Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Oct 30—Nov 05, 2010

Posted by Dion Hobcroft


Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 170) to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, China, Southwest ...

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The success of this tour was 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 bus (taking time to get views of Musk Lorikeet) and then 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, plus superb views of Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Yellow Wattlebird, and Black-headed and Yellow-throated honeyeaters. We continued on to the Waterworks Reserve, finding our first Dusky Robins, a beautiful female Satin Flycatcher, stunning Scarlet Robins, and a performing Shining Bronze-Cuckoo.

The next day, after breakfast, we made it in time to Bruny Island via the ferry. It was to be an outstanding day with a lot of rainy weather making it quite challenging. One of the first birds encountered was the enormous Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, followed by the flamboyant Flame Robin. Down came the rain, and we took shelter in a lovely restaurant until it eased up. At our next stop we found two pairs of the endangered Hooded Plover, striking Pied and Sooty oystercatchers, and the enormous Pacific Gull that appears to wear lipstick. Offshore were a few Shy Albatross and numerous Short-tailed Shearwaters. A Beautiful Firetail performed superbly, and then we were into some temperate rainforest while the rain held off. The birds were also taking advantage of the break in the rain, and we soon had a flock of Strong-billed Honeyeaters overhead. A flock of stunning little Blue-winged Parrots gave us the best possible view. Just one species was holding out on us now—the threatened Swift Parrot. It seemed like the last minute when we heard and then had a brief flight view of a pair. Minutes ticked by as the ferry departure approached. Finally, the "Swifties" broke cover and perched up, ready to be scoped. Great views were enjoyed and we were on our way to the ferry—mission accomplished.

The next morning we spent a bit of time at Orielton Lagoon where we added Musk Duck, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-capped Plover, Eurasian Skylark and the dapper White-fronted Chat to the Tasmanian trip list. At Richmond we checked the pedigree of some mongrel Mallards where a calling Australian Reed-Warbler was more interesting. A visit to Lake Dulverton at Oatlands produced fine views of a trio of Australian Spotted Crakes (a species rarely observed in Tasmania) and some cooperative Little Grassbirds.

We drove north to Cradle Mountain with stops on the way finding Banded Lapwings and a herd of introduced fallow deer. 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, poor weather with frequent showers and strong winds saw us on our way to the remote west coast town of Strahan. Before lunch we walked into some heath and tried—successfully—to flush a Ground Parrot. We enjoyed great views of Southern Emuwrens, Striated Fieldwren, and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater as a reward for our efforts. 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—a great encounter. On the return drive we saw an eastern barred bandicoot.

After a sleep-in, we began exploring Cradle Mountain—with flurries of snow! We enjoyed stunning views of platypus, Scrubtit, Crescent Honeyeater, and Pink Robin. After lunch we drove to Forth before exploring back up into the Mountain Valley. After a lengthy effort we finally turned up the Olive Whistler—one of the few birds that was still holding out on us. 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. Participants were amazed to have this corgi-sized black and white marsupial carnivore bone-crunching away next to their doors. This was truly an exceptional natural history experience.

Our final day in Tasmania saw us birding around our cabins at Mountain Valley. It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed some excellent sightings including a huge female White Goshawk being hammered by Black Currawongs, outrageously cooperative Southern Emuwrens, and a Bassian Thrush.

At Narawntapu National Park the arguable highlight was a splendid view of a tiger snake and a fly-over Collared Sparrowhawk. We completed our birding at the Tamar Wetlands with a frustrating encounter with a Spotless Crake that was purring like an outboard engine buried in dense vegetation. Hundreds of Black Swans and a smattering of other wetland species including Little Grassbird, Black-fronted Dotterel, Australian Shelduck, Chestnut Teal, and Australian Pelican saw us leave our Tasmanian birding odyssey behind in spectacular fashion. A rare sighting of the threatened growling bell frog enjoyed the final binocular focus.

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 "hot berries" cleansed the palate; a very fine tour indeed.

I would like to thank the participants for a most enjoyable trip.