PACHYPTILA - Tasmania 04/10
April 2, 2010 — April 14, 2010
Bill and Jack wanted some sailing experience before their Heard Is trip later in the year. The opportunity arose to join Simon Mustoe's expedition to the sea mounts south and east of Hobart in Tasmania on the Blizzard in April 2010 (a yacht of similar size to the one that they will embark on in November). Over 40 species of seabirds were recorded including 3 new species for both Jack and Bill, best being Westland Petrel and Broad-billed Prion. But probably the highlight of the trip was a pod of the normally boat shy, Sei Whales. We sailed almost silently with at least 2 of these adult cetaceans for about half an hour from a few feet away at times. They also saw and photographed all the Tasmanian land bird endemics with extraordinatry views of Scrubtit.
We recommend viewing this report in expanded view mode. This way it shows the daily photograhs next to the blog copy.
This morning we got up at around 5am at Karen’s house to the sound of Pied Currawongs. Once we got dressed we headed out to St Leos at the university to pick up Billy who was taking the car back down to Bundaberg. After we said goodbye to Billy we boarded a Virgin Blue flight direct to Hobart. We arrived in Hobart at around 11am and got the hire car straight away. A pair of Musk Lorikeets were present here also. From here we drove straight to Peter Murrell Reserve south of Hobart for our first target bird of the trip; Forty-spotted Pardalotte. On the dam were some Tasmanian Native-hens as well as a pair of Green Rosellas. On the track that goes to the left just past the creek was where had the best birds at this site. Yellow-throated Honeyeaters and Yellow Wattlebirds were the third and forth endemics for the trip. Pardalottes were numerous here totalling about 30 individuals. The most common (and obvious) was Spotted Pardalottes with a few Striated Pardalottes in the taller trees but we eventually got onto two FORTY-SPOTTED PARDALOTTES. They are a nice little bird with a greeny/yellow shade around there face with a very obvious eye. There wings are black with numerous spots (presumably 40). Other birds seen here included Black-headed Honeyeater, Cresent Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Wedge-tailed Eagle (3), Grey Currawong, Forest Raven and other common tassie birds. From here we went to the west of Hobart to the summit of Mt Wellington. At the summit there weren’t any birds. On the way down we stopped at S 42 54 49 E 147 14 45. This was just a random stop but proved very productive. The highlight was a young male PINK ROBIN. They are a plump little bird with our one having a light pink wash down its front and a orange double-bar on its wing – very nice. We also saw Tasmanian Scrub-wren, Tasmanian Thornbill and heard a Black Currawong. Once we reached the base we decided to walk up the Fern Glade Track. The highlight was a single Scrubtit about 200m down the tack where the two tracks join. There were also plenty of Tasmanian Scrub-wrens. Once we got in the carpark a large wave of birds had come through. These included; STRONG-BILLED HONEYEATER (12), Black-headed Honeyeater (20), Yellow-throated Honeyeater (6), Cresent Honeyeater (4) and Pink Robin (1). The Strong-billed Honeyeaters were unfortunately a long way away so the only details were a melithreptus with a white throat. After this extremely successful afternoon we had recorded 11 out of the 12 breeding Tasmanian endemics. From here we went and found accommodation at the Leisure Inn, Hobart. We went and had Indian around the corner for dinner.Read more.
This morning we got up at around 6:30am and did a repeat of the birding in yesterdays afternoon. When we arrived at Peter Murrell Reserve there was lots of activity around the carpark. After scanning the flocks for a while we had good looks at a Forty-spotted Pardalotte in with Spotted Pardalotte (40), Tasmanian Thornbill (20) which was a bit confusing with the odd Brown Thornbill around. All of the same birds as yesterday were seen with the additions of Eastern Rosella and Eastern Spinebill. From here we then drove to Fern Glade Track and walked to the spot where we had Scrubtit yesterday. They were still there and we had much better views. Around the carpark proved very productive with our first sightings of BLACK CURRAWONG. They are similar to the more common Grey Currawongs but with a black vent and white edges to the primaries (rather than bases). We also had our first sightings of a male Pink Robin. By this stage we had picked up 11 of the endemics with 1 still to go (the surprisingly elusive Dusky Robin). Driving along the Huon River we saw waterbirds including; Chestnut Teal, Australian Pelican and Crested Tern. We finally caught up with Dusky Robin at a location S 43 11 18 E 146 56 05. There were plenty of birds here including White-browed Woodswallow (3) and Blue-winged Parrot (1). We were surprised to see the Woodswallow so far south but our record is certain because of the excellent views and our familiarity with the species. It is unusual for us not to see Masked Woodswallows with them though. From here we then checked into the Driftwood Cottagse in Dover where Swift Parrots were recorded recently. Unfortunately there wasn’t any but it was good to see both Kelp Gull and Pacific Gull in all plumages standing side by side. The small bill and terminal band on the Kelp Gulls made them easy to separate after some practise. We then headed up the hills to Esperance Rd which looked like it might go through some Masked Owl habitat. From there the road turns into Peak Rivulet Rd. At the crossing of Peak Rivulet we stopped and looked for the owl. We had a single male MASKED OWL fly over the car. This bird didn’t appear to be as dark as some of the pictures although it still had the thick rufous mask and slight rufous underparts. The talons were also much too big for Barn Owl. The GPS location is S 41 19 00 E 146 53 39. Other wildlife seen on this spotlight was; Australian Owlet-Nightjar (heard), Common Brush-tailed Possum (16), Tasmanian Pademelon (9), Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby (1) as well as a road killed Eastern Barred Bandicoot. This rounded off a very successful day with all endemics seen as well as Masked Owl sub species castanops. For dinner Dad cooked a Wild Rice risotto with Atlantic Salmon.Read more.
