Tasmania - December 2010
December 23, 2010 — December 26, 2010
A birding/hiking trip with my dad to Tasmania. In a week I saw all 14 breeding endemics. Our time was spent in the southwest at Melaleuca and on Bruny Island.
Not bothering to go to the last day of school for the year, my dad and I both got on a plane and headed off to Tasmania. After a bit of a wait for the right weather conditions in Hobart, we finally got onto our Par Avion flight into the south-west.
After an exhilarating flight (lots of wind, so the plane was a bit shaky), we landed at Melaleuca. On the way to the hiker huts, we noticed the clouds looked a bit dark – we picked up the pace, and with about 200m to go, the heavens opened. We broke into a sprint – of course that was the point we flushed about 7 ORANGE-BELLIED PARROTS from the side of the track! Unfortunately, the rain was increasing, and we couldn’t stop, so we continued to the huts. Waiting for 30 minutes while the rain poured down felt like eternity. Eventually, it lessened and we headed over to the bird hide. Straight away, we were rewarded with fantastic views of 4 OBPs.
The rest of the day was spent in the hide, taking photos of the various birds that visited the feeder. Highlights included a small family of GREEN ROSELLAS, Beautiful Firetails, YELLOW-THROATED HONEYEATERS, a lone BLUE-WINGED PARROT (constantly being bullied by the OBPs) and a Rufous-bellied Pademelon. Later in the day, I found a foraging group of STRONG-BILLED HONEYEATERS near our hut, and a family group of DUSKY ROBINS were also around the general area.
The next morning brought slightly better weather, so I headed off in search of my second target for Melaleuca, the elusive Ground Parrot. After about an hour of tramping around through the button grass, I headed back to the hide when it started to rain, and had another wonderful session with the OBPs and Blue-winged Parrot. After chatting with the volunteers, Helen and Mick, I learnt that all the females (currently in their nesting boxes), and the 12 males currently frequenting the feeder represented the entire known wild population. If all the males were paired with a female, that means 24 birds at Melaleuca, and none anywhere else according to a survey done earlier in the season… not a promising outlook. (EDIT: Now recognised as being 35 birds after the breeding season)
Anyway, it was about that stage that the university student doing research on Tassie Devils ran back to the hide to inform me (knowing I’d been looking) that she’d just seen a Ground Parrot back near the huts. We hurried back over, and after tentatively stepping towards the spot it had flushed to, we flushed it again, a magnificent GROUND PARROT! We got brief views as it flew off about 100m into the grass. A quick attempt to re-locate it failed…
After breakfast, I decided to have one more go at Ground Parroting before we headed off on our hike to Cox Bight. I walked down into the grass, well away from the huts. I heard a trill way off to my right that sounded like a field-wren (would have been a lifer), so I headed off towards that. I heard a noise, and turned around to see a small, green blob running away through the button grass. Another Ground Parrot! This one was a polite Ground Parrot, and decided it was more convenient to walk away from me, rather than flush. He would walk a few metres in front of me, and as I tried to circle round to the side, he circled round too, giving me fantastic views! This was one of the highlights of to trip for me, and now when someone asks me what my favourite bird experience is, I’ll probably reply with “chasing Ground Parrots through the button grass plains (though soggy moorlands would be more accurate) of south-west Tasmania”.
The next day we hiked down to Cox Bight to camp for a night, then back to Melaleuca the next day (see Cox Bight Experience). On arrival back at the hikers huts, there was a 30 minute gap before the rain started… and didn’t stop for 4 hours! At one stage when the rain lessened for a few minutes, I raced over to the bird hide. As it is enclosed, it’s the perfect place to spend rain periods – warm, dry with great views of birds, including the resident OLIVE WHISTLER.
The next morning was meant to be our last day in the south-west. I spent my morning helping with the OBP count (as I had been doing every morning and afternoon). While walking back to the hut for some breakfast, dad felt something moving in his raincoat hood. Sure enough, when he put his hand in to get it out, an Eastern Pygmy Possum jumped out and ran into a clump of button grass. Helen picked him up and we took him back to the hut, where the night before he must have got into the raincoat.
