Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Nov 01—07, 2011
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
The success of this tour was beyond my already great expectations. Everybody saw all of the endemic birds of Tasmania, we had outstanding encounters with special mammals and superb wildflowers, and we enjoyed fine food 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 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 Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Yellow Wattlebird, and Black-headed and Yellow-throated honeyeaters. A bonus was a chance sighting of a long-nosed potoroo, one of several marsupials for which Tasmania is a haven. A stop at a nearby wetland produced a Dusky Moorhen (rare in Tasmania) and both Australasian and Hoary-headed grebes.
Flame Robin, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia, November 2011— Photo: Bill Clark
After a relaxed breakfast the next morning, we made it in good time to Bruny Island via the ferry. It was to be an outstanding day with Swift Parrots, attracted to flowering eucalypts near the wharf, being the first important bird sighting of the day. After a bit of exploring we soon had great views of the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote feeding over our heads, closely followed by a superb Beautiful Firetail. At the next stop, the endemic Dusky Robin was on the list, but it was somewhat superseded by a glowing male Flame Robin. After a delicious lunch at a local café, we were distracted by a small flock of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, and then caught a lucky break when a Blue-winged Parrot perched long enough to be scoped by all. Walking on a white sand beach turned up the hoped for Hooded Plover, and then we were into the temperate rainforest. Before long we had great views of the Strong-billed Honeyeater, Olive Whistler, and Tasmanian Thornbill, and our "mission Bruny" was largely accomplished. A beautiful echidna topped off a superb day.
The next morning we spent a bit of time exploring coastal wetlands in southeast Tasmania. Plenty of good birds included flocks of Musk Lorikeets, beautiful White-fronted Chats, a vagrant Little Egret, and a handful of Red-necked Stints, Red-capped Plovers, and Greenshanks amongst numbers of Pied Oystercatchers and Pacific Gulls. A visit to Lake Dulverton at Oatlands produced fine views of Hardheads and Australasian Shoveler.
We drove north to Cradle Mountain with stops on the way for 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.
Platypus, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, Australia, November 2011— Photo: Bill Clark
The next morning our great weather continued as we drove to the west coast town of Strahan. Before lunch we walked into some heath and tried—successfully—to flush a Ground Parrot, which gave a good flight view. We enjoyed great views of Southern Emuwrens, Striated Fieldwren, and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater as a reward for our efforts. A major bonus was finding a Lewin's Rail vocalizing in a large tussock. With some playback in a gap in the tussock we had the rail walking around less than two feet away and too close for binoculars—amazing views of this mega skulker.
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 and we enjoyed excellent views. On the return drive we saw more wombats, brush-tailed possums, and red-bellied pademelons.
After a sleep-in, we commenced exploring Cradle Mountain. 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. Satin Flycatcher and White Goshawk were both well-appreciated. 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; truly an exceptional natural history experience.
Tasmanian Devil, Mountain Valley, Tasmania, Australia, November 2011— Photo: Dion Hobcroft
On our final day in Tasmania, the leader was hatching a plan to visit a coastal site near Launceston. The plan worked like a dream, and in quick succession we had excellent sightings of White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Cape Barren Goose, Fairy Tern, Little Tern, Blue-billed Duck, Musk Duck, and Australasian Bittern. A lottery ticket should have been purchased such was our luck. Furthermore, we watched a gravid white-lipped snake and had an amazing chorus of endangered growling bell frogs at our feet.
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 cleansed the palate. A very fine tour indeed.
I would like to thank all the participants for a most enjoyable trip.