Eastern Australia and Tasmania Trip Report, October 2016

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 28 OCTOBER – 19 NOVEMBER 2016

 By Andy Walker

 

 This East Coast tour commenced on 28th October 2016 in Melbourne, Victoria, then continued through southern New South Wales and north through southern and then northern Queensland, and terminated in Cairns on 13th November 2016. The extension commenced in Hobart on 14th November 2016 and terminated back there on 19th November 2016.

The mainland tour was designed to take in a wide range of the numerous different habitats present in the east of the country and to enjoy the plentiful endemic and key species in each of these regions/habitats, including rare and endangered species such as Plains-wanderer and Mallee Emu-wren in the south and the Atherton Tablelands endemics in the north, as well as some truly remarkable species such as Superb Lyrebird, Great-billed Heron, Golden Bowerbird, and Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher.

The focus of our time in Tasmania was to connect with the endemic birds found on the island state as well as with two Critically Endangered (IUCN) breeding endemics, Orange-bellied Parrot and Swift Parrot.

A total of 405 bird species was recorded, among them 181 endemics, along with an impressive list of 36 mammals including such emblematic species as short-beaked echidna, platypus, koala, and red kangaroo, 25 reptiles including a huge saltwater crocodile, and five amphibians. Complete lists are found at the end of this report.

 

Australia: From the Outback to the Wet Tropics

Day 1, 28th October 2016: Melbourne to Aireys Inlet

We met Simon, our local guide, in the morning before driving to the huge Melbourne Water Western Treatment Plant located in Werribee. The tide was in, and so we got some really great, close-up views of Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pied Oystercatcher, and a single Great Knot. Wildfowl was generally noticeable for its absence, presumably due to there being so much water elsewhere this year. Two pairs of Brolga (each with a chick) proved early tour highlights. Several Fairy and Little Terns were noted, dwarfed by the much larger Greater Crested Terns.

Several raptors were seen and included a family party of Black-shouldered Kites along with Little Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Swamp Harrier, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Australian Hobby (getting mobbed by a tenacious Willie Wagtail), and Brown Falcon. We had great views of Shining Bronze Cuckoo as one came and sat in a tree right next to us! A few good passerines were recorded, with showy Striated Fieldwren, White-fronted Chat, Little Grassbird, Zebra Finch, Horsfield’s Bush Lark, and Golden-headed Cisticola being the highlights.

A post-lunch walk around a suburban wetland gave great looks at Black-fronted Dotterel, Latham’s Snipe, Cape Barren Goose, Chestnut Teal, and Australasian Swamphen.

A couple of late-afternoon walks provided yet more new species and some quality in the form of Hooded Dotterel, Kelp Gull, Blue-winged Parrot, Southern Emu-wren, and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren.

Day 2, 29th October 2016: Aireys Inlet to Central Victoria

Our early-morning walk provided the hoped-for Rufous Bristlebird along with Australian King Parrot, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crimson Rosella, Shy Albatross, Australasian Gannet, and some rather showy Superb Fairywrens.

As we drove along the stunning Great Ocean Road we picked up Blue-winged Parrot, Little Wattlebird, Satin Bowerbird, Australian Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Olive-backed Oriole, Eastern Yellow Robin, Scarlet Robin, Grey and Pied Currawongs, and the funky Gang-gang Cockatoo. A Spotted Pardalote showed exceptionally well, but a real highlight here were our first koalas – always a treat.

As we drove north a strategic stop along a river gave us excellent views of a family group of the immense Powerful Owl. We had two adults and a young bird roosting in some huge gum trees. Last year we saw these birds with a dead possum, this year one of the adults was keeping hold of a dead Galah! We continued to our accommodation, while en route we found some gorgeous Common Bronzewings.

Day 3, 30th October 2016: Central Victoria to Ouyen

Our pre-breakfast birding gave us some really great species, and several displaying Painted Honeyeaters were top of the bill. However, other highlights included the gorgeous Diamond Firetail, Eastern Rosella, Sacred Kingfisher, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Weebill (Australia’s smallest bird), Black-chinned Honeyeater, and a breeding pair of Jacky Winter that had set up a nest right next to a puddle that was heaving with mosquitoes. Their nest contained a couple of very well-fed, fat chicks! Another highlight was the Black-eared Cuckoo that flew into a roadside bush and showed rather nicely. This species can be somewhat tricky and nomadic, so it was nice to get it under the belt early in the tour.

