Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Nov 01—07, 2008
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
Our 2008 Tasmania tour was successful beyond my already great expectations. Everybody saw all of the endemic birds of Tasmania, and we had outstanding encounters with special mammals and superb wildflowers. We enjoyed fine food, good wine, and a relaxed itinerary.
After a short morning flight from Melbourne, we loaded up into our van only to enjoy fine views of Musk Lorikeet in the airport car park. A quick exploration of Orielton Lagoon turned up great views of Great Crested Grebe. After settling into the hotel, enjoying some divine Tasmanian cuisine and a siesta, we opted for a "wild goose chase" in the afternoon—our target: the Cape Barren Goose. To make a long story short, a colorful conversation with a local farmer, who was disappointed we did not have a gun to remove said geese from his pasture, saw me driving the van cross-country to a small dam. Sure enough, ten Cape Barren Geese eyed us warily and allowed great scope views.
The next day we spent a splendid morning at the wonderful Peter Murrell Nature Reserve. In a 50-meter radius of the car park we enjoyed point-blank views of the threatened Forty-spotted Pardalote, several families of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos noisily demolishing Banksia seed cones, and a great view of the secretive marsupial known as the long-nosed potoroo. We took the ferry to Bruny Island where we saw all of Tasmania's 12 endemic birds extremely well, and enjoyed a swag of other specialties including all four cuckoo species; stunning Pink, Scarlet, and Flame robins; the ethereal Olive Whistler; and the endangered Swift Parrot prospecting for nesting hollows.
A stunning White Goshawk female perched and in the scope was our best highlight the next morning during our exploration of wet forest near Mount Wellington. This is an absolutely cracking bird and, amazingly, the first of three we were to find during our stay in Tasmania. We drove north to Cradle Mountain with stops on the way finding Banded Lapwing with chicks and a couple of herds of introduced fallow deer. Some excited screaming from the back of the van saw me braking hastily: Blue-winged Parrots offered us beautiful views in the soft afternoon light. Fantastic! No fewer than four echidnas were found, while at Cradle Mountain our first of several wombats proved to be a big hit. Again, the accommodations and food were first-class.
The next morning, good weather saw us on our way to the remote west coast town of Strahan. After lunch we walked into some heath, and after only a few yards we flushed a Ground Parrot that flew across the heath for more than a hundred meters, allowing all a good view of this rarely seen skulker. Striated Fieldwren, Crescent Honeyeater, and Brush Bronzewing made their debuts on our seen list.
After exploring Cradle Mountain in the morning and having stunning views of Scrubtit, Striated Fieldwren, and Tasmanian Thornbill, we journeyed down to the coast at Forth before exploring back up into the Mountain Valley. A short walk after our siesta turned up a stunning Beautiful Firetail. Hooray! As the afternoon light faded, we went to enjoy platypus foraging in the river next to our cabins. Our host, Len, left morsels of road-killed marsupials next to our cabins. By 9:30 p.m. Tasmanian devils had arrived to take advantage of the easy protein. Participants were amazed to have this corgi-sized black and white marsupial carnivore bone-crunching away next to their doors. Truly an exceptional natural history experience.
Our final day in Tasmania saw us visiting a number of beautiful coastal locations including Port Sorrell with an Eastern Curlew, and Narwantapu National Park with a superb perched Wedge-tailed Eagle and diurnal wombats. Our last stop was the Tamar Wetlands. Hundreds of Black Swans, Australian Shelducks, Pied Oystercatchers, and a variety of different ducks saw us leave our Tasmanian birding odyssey behind in spectacular fashion. It was time to head home, but not before one last final meal. We enjoyed lamb, oysters, and venison with fine Merlot and Riesling, before citron tarts with King Island crème and champagne sorbet cleansed the palate. A very fine tour indeed.