Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Nov 14—20, 2012
Posted by Dion Hobcroft
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 and a relaxed itinerary.
Forty-spotted Pardalote— Photo: Heather Alonzo
After a short morning flight from Melbourne, we loaded up into our bus (taking time to get views of Musk Lorikeet) and checked into the Grand Chancellor Hotel. Not wasting any time, we squeezed in a morning drive to the summit of a chilly Mount Wellington for a fine overview of Hobart and the Derwent River harbor. We stretched our legs in an easy walk around the Waterworks Reserve, notching up plenty of birds such as Hoary-headed Grebe, Pacific Gull, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Gray Currawong, and Striated Pardalote. 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 Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Yellow Wattlebird, Black-headed and Yellow-throated honeyeaters, and a superb pair of Satin Flycatchers. A stop at a nearby wetland produced a Dusky Moorhen (rare in Tasmania) and an Australasian Grebe.
The next day on Bruny Island was outstanding. After a bit of exploring, we soon had great views of the endangered Forty-spotted Pardalote feeding over our heads and the dour endemic Dusky Robin. These were followed by a glowing male Flame Robin and a small flock of feeding Swift Parrots. A beautiful echidna allowed a close approach, the first of three for the day.
After a delicious lunch at a local café, a walk on a white sand beach turned up the hoped for Hooded Plover. Then we were into the temperate rainforest. Before long we had great views of the stunning Pink Robin, a pair of endemic Strong-billed Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Crescent Honeyeater, and Tasmanian Thornbill; our mission Bruny was largely accomplished. While waiting for the return ferry we caught up with a beautiful White-bellied Sea-Eagle.
The next morning we spent a bit of time exploring coastal wetlands in southeast Tasmania. Again we enjoyed plenty of good birds including beautiful White-fronted Chats with a handful of Red-necked Stints and dapper Red-capped Plovers. There were good numbers of Pied Oystercatcher, Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe, and Pacific Gull. A visit to Lake Dulverton at Oatlands produced fine views of Hardheads and the sparse Australasian Shoveler.
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo— Photo: Heather Alonzo
We drove north to Cradle Mountain with stops on the way for Banded Lapwing and fallow deer. No fewer than four echidnas were found, and our first of several wombats proved to be a big hit. Again, the accommodations and food were first class.
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 Emu-wrens, Striated Fieldwren, and a magnificent Beautiful Firetail.
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—and we enjoyed excellent views of adults feeding chicks. On the return drive we saw more wombats, brush-tailed possums, red-bellied pademelons, and a bonus Tasmanian devil.
In the morning 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. Olive Whistler and a tiger snake 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. One couple enjoyed a bonus spot-tailed quoll.
On our final day in Tasmania the leader was hatching a plan to visit a coastal site near Bridport. The plan worked like a dream, and in quick succession we had excellent sightings of Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Blue-billed Duck, and Australasian Bittern.
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 cleansed the palate; a very fine tour indeed.
I would like to thank all the participants for a most enjoyable trip.