After breakfast we made a quick stop and found Shy Heathwren, Gilbert’s Whistler, Southern Scrub Robin, White-browed Woodswallow, and White-browed Babbler.

As the day progressed the wind increased to a constant gale, which made birding difficult. However, we still managed to find some new species with highlights including Musk Duck, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Red-capped Plover, nesting White-faced Herons, a pair of Tawny Frogmouth with two fledglings, Long-billed Corella, and White-breasted Woodswallow.

A patch of mallee woodland sheltered from the gale-force wind gave us very nice views of Red-capped Robin, Regent Parrot, Australian Ringneck, Eastern Bluebonnet, Rainbow Bee-eater, Variegated Fairywren, Splendid Fairywren, Yellow-throated Miner, and the gorgeous White-backed Swallow.

Day 4, 31st October 2016: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park to Deniliquin

This was a long but really enjoyable day with numerous highlights. First up was a nesting pair of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos seen at dawn; this is one seriously beautiful bird.

We then moved into some scrub, where we enjoyed good views of plenty of Rainbow Bee-eaters packed tightly together in the morning sun trying to warm up. A few honeyeaters were busy feeding; Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, and Singing Honeyeater all showed well. A walk around the mallee was generally quiet but did produce great views of the Endangered (IUCN) Mallee Emu-wren as well as the gorgeous Mulga Parrot.

We had some miles to cover for our evening adventure, so we hit the road with the odd stop along the way for Emu, showy Striated Pardalote, and Brown Songlark among a few others.

As we reached Deniliquin the last hour of light produced some more great birding, with very good looks at the stunning White-winged Fairywren, along with a pair of Little Buttonquail that walked out along a track, briefly allowing good views. As the sun set and we ate our picnic dinner a rather cute Australian Owlet-nightjar popped out of its roost hole to take a look at us!

Our evening consisted of walking and driving around some rather large paddocks with local expert Phil and landowner Robert, where our main target was located: the rare and Endangered (IUCN) Plains-wanderer, one of the most genetically diverse species on the planet. The only member of its family, it may have the look and habits of a quail, but its closest relatives are the South American seedsnipes. The statistics about the decline of this species make grim reading, though, and after spending time with Robert and Phil it’s good to know there are people trying to conserve this intriguing species. After enjoying the Plains-wanderer we decided to have a look for some other wildlife and soon found Banded Lapwing, Stubble Quail, amazingly another Little Buttonquail, and finally Eastern Barn Owl and fat-tailed dunnart. After a great evening it was time to get some sleep!

Day 5, 1st November 2016: Deniliquin to Chiltern

After a late night we had a late, relaxing start as we made our way back into Victoria. However, before we left NSW there was one other target – Superb Parrot, and we didn’t have to wait long to find one that gave excellent views. There was a lot of breeding activity going on, and they were very flighty, but the males looked sensational! We also had our first Western Gerygone, White-winged Triller, and displaying Rufous Songlark here.

As we continued our journey to Chiltern a few strategic stops gave tantalizing views of the spectacular Turquoise Parrot but better views of Yellow-billed Spoonbill, nesting Rainbow Bee-eater, Crested Shriketit, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Noisy Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Brown Treecreeper, White-throated Gerygone, Restless Flycatcher, and Eastern Yellow Robin.

Day 6, 2nd November 2016: Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park to Healesville

Our pre-breakfast birding produced some really nice birds. Turquoise Parrot was again elusive but gave several flyover views! Honeyeaters were all over the place, and we enjoyed watching Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, and Fuscous Honeyeater. Other species found included Speckled Warbler, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Varied Sittella, and Restless Flycatcher.

After breakfast we found a gorgeous Painted Buttonquail, which gave very good views for everyone as we watched from the vehicle. As we looked for Little Lorikeet we noticed a short-beaked echidna that walked right up the track towards us, and as we were watching it a red-bellied black snake moved across the track too, and shortly afterwards we had another, even larger snake do the same. Great views of all!

