corella from a flock of Little Corellas.
Waiting for the clouds to part at Fitzroy Falls. (Can you spot me betwixt the Asian tour group?)
Ahh that's better. Clouds gone, sun out--beauty!
I must say that the Hawkesbury Sandstone valleys of the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands of NSW are one of my favourite vistas I've seen. Almost like if the canyons of SE Arizona were filled up with rainforest and a few chattering lyrebirds.

Not far from the tall Fitzroy Falls are these "Twin Falls." And just like my visit with Jukka several years ago... no Rock Warbler!
Lisa going for a fully-clothed dip in this 'infinity-creek'
Still no Rock Warblers... but my eyes were still happy.
It was a sticky afternoon along the muddy Nowra River, so we kept our walk here short and opted for a nap in the shade. Another bust on Rock Warbler but Lisa bagged her lifer Striated Heron and Chestnut Teal, in addition to a pleasant reminder of out New Zealand home: European Blackbird.
After a long night arguing over whether the foul smell was my breath or some nearby cow paddies, Lisa discovered our answer the following morning: Dead Wombat.
As we meandered south (killing time before the wedding), we drove into a gorgeous isolated spot called Pebbly Beach. The rip tide here was a little disconcerting while swimming but the drive in through wonderful lowland forest was mucho fabuloso and the setting on the beach was stunning. Lisa and I were also lucky enough to watch a male Superb Lyrebird sing and display for a rather bored-looking female. Probably just playing hard to get.

Some of the pleasant forest we drove in over the course of the week. White-throated Treecreeper City.
Of course we did many other things that didn't involved nature. Most of that was eating ice-cream but we also did a fair bit of small-town art gallery and general shoppingy stuff. In this photo I was getting pretty hot and thus perhaps a little over-excited to find a 1970s country record of an artist I had actually heard of.
Next up was a day trip to Congo. Congo Beach that is, with its blood-red creek that mingles with the green salt water for some very cool colour combos.
Looks like an amazing beach right? Then why am I the only person swimming here? Well as it turns out, this area is thick with sting rays and just after this photo was taken I almost body-surfed on one that must have been 1.5 m across and was apparently visible to everyone watching from the beach! #TotallyWorthItButDidn'tSwimAgain
Ah and now finally for the main event. The wedding was held up in the hills above Berry (Nigel's parents' place--where I stayed a few times on my first Aussie tour). We didn't take very many shots at the wedding since pros were doing that, plus it's hard when you have wine in your hands. As you can see from this shot of the Mambo Big Band tent, the setting was wonderful. Everything was spot-on, from the touching ceremony to a great group of friends and family, wood-fire pizza, pig on a spit, amazing desserts, dancing, dancing, dancing, and a good number of us nerdy bird-watchers keeping a 'wedding list' that included Topknot Pigeon, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Eastern Yellow-Robin, and Peregrine Falcon. A massive thank you to Nigel and Jaime for the invitation to such a fun night--and if you're reading this, expect another visit some time in the future!
Gettin' all spiffy for the wedding. And capping off a wonderful week in Australia!

Still to come: A summary of what's been happening lately in New Zealand including where I am living, my first time teaching AND getting paid, and various other random highlights from February!


  1. Man it's gorgeous there! So glad you are doing so well and you both look so happy and in love! Lovely photos!!! Keep on keeping us all updated! All the best from Canada!

  2. Welcome back anytime Russ!....and Lisa! xo

  3. Just found this blog! Great fun. We are very excited for yours and Lisa's upcoming wedding!