Anyway, at about midday we were told we couldn’t fit on the flight out… and the weather was meant to be cr#p until Monday night, so we wouldn’t be able to fly out until Tuesday… We were a bit worried for a while there, we wouldn’t make it to Bruny if that was going to happen.
At 7:00, we were starting to get used to the fact we’d be there for a few more days. Suddenly, we heard the plane in the distance. A rush to pack up, and by 7:30 we were in the air. In my opinion, the south-west of Tasmania is a fantastic place, full of birds, other animals and fantastic scenery. I highly recommend going down there, preferably staying for a few days, just so you can see it all! Definately one of the best places I've ever been!!!Read more.
After my success with the Ground Parrot, the weather cleared up enough for us to head out on our hike. The plan was the walk 13km south to the coast, Cox Bight. Most of this walk was through button grass, so I was optimistic of finding more Ground Parrots. Unfortunately, we only flushed one from the side of the track. I did get some brief views of a BLACK CURRAWONG, and a few Yellow-throated Honeyeaters were also around, but not much else.
The birding really picked up as soon as we got to the beach. A beachcombing Black Currawong gave fantastic views – apparently they’re notorious for not being frightened of people in the slightest. This one sure wasn’t.
A few lifers quickly followed the Currawong. FOREST RAVENS were flying around the area, and two KELP GULLS were resting on the beach, amongst some Pied Oystercatchers. The highlight of the beach was 3 little birds sitting above the high tide mark, HOODED PLOVERS! When you look at the field guides, you wouldn’t think they’re particularly well camouflaged. Down here, I learnt quite the opposite!
Arriving at our beach front campsite, we quickly set up the tent. No less than 20 minutes later, it started to rain… heavily. For the whole hike, the rain clouds had been blown just to the east of us (literally, there was heavy rain 1km away from us pretty much the whole time!). Had we still been hiking, we would have been very wet indeed.
After an hour sitting in the tent, the rain finally stopped, and I got outside to tick off PACIFIC GULL, TASMANIAN THORNBILL and TASMANIAN SCRUBWREN. Most of the afternoon was spent trying to see the Crescent Honeyeaters calling all around me. Surprisingly, I didn’t see one! There was one in a dense bush 3m in front of me at one stage, and I couldn’t see it (except a brief, untickable flash as he flew off)
The hike back to Melaleuca the next day was also relatively quiet. Heard about 4 Ground Parrots call throughout the hike (not sure why the field guides say before dawn/after dusk – I heard one at 12:30), and flushed one of them. While looking for the parrot where it had landed, I finally found a pair of STRIATED FIELDWRENS, who were reasonably cooperative with a bit of pishing.Read more.
After a long sleep in a comfortable hotel in Hobart, we were off to Bruny Island. I was hoping to see Black-faced Cormorant at the ferry terminal, but that was not the case. Our first stop on Bruny was the start of what we thought was a rainforest walk that had the potential for Scrubtit. Turns out we were in the wrong spot, but I did see some lovely BLACK-HEADED HONEYEATERs and finally spied a CRESCENT HONEYEATER.
We eventually found the right place, Mavista Nature Walk (listed in the Bruny Island Brochure). I had been expecting to get Scrubtit in the south-west, but apparently I was mistaken… anyway – the Bruny Island brochure said this was a short walk through rainforest, which sounded good for Scrubtit, and this was my best guess because I’d neglected to research this location... 30 minutes, 20 leeches, and 10 scrubwrens later as we were approaching the car (about 50m to go) it occurred to me that there was probably going to be one at the end of the walk according to the laws of birding… 3 seconds later a SCRUBTIT flies in front of us!!! A great bird to have as number 500 for me!