After lunch a brief walk gave us a few new birds, such as a small covey of Brown Quail and three Fan-tailed Cuckoos among many other by-now-familiar species like Spotted Pardalote and White-browed Scrubwren.

A late-afternoon walk in Toolangi State Forest provided yet more new species and some real stunners, set in some spectacular forest: Lewin’s Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Rufous Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Rose Robin, and Pink Robin were all seen well.

Day 7, 3rd November 2016: Birding near Melbourne

Our final day with Simon in Victoria was great fun. We visited a couple of nice forested areas and found numerous high quality birds. Many of these were brashly colorful, others more secretive and subtle but no less rewarding, such as Superb Lyrebird, Pilotbird, Rufous Fantail, Satin Flycatcher, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Australian Golden Whistler, the very showy Olive Whistler, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rose Robin, Flame Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Crimson Rosella, Australian King Parrot, and great looks at a nest-building pair of Red-browed Treecreeper, possibly Australia’s best-looking treecreeper.

As we bade farewell to Simon we enjoyed our best looks at Rainbow Lorikeets and Musk Lorikeets in his garden. Then we prepared for our flight to Brisbane the next morning.

Day 8, 4th November 2016: Melbourne to Brisbane, then Lamington National Park

An early-morning flight saw us leaving a cold Melbourne and touching down in a much warmer Brisbane. We spent some time birding in the mangroves and around some waterbodies near the city, where we added a range of wildfowl and waders to our growing list of Australian birds. Our first stop gave great views of a White-bellied Sea Eagle that flew low overhead and then landed, giving prolonged views, along with several Brahminy Kites and Australasian Darters overhead. We had great looks at Mangrove Gerygone; the best thing about this species is probably its song, which is beautifully musical! A pair of the recently-split (from Collared Kingfisher) Torresian Kingfishers showed well, and another pretty reptile, a bar-sided forest-skink, skulked out from its cavity in the mangroves.

Other new birds included Red-backed Fairywren, Australasian Figbird (the “Green” subspecies, S. v. vieilloti), Spangled Drongo, Torresian Crow, and Tawny Grassbird, although one of the star birds of the day were the gigantic and raucous Channel-billed Cuckoos that sat out for us to view as the Torresian Crows went crazy at their presence.

We then made the windy drive up to O’Reilly’s, our base for the next two nights, in time for a gorgeous sunset. However, the drive up the mountain did give us one very special species – a family group of the rare Glossy Black Cockatoo, busily feeding in a fruiting she-oak tree.

Day 9, 5th November 2016: Lamington National Park

We spent the whole day birding around the various trails and roads near our base. As this was a new region for us, we got plenty of new and spectacular birds right from the start, mixed in with a few that we’d enjoyed before. Birds like Australian Brushturkey, Wonga Pigeon, Satin Bowerbird, Regent Bowerbird, Crimson Rosella, Australian King Parrot, Superb Fairywren, Red-browed Finch, Pied Currawong, and Welcome Swallow were all around our accommodation and made for a great morning!

Forest birding at Lamington is always great fun, and one highlight of this day was finding a nesting pair of Russet-tailed Thrushes – a really beautiful bird and not always easy to see, so we soaked in views of these birds! Other birds enjoyed during the day included Australian Logrunner, Large-billed Scrubwren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Green Catbird, Albert’s Lyrebird, Paradise Riflebird, Noisy Pitta, Eastern Whipbird, Rufous Fantail, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-headed Pigeon, and Brown Cuckoo-Dove.

As the afternoon progressed into evening a huge windstorm blew through, bringing down several rather large trees across the trails. It also prevented much of a night walk, although we did see several possums in the vicinity of our rooms: short-eared brushtail possum, common brushtail possum, and common ringtail possum, as well as the usual red-legged pademelon and red-necked pademelon.

Day 10, 6th November 2016: Lamington National Park to Brisbane, then Cairns

We had an early-morning walk along the forest trails near the accommodation, where we enjoyed further looks at many of the species listed above. Yesterday we’d had good views of Russet-tailed Thrush, today we got the best looks you could dream of as one fed just six feet off the trail, totally oblivious to our presence. This really allowed careful study to note all the finer details of the species’ ID to distinguish it from the similar-looking Bassian Thrush.

