Hello from Melbourne, Australia - November 12th, 2012

I'm in the first of two legs of my vacation. The first leg is Melbourne, Australia. My second leg (and ultimate destination) is the Australian island of Tasmania, where I'll be a member of a small, guided birding tour. We'll be trekking primarily around Tasmania's forest reserves and bodies of water.

It was a six hour flight from NYC to LA, a two hour layover, then a fifteen hour flight from LA to Melbourne. I got off the plane ten hours ago and am doing alright jet lag-wise so far. Melbourne is currently 16 hours ahead of NY time. 

This is actually my fourth visit to Australia but first time this far south. I adore the country's more laid-back attitude, remoteness, and beautiful natural world. When I heard about this birding tour I knew I had to come!

View outside my hotel window (South Yarra neighborhood):

View from left to right:

Today I visited nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, a meticulously manicured and carefully planned park.

Some of Melbourne's skyscrapers viewed from the park:

Bird with grub:

Australian Wood Duck (male):

Eurasian Coot:

Purple Swamphen (or Pukeko to Kiwis/New Zealanders) below (amazing and fun bird). My jaw almost hit the ground when I saw it (it walked right by me) but the locals around me didn't even look twice! These birds must be as common-looking as our Canada Geese in the northeast United States.

Gull giving me the stink eye:

The bird was in a bad mood apparently. It had chased off a few other gulls and walked around like it owned the place.

Black Swan and brood (we're approaching summer in the Southern Hemisphere so these are this year's spring kids):

Pacific Black Duck:

Dusky Moorhen:

Male Chestnut Teal:

Some of the Garden's flora:

Birds of Paradise (so fitting!):

Banyan Tree:

Magpie with grub:

The Magpie's friend:

I'm so used to hearing NYC traffic outside my window. The loudest things I've heard all day outside my hotel windows are various bird songs and calls.