Spent the entire day on one of those field trips that are supposed to be educational, but nobody ends up learning anything at all, so we just end up goofing around. Yeah, it was one of those trips.
Started off at Lake Eacham, to take a swim test. Turns out that the lake is actually the crater of an extinct volcano, and has been filled entirely with rainwater, and has no river outlets. It’s also something like 50 meters deep. So yeah, treading water in the middle of the lake, fun stuff. I was starting to imagine a giant squid rising from the depths and dragging us down into its inky lair. Oh well, at least it wouldn’t be an octopus. Okay, just looking at that word typed on my screen, I’m shuddering. I’m seriously thinking of deleting it.
Anyways, at one point I was standing in the shallow end, and I felt this thing poking my ankle, I thought it was a rock at first, but then it stopped poking, and then came back in. Then I realized that A FISH WAS BITING MY ANKLE WTF. So now I have a small bite mark above my left ankle. I hope it scars over, best scar ever?
A few stops later we ended up at another extinct volcano, this one with an incredible overlook over a 80 meter deep hole, at the bottom of which was another lake. This crater was contained within a national park with some nice rainforest habitat, so we spent some time exploring it, and by exploring I actually mean playing frisbee on the lawn beside the parking lot. Come on, we see plenty of rainforest every day, what could possibly be new about this place?
And that’s when we heard that a Southern Cassowary was standing next to the trail.
Okay, woah. Oh man.
This is THE bird that everyone comes to Australia to see. It is a national symbol, alongside the koala, kangaroo, platypus, and all that other stuff. It’s critically endangered, it’s beautiful, it’s got character, it’s the perfect storm of a bird. Did I mention that it’s critically endangered? It’s incredibly difficult to find, and hadn’t been seen in this particular park for many many years. It was absolutely incredible luck that we happened to find one at all, much less standing right next to the trail, 50 meters from the parking lot. The whole group was ecstatic, taking dozens of pictures (I left my camera in the van again, I really need to make it a habit to carry it around), and generally just going wild. This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you’re actually self-aware of as they’re happening, and everyone realized it! I hate cliches, but it really was pretty magical. Previous groups have gone an entire semester without seeing a Cassowary in their prime lowland habitat. At this rate, we’ll see one every week!
I did pay a price for the Cassowary though: my first leech bite! I got back into the van, and as we pulled out of the parking lot, I gradually became aware of some pain below my right ankle, so I looked down and noticed a leech right on my sock line. I ripped it off and threw it out the window, but it was too late, I was bleeding, and I didn’t stop bleeding for the next five hours. Fun stuff! I ended up getting a bloody sock, Curt Schilling-style! And just as worth it, hah.
After a few more stops on the trip, I got back to the Centre. While all of my classmates are nice folks and fun to be around, they’re also pretty fond of drinking, so most of them are spending the night at a pub in Yungaburra, the nearest town. It’s just Blaine, Lauren, and I hanging around here. The three birders! We took advantage of the situation and went on another Blue-faced Parrot-finch expedition once we got back. This time, we got more lucky, and I got to show the other two their very first Blue-faced Parrot-finches. So in one day, the three of us managed to see the two most sought-after Australian birds. Simply amazing. Tomorrow, we’ll see if our momentum can hold as we go on the 6 km hike to the nearby curtain fig tree, a local attraction.
Lingo update: Gas station attendant said G’day to me as I bought a coke. Later, receptionist at Herberton Mining Museum said G’day to our Poli Sci professor’s wife. But no one else. Hmm…
And I almost forgot, the Coca-cola I got came in this slick new slimline can, how new is this? Are they available in America? Also, Coca-cola tastes a lot better with cane sugar than with the artificial stuff they use in the US.
And last, it’s time to update a few things. First, the bird list has been updated, I wasn’t able to do so the past few days, but now it’s fully up to date. 58 species?! I think it took me four or five years to get my last 58 species before this trip, so my mind is getting blown a continuous basis at this point, basically. I’ve added a link to the list on the sidebar as well. And now, on Evelyn’s suggestion, I think I’ll start a leech count too!
Leeches attached: ~30
Leeches who have feasted on my blood: 1
Fishes that have bitten my frickin ankle: 1
Rogers that are having the time of their life: 2. Oh wait. 1. Well, maybe there’s more than one Roger having the time of his life, who knows. But there’s at least one out there for sure.
And one last thing: I feel like such a dirty hippie when I sit on the veranda and play the acoustic guitar as the sun slowly sets over the rainforest. It’s a good thing that I suck at the guitar and it’s cloudy most of the time.