December 9, 2015: Kingfisher Park, Australia — Just before lunch today, I swept over the Great Barrier Reef, touched down in Cairns, and stepped onto my last continent of the year: Australia!
A respected birder named Del Richards was ready to roll, and, after a brief strategy session in the arrivals lounge, we headed out together to start racking up new species. Of all the birds that have ever been recorded in Australia, I’ve seen only about 30 percent, which leaves a few hundred to look for. How many can we find before the clock runs out?
It was one of those fun days when even the common birds are new. I saw my first Magpie-larks, Australian Pelicans, and Silver Gulls as soon as we arrived at the Cairns esplanade, and we tracked down a trio of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots at the Cairns cemetery. Del and I drove north out of town along a gorgeous coastline before eventually cutting inland over the Great Dividing Range. Along the way, we made many short stops to look for specific birds.
I could feel myself relaxing as the day progressed. Things in Australia feel cozily familiar after the past five uninterrupted months in the rural tropics of Africa and Asia. I’m a pretty easy traveler, but you never quite shake that underlying sense of staying alert all the time in foreign places. This country feels more like home than anywhere I’ve been since I passed through the U.S. in June.
It didn’t fully sink in that I am now, in fact, in Australia until we stopped for gas this afternoon at a country station. Del looked up and said, “Hey, check out that wire.” Sitting nonchalantly above us was a Laughing Kookaburra. Yes, this is Australia!
New birds today: 34
Year list: 5652