We also had Pacific Baza, incredible, prolonged views of a feeding Albert’s Lyrebird out in the open, several showy and vocal Green Catbirds, Regent Bowerbirds and Satin Bowerbirds attending their opulent bowers, a couple of confiding Australian Logrunner families, Black-faced Monarch, and Paradise Riflebird.

As we drove to Brisbane for our flight to Cairns we found a roadside-roosting Tawny Frogmouth and a Noisy Pitta that flew across the road before doing the decent thing by landing right next to the vehicle, allowing all to see this beautiful bird.

We took our flight to Cairns, arriving in the late afternoon. From our hotel we watched plenty of Torresian Imperial Pigeons, Australasian Figbird (the “Yellow” subspecies, S. v. flaviventris), Metallic Starling, Varied Honeyeater, and White-breasted Woodswallow and had a great view of the Cairn’s Esplanade down below us – complete with the hulking Far Eastern Curlew and numerous other shorebirds.

Day 11, 7th November 2016: Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is an ecosystem of many superlatives that no words can do justice, and it was a real privilege to be able to get out and enjoy it from above and below the water. We made our way to Michaelmas Cay, where we enjoyed fantastic close-up views of a large Sooty Tern and Brown Noddy breeding colony. Also scattered among these terns were breeding Brown Boobies, complete with their large, dumpy, pure-white nestlings. Making use of the cay were several Ruddy Turnstones, Black Noddies, Silver Gulls, and Great Frigatebirds, as well as Greater Crested, Bridled, and Black-naped Terns. Three Red-footed Boobies sat on a nearby boat briefly but unfortunately flew off rather too quickly.

After spending plenty of time enjoying the birds we ventured into the water at nearby Hastings Reef, where we were all blown away by the underwater spectacle of amazing corals, giant clams, and beautiful tropical fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors (e.g. various clown fish, angel fish, and parrot fish among a lot more), a real highlight of the tour in its own right. A green turtle and a blacktip reef shark added a bit of excitement to the tropical fish and corals.

Day 12, 8th November 2016: Cairns to Atherton Tablelands

We took an early-morning walk along the Cairn’s Esplanade, notching up a long list of shorebirds including Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Far Eastern Curlew, Marsh Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot, Red Knot, Red-necked Stint, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Several terns were offshore and included Caspian Tern and Gull-billed Tern.

It was soon time to head into some forest, so after a short drive we were enjoying Orange-footed Scrubfowl, nesting Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Pacific Emerald Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Superb Fruit Dove, Australian Swiftlet, Oriental Dollarbird, Forest Kingfisher, Noisy Pitta, Spotted Catbird, Dusky Myzomela, Scarlet Myzomela, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird, Black Butcherbird, Spectacled Monarch, and Pied Monarch – some pretty nice birds!

Roadside birding stops, as we made our way to our next accommodation in the Atherton Tablelands produced an impressive sight of 200 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos feeding in a ploughed peanut field (though this count would be blown away in a couple of days), several Sarus Cranes, and a hunting Spotted Harrier that gave exceptional views.

A post-lunch wetland stop produced a female Black-necked Stork, a single roosting Royal Spoonbill, Little Egret, Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, White-headed Stilt, Plumed Whistling Duck, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Bridled Honeyeater, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Noisy Friarbird, and Varied Sittella. An interesting sight here was a large number of Black Kites with the odd Whistling Kite that were coming down to the water to drink, occasionally flushing all the waterfowl.

We had one last stop near our accommodation, where we quickly found one of our main mammal targets of the tour – platypus. We had prolonged looks as one fed along the river, showing incredibly well at very close range. A fascinating sight! A good night walk gave us some great animal sightings including Southern Boobook, striped possum, sugar glider, northern brown bandicoot, and chameleon gecko.

Day 13, 9th November 2016: Atherton Tablelands

We spent the whole day birding at several sites in the Atherton Tablelands. An early-morning walk around our accommodation was very birdy, and it was difficult to know where to look at times! We got very good, close-range views of male and female Victoria’s Riflebird as they fought with a pair of Tooth-billed Bowerbirds and Spotted Catbirds over a fruiting tree, while a pair of Grey-headed Robins hopped around on the ground at our feet. Flowering trees and shrubs in the gardens were bringing in Macleay’s Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, and Bridled Honeyeater, along with Scarlet Myzomela and Dusky Myzomela; however, a stunning male Banded Honeyeater was a nice surprise.