Anyway, it turned on 2:00, and we went to check in at Inala. Run by Tonia Cochran, this property is set up specifically for birdwatchers, and the conservation of Swift Parrots and Forty-spotted Pardalotes. As always, we had just walked into our lodge when it started to rain. It didn’t stop raining for 2 hours…
Later that day, we did another rainforest walk – this one was much longer and much higher altitude, therefore colder. I was hoping to get better Scrubtit views, but this walk was almost completely birdless, save for 1 Yellow-throated Honeyeater, a few Crescents and a Black Currawong calling in the distance. Just as we got back to the car, it stated raining… Tasmania sure does love rain.
Eventually, this rain stopped, and I went for a walk around the property. Every Pardalote was checked, but none were the forty-spot. I didn’t see a lot of birds in my 2 hour wander, and when I got back to our accommodation my dad told me someone had come over to check we were comfortable and given him the location for Swift Parrots and the Forty-spots… turned out I’d been looking in the wrong place for 2 hours!!! I did manage to find some TASMANIAN NATIVE-HENS though.
Anyway, I walked down to the right place at 8:30 (yes, the sun was still out until 9:30, and it wasn’t dark until 10:30), and commenced my search for Forty-spots. After about an hour of checking Pardalotes, I was about to give up when I noticed a flash of green in a low down tree. Yes! I’ve done it! If finally bagged myself a SHINING BRONZE CUCKOO!!! :-/ Ticking this much needed bogey-bird must have been a consolation, as the Forty-spots didn’t show.
The next morning, I headed up to the Swift Parrot spot with the camera. No Swifties, but on the way down a flash of white alerted me to the white phase Grey Goshawk sitting in a tree in front of me. Bruny Island is famous for its white animals. The white phase goshawk is particularly prominent percentage wise, compared to “grey” birds, but most people come to see the white Red-necked Wallabies. I’m not sure why there are so many white wallabies here, but throughout our stay, we saw about 4 of them.
Heading back down to the Pardalote spot, I finally found a FORTY-SPOTTED PARDALOTE low down in the tree, and took a few bad photos, accidentally deleted later... Oh well, they were bad photos anyway!
Adventure Bay was next, aiming for Swift Parrots and, embarrassingly, the last endemic I needed, the Yellow Wattlebird… saved the easiest to find for last! A YELLOW WATTLEBIRD was found as we pulled into the car park, and a walk into an abandoned caravan park yielded about 7 SWIFT PARROTS in a flowering gum tree. The only flowering gum tree I saw on the entire trip! Every tree on Bruny Island had close-to-flowering buds, so would probably have been great the week after!
With all 14 endemic/breeding endemic birds ticked, I turned my attention to better views of Scrubtit. Another go at the Mavista Nature Walk found me a family party or 3 (maybe 4), giving some great views, but no photos, because using a camera in a rainforest on an overcast day is not my idea of fun.
Some BLACK-FACED CORMORANTS in the distance at adventure bay proved to be my last lifer for the trip. I saw 11 endemics in 3 hours and 15 minutes, and all 12 in 4 hours and 50 minutes (that's how long it took me to find a Yellow-throated Honeyeater) Just shows how awesome Bruny is for Tasmanian birds! The next day was really bad, with rain pretty much the whole time, and missing all the birds I aimed for (Satin Flycatcher, Grey Currawong, Pink and Flame Robin).
We left Bruny and headed back to Hobart, pondering what to do with the 3 hours until our flight. Due to my lack of research, I didn’t know where Fern Tree Gulley or Peter Murrell Reserve were (not that it would have been much use, with the constant rain and all), so we decided to head to the Botanic Gardens. I was hoping for Greenfinches or Skylark, but that was not the case, and most of our time was spend looking at plants… oh well ;-)
Overall, I ticked 25 new birds, and throughout the trip saw 75 species. The only big dips were the 4 mentioned just above. A good weeks birding in some of the most beautiful places on earth! A big thankyou to my dad for accompanying me, and my mum for booking everything.Read more.