Grand Australia: Tasmania Extension Nov 01—07, 2016

Posted by David James


David James

David James is an Australian birder and ecologist. In 1982, a teenaged David joined a pelagic trip off Sydney Australia, just for a lark. He was instantly hooked on seabird...

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On this magnificent tour of Tasmania’s finest wildlife and scenic locations, everyone saw all of the endemic birds of Tasmania and a selection of highly sought-after southern Australian specialties as well. With a relaxed and leisurely itinerary, we had ample time to enjoy spectacular scenery and partake in Tasmania’s famously fine dining. Challenging weather conditions frustrated our birding on occasions and, in the end, amazing encounters with Tasmania’s bizarre and charming mammals stood up to steal the show. 

Tasmanian Native-Hen

Tasmanian Native-Hen— Photo: Larry Wilson


After landing in Hobart in the midmorning, we visited some wetlands on the way to the city and our hotel. At Orielton Lagoon we saw many Kelp Gulls and some Black-faced Cormorants at a breeding island. Both Sooty and Pied oystercatchers were very obliging, huddling along the shoreline in the saltmarsh. We took a scenic route through the historic town of Richmond to the delightful Gould’s Lagoon. From the boardwalk we enjoyed close-hand views of two Freckled Ducks, a Blue-billed Duck, and a dozen Australasian Shovelers. Tasmanian Native-Hens, Black Swans, and an assortment of strange Mallard-hybrids all had chicks in tow. A few Musk Lorikeets eventually gave excellent views, swaying wildly in the wind amongst the eucalypt blossoms. Looming over the harbour City, Mt. Wellington, glum and brooding, was wreathed in clouds. After lunch we visited Waterworks Reserve, nestled under the mountain in Hobart’s hinterland. Strong-billed and Black-Headed honeyeaters, Dusky and Scarlet robins, and Dusky Woodswallows all gave us great views. A male Satin Flycatcher and Striated Pardalotes showed well, while Tasmanian Scrubwrens and Gray (Clinking) Currawongs were shyer. A couple of Tasmanian Native-Hens were grazing the lawns peacefully. We returned to our accommodation, the very scenic Somerset on the Pier in Hobart’s historic waterfront district, and dined at Mures, one of Tasmania’s finest seafood restaurants.

Bennett's Wallaby, albino

Bennett’s Wallaby, albino— Photo: Larry Wilson


The next day we traveled to the unspoilt Bruny Island for some amazing wildlife encounters. Near Roberts Point we found half-a-dozen Swift Parrots, living up to their name, zooming between the treetops of enormous Tasmanian Blue Gums. Yellow Wattlebirds and Green Rosellas added to the mix. Wild winds threatened to scuttle our chances of finding the rarest endemic, the Forty-spotted Pardalote. But with persistence we found a sheltered glade, a small flock, and low-down a little nest hollow. The pardalotes returned repeatedly to feed their hidden chicks, and we could see them almost close enough to count the spots. Spotted and Striated pardalotes were also present for comparison, while Black-headed and Strong-billed honeyeaters were feeding young out of the nest. A pair of magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagles (the rare Tasmanian subspecies fleayi) glided low overhead, only to be chased off by Forest Ravens. At The Neck we found mobs of Pied Oystercatchers and some Sooties too, while regal Pacific Gulls were hunting crabs in the shallow bay. Around Adventure Bay we found more Swift Parrots, a lone Hooded Plover, a Flame Robin feeding her youngster, and flocks of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. After lunch the winds picked up and rain squalls chased us out of the wet forests, but not before we had excellent views of Strong-billed Honeyeater and Tasmanian Thornbill. We found a little enclave of spectacular albino Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallabies in farmland behind Adventure Bay. Particularly impressive was an albino female with a normal dark joey’s head peering from her pouch. Both Flame and Dusky robins were hunting around the paddock. A Gray Goshawk, a female of the white morph, gave prolonged views as it sat on a perch surveying the fields. Returning on the ferry, we watched a White-bellied Sea-Eagle patrolling the coastline. 

Crescent Honeyeater

Crescent Honeyeater— Photo: Larry Wilson


On Day 3, dawn found Mt. Wellington fresh and bright, dusted with sparkling snow. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed to Cradle Mountain. A stop at historic Oatlands produced Musk Duck, Hoary-headed Grebes, and delightful Yellow-rumped Thornbills. Touring the Tasmanian Central Highlands, we encountered several obliging Short-beaked Echidnas and a herd of Fallow Deer. They made us work, but we managed fantastic views of Crescent Honeyeater. 

Arriving at Cradle Mt., we encountered Common Wombats, Tasmanian Pademelons, and Bennett’s Wallabies calmly grazing in the meadows around our cabins. On a short walk before dinner we were blessed with incredibly close views of the truly exquisite Pink Robin and several Black Currawongs. In the mossy Gondwanan cloud forest we found an obliging Scrubtit, lots of Tasmanian Thornbills, Tasmanian Scrubwrens, and a single Yellow-throated Honeyeater. We now had found all twelve of Tasmania’s endemic bird species. 

The next morning we enjoyed watching two Platypi foraging in the little pond behind our cabins. We couldn’t help but take another look at Pink Robin. Then we set off on a spectacularly scenic drive to the west coast town of Strahan. Before lunch we walked into some heath and tried to flush a Ground Parrot, but the winds had built to gale force and we were thwarted. Yielding, we went to the unprotected west coast to witness the legendary Roaring Forties at their ferocious worst, driving the Great Southern Ocean into a frenzy that pummeled the stricken Ocean Beach relentlessly. The power of nature’s fury was breathtaking. In the evening we visited the north coast town of Burnie. The winds continued unabated, but we enjoyed watching Shy Albatross, Parasitic Jaeger, and gulls from the picture windows of the fabulous Bayviews Restaurant while we dined on fine local seafood and produce. At dusk, at least 20 Little Penguins came ashore, hopping and skidding over the rocks, back to their burrows and chicks, virtually at our feet.

Tasmanian Devil, scarred from battle

Tasmanian Devil, scarred from battle— Photo: Larry Wilson


On Day 5 we awoke to snow and icy winds on Cradle Mountain. We made a brief trip to the breathtaking Dove Lake, showing us its wintery heart at the height of spring. Retreating from the mountains, we headed into the valleys and up to Mountain Valley Wilderness Lodge. In the afternoon we saw Scarlet, Flame, and Dusky robins, as well as Brush and Common bronzewings. After a delicious home-cooked meal of local produce, the real show began after dark. We retreated to our cabins and sat quietly by the fireplace, awaiting the appearance of the Tasmanian Devils, lured by our hosts to feeding stations at our very door steps. We were all enthralled to see these savage and primal predators face to face, feeding on our porches, staring defiantly at us. Most of us also enjoyed the rare company of a less brutal and more elegant predator, the Spot-tailed Quoll.

On the final morning we birded around our cabins, finding more robins and bronzewings. At Levan Canyon an Olive Whistler finally made a grand appearance, captivating us with its haunting, ventriloquial calls amongst the giant tree ferns. At the Tasmanian Arboretum we saw no less than six Platypi. We enjoyed our parting views of Tasmanian Native-Hen, Green Rosella, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Dusky Robin, Satin Flycatcher, and a leucistic Masked Lapwing. Driving on to Launceston, we shared one last feast while recounting the highlights of a most memorable week in the great wilderness that is Tasmania.