December 24, 2015: Paynes Find, Western Australia — My seven-hour flight from Auckland to Perth this morning seemed like two hours, at least with the five-hour time difference. I landed just after lunch and met a local birder named Frank O’Connor, with whom I had spent several days earlier this year in Ecuador. Frank knows the birds of southwest Australia as well as anyone and, even better, is gung-ho to spend this Christmas birding with me! 

He arrived with a color coded list of target birds, including estimated probabilities of encountering each species, printed on a sheet of paper: My Christmas wish list! Frank calculates that, over the next couple of days, we can expect to find 30.6 new birds (well, make it 31), which would be right on target. I like a man who isn’t afraid to make predictions.

By dusk we were 450 kilometers northeast of Perth along a remote section of the Great Northern Highway in a dry landscape of stunted Eucalyptus, mallee, and mulga. We are staying tonight at a roadside station called Paynes Find, which isn’t much more than a few outbuildings, an old mine pit, and a stand of windblown trees. A sign outside of town says, “Next Services 275 Kilometers.”

Before dark this evening, we tracked down a Redthroat and a Rufous Fieldwren, each one about the size of a stocking stuffer. I am drifting to sleep tonight under a nearly full moon in the wide-open Australian outback, dreaming of the birds Santa will bring tomorrow. Happy Christmas Eve!

New birds today: 6

Year list: 5955

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