This morning we slept in a bit until around 7am and Dad and I went for a walk along the beach while Karen slept in. The highlight of the morning was a single SWIFT PARROT belting overhead. The streamlined body with a ‘migratory bird’ shape. This appeared to be a late bird as most books say they leave just before April. Unfortunately it was not relocated and this was the only look we got. On the water Black-faced Cormorant, Sooty Oystercatcher and Australasian Gannet were of interest. Adult male Flame Robin and Scarlet Robins near by made a colourful change from the numerous juvenile gulls around. White-browed Woodswallow (15) were seen here although we thought nothing of it at the time. Other more common birds were also seen here. After checking out from the Driftwood Cottage we left for Mt Field National Park. On the way we stopped again at the Dusky Robin site as the camera settings changed and the pictures didn’t turn out. We saw a single Dusky Robin as well as a Strong-billed Honeyeater. After we left this site we spent a while in Greeveston actually doing some ‘touristy’ things. We then went out to Tahune Air Walk to try and get a good picture/view of Strong-billed Honeyeater. When we got there it was a massive coincidence to meet a family who Dad had built their house. At the end of the walk we saw our only Strong-billed Honeyeaters; none at the air walk. There was very few birds in the area which was surprising although there were lots of tourists. We had lunch at the café. While we ordered lunch Dad and Karen first ordered a salmon sandwich; five minutes later they came back saying that they had sold out, so they ordered a steak sandwich. The same process happened again. Eventually they settled for a chicken sandwich after spending half an hour ordering. From here we then drove to New Norfolk to stay the night. On the drive there was plenty of wildlife on the rivers. These included; Musk Duck, Great Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant as well as Swamp Harrier and Musk Lorikeet. We stayed at a motel at night and had a curry for dinner (we latter found out that it was an old mental institute).Read more.
This morning we got up early at our mental institute,now Willow Grove Motel, and headed towards Mt Field National Park. On the way we got some sandwiches and some breakfast at a servo. On the drive in we added a Brush Bronzewing to the trip list. Of interest right at the base of Mt Field NP there is actually a bed and breakfast which would be worth staying at. After getting our car pass and a bird list we headed out towards the waterfalls. They were magnificent and we had great views of some of the more common birds including Tasmanian Scrubwren and Pink Robin. A single Bassian Thrush was seen and we heard a few Superb Lyrebirds. The highlight of the day was probably a pair of Scrubtits which showed incredibly well at Tall Trees Walk. We had our best views of Strong-billed Honeyeaters near the ranger’s office side by side with the more common Black-headed Honeyeaters. At around 2:30pm while Dad and I were looking at Tasmanian Tree Skinks Karen settled her new house at Mt Gravatt. In honour Karen has named her house ‘Niveoscincus’. The views of rainforest and lichens for the morning was amazing with the best seen at Lady Barron George. When we got back to the clear area back at the camping ground we had our sandwiches for lunch. Here Dusky Robins, Black Currawongs, Tasmanian Native-hens and Green Rosellas were being fed around the tables which allowed close views. Just after lunch time we headed back towards Hobart where we booked back into the Leisure Inn and headed towards Constitution Dock. On the way I saw a pair of neophemas. These turned out to be a flock of Blue-winged Parrots with a total of 16 birds which were new for Ms D’Angulair. At Constitution Dock we saw the boat ‘Blizzard’ where we were going to spend the next 4 days looking for Broad-billed Prions. After this we went to the upmarket Upper House Restaurant for celebration of Karen’s new house.Read more.