Our next forest stop produced a stunning Golden Bowerbird, and more Tooth-billed Bowerbirds and Victoria’s Riflebirds, along with the rather comical-looking Australian Brushturkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl.

Afternoon birding produced more of the same as we got familiar with the region’s birds and wildlife, including some particularly friendly Pale-yellow Robins. There seemed to be a plethora of musky rat-kangaroos around the Crater Lakes this year. They must have had a good breeding season, and we enjoyed looking at them.

Day 14, 10th November 2016: Atherton Tablelands to Kingfisher Park

Today we made our way north, dropping into some very dry habitat, where we found a lake that was attracting some interesting birdlife such as Cotton Pygmy Goose, Green Pygmy Goose, Australasian Darter, Comb-crested Jacana, Emu, Pacific Koel, Yellow Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, Lemon-bellied Flyrobin, and Double-barred Finch. Prior to that we had a spectacular sight of at least 500 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos feeding in a ploughed peanut field – we were totally surrounded by them and got some great looks at this huge parrot.

A bit further north we found a pair of Great Bowerbirds, the male attending to his new bower, and a stunning pair of Red-winged Parrots, and a bit further on we had several huge Australian Bustards walking across a paddock, always a fantastic sight.

We arrived at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in the late afternoon and had a quick recon of the forest. A pair of Superb Fruit Doves and a male Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher were the highlights of the last hour of light. These really are both superb-looking birds. A night walk produced northern brown bandicoot, long-nosed bandicoot, red-legged pademelon, eastern horseshoe bat, fawn-footed melomys, bush rat, chestnut tree mouse, and some roosting major skinks, but interestingly, and unfortunately, no owls – although Bush Stone-curlews were present and very vocal.

Day 15, 11h November 2016: Mount Lewis National Park and Daintree River Cruise

An action-packed day started with an early trip up Mount Lewis, where we had several Atherton endemics in mind. Our first target was the gorgeous Blue-faced Parrotfinch, and it didn’t take long to get lucky as we found a pair foraging on some grass seed with a large flock of Red-browed Finches that remained there while we enjoyed a lovely picnic breakfast. New birds were plentiful here, and the trail was really busy with Bassian Thrush, Chowchilla, Fernwren, Atherton Scrubwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Topknot Pigeon, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Spotted Catbird, Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Noisy Pitta, Mountain Thornbill, Yellow-breasted Boatbill, Bower’s Shrikethrush, Victoria’s Riflebird, and Grey-headed Robin. A few White-throated Needletails and Pacific Swifts flew over a forest clearing, and a huge red-bellied black snake was a nice sight as it basked in the morning sunlight, unfortunately moving off too quickly for a photograph.

As we dropped back down off the mountain for lunch a few stops produced Grey Goshawk, nesting Northern Fantail, an assortment of honeyeaters including Banded Honeyeater and Brown-backed Honeyeater, and a pair of Squatter Pigeons taking shelter from the scorching heat of the middle of the day.

Satisfied with our morning’s haul we headed to the Daintree River, where we met up with the ‘Daintree Boatman’ for an afternoon boat ride along this beautiful river. Highlights were numerous, but some of the key species we enjoyed were Great-billed Heron, Black Bittern, a nesting Papuan Frogmouth, Brahminy Kite, Azure Kingfisher, Black Butcherbird, Large-billed Gerygone, Green Oriole, Oriental Cuckoo, and numerous nesting Shining Flycatchers. There was a constant stream of ibises, egrets, and Torresian Imperial Pigeons around us, and a huge saltwater crocodile even put in an appearance. The sun set as a Blue-winged Kookaburra flew in and a chorus of Pale-vented Bush-hens kicked off.

After dinner we drove back up the mountain to our accommodation after a long but successful day’s birding and wildlife watching.

Day 16, 12th November 2016: Kingfisher Park to Cairns

We had a morning birding session around the grounds of Kingfisher Park. This is a small site packed with amazing birds, and without covering much ground we had some very impressive birds such as Red-necked Crake, Wompoo Fruit Dove (feeding more or less at eye-level), Noisy Pitta, the stunning Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Grey Whistler, Pied Monarch, Spectacled Monarch, Black-faced Monarch, Little Shrikethrush, and Pale-yellow Robin, among others.

