Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Nov 14—20, 2009
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
The success of our 2009 Tasmania tour was beyond my already great expectations. Everybody saw all of the endemic birds, 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 bus and checked into the Grand Chancellor Hotel. We then spent a splendid afternoon at the wonderful Peter Murrell Nature Reserve. In a 100-meter radius of the car park we enjoyed point-blank views of the threatened Forty-spotted Pardalote (in fact, the first endemic seen by the group) and our only Satin Flycatcher of the tour, plus superb views of Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Yellow Wattlebird, and Black-headed and Yellow-throated honeyeaters. Perhaps most memorable at this location was watching a determined pair of Pacific Black Ducks protecting their recently hatched ducklings from a Swamp Harrier—an amazing drama that unfolded in front of us. We had a bit of time to explore further at the Waterworks Reserve. Birding was again very engaging with great looks at Scarlet Robin and some feisty interactions between the Gray and Black currawongs.
The next day we took the ferry to Bruny Island. It was to be one of those days! By the time the day was over we had seen all of Tasmania's 12 endemic birds extremely well. We also had superb views of a stunning White Goshawk, Sooty Oystercatcher, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Hooded Plover, Flame Robin, Olive Whistler, and the scarce Swift Parrot. We had a great experience with the first of several echidnas, and an amazingly tame Wedge-tailed Eagle feeding on a road-killed marsupial.
The next morning we spent a bit of time tracking down the Musk Lorikeet and were rewarded for our perseverance with great views. A visit to Orielton Lagoon added Musk Duck, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, Eurasian Skylark, and dapper White-fronted Chat to the Tasmanian trip list. More unexpected was a Barbary Dove, possibly two in Richmond. Hopefully this introduced bird is not getting established here! We drove north to Cradle Mountain with stops on the way finding Banded Lapwings and a couple of herds of introduced fallow deer. A pair of Blue-winged Parrots dashed in front of the bus near Great Lake and we managed to get some distant scope views of this uncommon and inconspicuous bird. 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. Before lunch we walked into some heath and tried unsuccessfully to flush a Ground Parrot. We enjoyed great views of Southern Emuwrens and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater as a reward for our efforts, while a Collared Sparrowhawk flushed some Swift Parrots in the car park of the town. We returned to Cradle Mountain for a siesta and then headed out in the late afternoon to Burnie. As night fell, the first of the Little Penguins came ashore. We were able to watch chicks being fed by their parents—a great encounter. On the return drive we saw a Tasmanian devil, several wombats, and brush-tailed possums.
After a sleep-in, we commenced exploring Cradle Mountain. We enjoyed stunning views of Scrubtit, Striated Fieldwren, Crescent Honeyeater, and Pink Robin. We completed one of the most memorable mornings of the entire tour with a platypus feeding below us from a bridge in crystal-clear water. It would be hard to improve on this view, even in a zoo. After lunch we drove to Forth before exploring back up into the Mountain Valley. Our host, Len, left morsels of road-killed marsupials next to our cabins. By 9:30 pm Tasmanian devils had arrived to take advantage of the easy protein. Clients 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 tracking down the Beautiful Firetail, and we had complete success with great views. Our last stop was the Tamar Wetlands. Hundreds of Black Swans and a smattering of other wetland species including Little Grassbird, Black-fronted Dotterel, Australian Shelduck, Chestnut Teal, Eastern Great Egret in breeding condition, and Australian Pelican 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, venison with fine merlot and Riesling before citron tarts with King Island crème and passionfruit sorbet cleansed the palate. A very fine tour indeed.