This morning we slept in (it was rather hard as Karen’s snoring was almost as bad as the jackhammers that went during the day) and then headed out to Peter Murrell Reserve for a third time in hope of getting a photograph of Forty-spotted Pardalotte. This time we walked right to the second dam. Here a single Hoary-headed Grebe and Platypus were seen. Apart from this all of the normal birds were seen excluding the Forty-spotted Pardalotte (it was very windy at the time). We saw our first tassie dragonflies for the trip being Tau Emerald and Blue Ringtail Austrolestes annulosus. After we left here we stopped at the Australian Antarctic Division where we looked around for a while. After lunch at the AAD we went back to the Leisure Inn and slept for a few hours. Once we got up we took the bags over to the Blizzard and met up with a few people who were going on the boat. We then went to pick up Simon Mustoe from the airport seeing Musk Lorikeet and Eastern Rosella on the way. After picking up leader Simon we got on the boat and then headed out of the Derwent River. For dinner Fred cooked a green curry.Read more.
The following trip report is worded from Simon Mustoe's trip report (http://aussiebirding.wildiaries.com/trips/318/report) because of sea conditions and battery issues at the time.
Spotlighting Antarctic Prions over a remote seamount in dead calm seas, whilst watching dozens of big luminous invertebrates drift by as bright as childs' glow sticks; looking down on the 4m-wide tail flukes of a Sei Whale, beating powerfully upwards, driving its 15m body just below the surface; battling a main sail against sudden gale force winds; and seeing over 200 Gould's Petrels as well as an assortment of other rarely seen seabirds, including Wandering Albatrosses, Subantarctic Little Shearwaters and Broad-billed Prions.
These are just some of the experiences on the latest Blizzard Expeditions pelagic deep into the Southern Ocean.
Thanks to all those who came and made it a very enjoyable experience: Simon Mustoe, Bill Moorhead, Jack Moorhead, Tracey Cuin, Michael Hansen, Bill Wakefield, Else Wakefield, Grant Penrhyn, Alexandra Ferguson and Bob Way. Thanks also to our Captain David Pryce and Frederique 'Fred' Olivier.
The first morning brought increasingly strong winds from the south west. The seas built to around a 3-4m swell and wind speeds were a sustained 25 knots by the afternoon, gusting occasionally to around 40 knots. It rained continuously and was not the most pleasant of birding conditions. Almost everyone felt a bit ill but we still managed to rack up a significant list of birds. The highlights were a large number of Subantarctic race LITTLE SHEARWATERS, several GOULD'S PETRELS and a single NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS. The Moorheads found one BLUE PETREL.Read more.
Sightings were dominated by GOULD'S PETRELS, with 78 in all seen, along with some more SUBANTARCTIC LITTLE SHEARWATERS. A large pod of COMMON DOLPHINS was seen which contained a number of STRIPED DOLPHINS as well.
That evening, we finally reached the seamount and the sun set red over a calm sea. After dinner, we got a spotlight out to see what was appearing from the ocean beneath. Beneath us were literally hundreds of large salps, like unicellular jellies, some arranged in sticky chains many metres long. There were also small lantern fish and strange furry, phallic objects that looked like pink paint rollers. To our surprise, these occasionally glowed a bright luminous green like a kid's glow stick. The sea was alive with flashing green lights. An ANTARCTIC PRION appeared in our spotlight and flew in, alighting on the water a few metres away and GOULD'S PETRELS flew past. There was even a moth on board the next morning, no doubt attracted by the cabin lights but still over a hundred miles offshore. Read more.
A second WESTLAND PETREL appeared and, as with the individual seen yesterday, decided to be remiss and avoid approaching the vessel. The photos, though showing the dark bill tip (also observed in the field) leave little to be desired and so are not included here.
And then, the birding highlights of the day. Not one but two BROAD-BILLED PRIONS, a species so rare in Australian waters that few have ever been recorded. It was on this trip last winter that over 500 were seen and there were doubts whether any would still be present. Along with a small flock of ANTARCTIC PRIONS on the sea was another bulkier-billed and different looking prion - a SALVIN'S PRION. All in all, a very successful day and only half way through.
Then later, just as the trip leader decided to take a well-earnt extended toilet break, there came the cry "whale blow". Literally metres from the boat, a large baleen whale surfaced. For the next half an hour, we sailed slowly at a constant heading and these two SEI WHALES remained ahead of us. Oily-looking patches of water ahead were tell-tale signs of the driving upbeat of the creatures' tails as they powered ahead and then, unexpectedly, the tail appeared literally metres from our bow. Hanging over the bowsprit, this 4m wide fin beat up and down so we slowed, the animal moved forward and surfaced. This was the most incredible encounter with an animal so rarely seen and the last of the great whales to face persecution from hunters. And so, those of us who should have been, were not so upset to learn that as we were watchng these amazing animals, those at the back of the vessel saw a lone BLACK-BELLIED STORM PETREL drift by.
As if that wasn't enough, as we headed north, we were treated to a brief encounter with a mixed group of Long-finned Pilot Whales and massive Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins. They were frenetically feeding, falling out the back of the swell. The group was so tight-packed it was any wonder they were not colliding with each other. Presumably, they were hunting a shoal of fish beneath.
Then, almost as fast as this came, it went again. The sun came out and we continued onward, past the fluted rocks of south Bruny Island. By that afternoon, we were again sunning ourselves on the decks, gathering views of COMMON DIVING-PETRELS and hearing the conspicuous "waark" of LITTLE PENGUINS.
This morning we slept on a solid bed until around 8am when we got up and had a shower. Before breakfast Dad and I walked to an optometrist to fix the glasses he had sat on. Once we got back we packed the bags and headed south towards Whites Beach where we had a beach shack for 2 nights. On the way we stopped to get some food at Sorell at a place where Dad remembered going to 20 years ago. Here we bought gluten free sausages in memory of Simon and the Bastard cheese we bought also reminded us of him. Another interesting purchase was Billy Goats Cheese (also aren’t Billy Goats the males!?). We also got supplies at Woolies where we also had Scallop Pies for lunch. Pied Oystercatchers were seen along the way to White’s Beach. Here one of Karen’s friends, Becher, had lent us his beach house for a couple of nights. This was an excellent place and we can’t thank Becher enough. An interesting observation was a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles calling there heads off in gale forced winds as the cold front showed us that we got back just in time. For dinner Dad cooked a coriander mash drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and Red Kelly’s Sunday Roast Spices served with barbeque seared Blue-eye Trevally and a banana.Read more.
This morning we got up reasonably early then headed out the back. After a quick look we came back and cooked breakfast. A triology of sausages barbeque grilled comprising of quail and lemon myrtle, middle eastern gluten free spicy sausage and kangaroo and duck served with dollops tandoori, roasted capsicum, olives and banana with Tasmanian Apple Juice as a beverage was for breakfast. For a couple of hours we then did a lap of the peninsular following bush tracks. Birds included; Common Bronzewing, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Grey Currawong and Black-headed Honeyeater. When we got back we sat outside in the sun in perfectly calm weather after the gale forced winds of yesterday watching Scarlet Robins feeding on the lawns. For lunch we had some salmon on bread. For dinner Dad cooked a korma of Tasmanian lamb with lemon myrtle, capers, yellow capsicum and sweet potato served in degustation format with 2 to 3 plates for each. It tasted excellent. We went spotlighting and located Southern Bettong, Ring-tailed Possum and Common Brush-tailed Possum. The most interesting observation of the night was Karen’s snoring was actually shaking the walls.Read more.
This morning Dad got up the earliest and went for a walk around. Here he saw Green Rosella (18) and Sooty Oystercatcher (2) among others. After having breakfast we packed all of our gear, left the shack and headed towards Hobart. On the way we stopped at a café were Karen cracked 101 Oysters for the trip. At around 9am we arrived at the Hobart Airport and we were farewelled from Tasmania by Musk Lorikeets. We arrived in Brisbane at around 2:30pm and took a taxi to University of Queensland were we picked up our car. After farewelling Karen we drove to Bundaberg in rain and arrived at around 9pm.
I would like to thank Bill and Karen for being great company, helping me at anytime, Dad for his excellent meals (even better than usual) and birding skills and sites, Karen especially for waving us off at the dock and the transportation to and from.
I would like to thank the boat crew French first mate Fred letting us know it would be no trouble landing on Kerguelen Island, Dave the skipper for being the fantastic navigator (especially with the Sei Whales) and skipper, Simon Mustoe for organising the trip and being inspirational (and cunning), Bill and Ellis for following up our report on White-browed Woodswallow and getting photos of the second Broad-billed Prion, Alex for always being friendly and enthusiastic, Michael and Tracy for being willing to learn about Australian seabirds, Bobby Way for being Bobby Way and convincing us to do a live blog on the Heard Island trip and Grant for being on dawn to dusk sea birding and photographing watch and getting the diagnostic shots of Salvin’s Prion and Little Shearwater.
Thanks to Billy for dropping off the car, lady at the optomertrist for fixing Dad’s glasses after he sat on them, Leisure Inn receptionist for giving us free drinks as the lift wasn’t working (we always used the stairs anyway).
Thanks to birding aus contributors for the good birding sites, Michael Todd especially for the Masked Owl information.
Special thanks to Becher for lending us borrow his shack and let us have a ‘proper’ relaxing holiday.Read more.