As we made our way back to Cairns a couple of roadside stops produced Buff-banded Rail, Spotless Crake, White-browed Crake, Channel-billed Cuckoo, and another platypus.

Late in the afternoon we took a walk around the Cairns Botanical Gardens and Centenary Lakes, where a wedding was in full flow, but we didn’t let that distract us from a few nice birds like Raja Shelduck, Black Butcherbird (feeding a fledgling), Double-eyed Fig Parrot, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, and Olive-backed Sunbird.

Day 17, 13th November 2016: East Coast Tour Concludes

We took a final walk along the Cairns Esplanade before we needed to leave to head to the airport. The tide was not good for shorebirds, therefore we headed to the mangroves, where we found a pair of Mangrove Robins. But the sandflies were pretty intolerable, so we made a hasty retreat after we’d seen the robins.

Those participants taking part in the Tasmania tour extension flew to Hobart, or at least attempted to, and those leaving the tour went their own way. For those of us flying to Hobart we took a straightforward flight to Melbourne; however, at this point things took a turn for the worst due to a technical issue with the plane we were meant to take between Melbourne and Hobart. This resulted in a canceled flight, an unwanted extra night in Melbourne, and a very early flight the next morning!

 

Tasmania: Tour Extension

Day 1, 14th November 2016: Melbourne to Hobart

We took our unplanned, very early morning flight between Melbourne and Hobart, arriving a little after sunrise. We picked up our new vehicle (as a pair of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flew overhead) and headed to our hotel in the city, where after a quick breakfast we joined up with our new tour participant and headed into the mountains for some birding. Despite all the delays we were only a few hours behind schedule.

We headed out into the mountains near Hobart, where our first highlight of the day was not a bird but an exceedingly approachable short-beaked echidna busily feeding. However, we were soon onto our avian target species, with Tasmanian Scrubwren, Scrubtit, Black Currawong, Tasmanian Thornbill, Brown Thornbill, Olive Whistler, Australian Golden Whistler, Forest Raven, and the gorgeous Pink Robin all seen well.

An afternoon walk near the city gave good looks at Tasmanian Nativehen, Pacific Gull, Kelp Gull, Green Rosella, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Black-headed Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote, Striated Pardalote, Dusky Woodswallow, Satin Flycatcher, and Flame Robin.

We headed back into the city after a great day’s birding.

Day 2, 15th November 2016: Hobart Environs

Our initial plan for the day was to fly down to Melaleuca in southwestern Tasmania; however, due to poor weather (gale-force winds at Melaleuca) the flight was canceled. After a bit of consideration of the best option we decided to spend the day birding at some different sites around Hobart, which proved successful with a few new birds found. Our first stop gave us great views of Pied Oystercatcher and Sooty Oystercatcher and a few other waterbirds.

We then took a walk around a small waterbody that provided us with plenty to look at: Black Swan, Freckled Duck, Australasian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Great Crested Grebe, Australasian Swamphen, Tasmanian Nativehen, and Eastern Rosella all gave themselves up nicely, and it was great to find some wildfowl we’d missed in Victoria due to the vast amount of flooding there. A lowland copperhead (a snake) moved across the path but was not hanging around for photographs, but it was great to see it nevertheless.

An afternoon walk produced many of the endemics seen the previous day, but we also had very good views of several Yellow-throated Honeyeaters that were very interested in our presence and showed incredibly well, as did a confiding Grey Shrikethrush.

Day 3, 16th November 2016: Melaleuca to Bruny Island

An unforgettable day was in store. We boarded a small plane early in the morning, flying over some incredible scenery over southwestern Tasmania before we descended onto the remote airstrip at Melaleuca. Originally a tin mine, Melaleuca is now the center of conservation efforts aimed at restoring the wild population of the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Orange-bellied Parrot. A Tasmanian breeding endemic, these beautiful little parrots are in a dire situation, with fewer than fifty individuals left in the wild. This species was the main target of the day, and once we found them we spent time in the beautiful landscape admiring them, as well as learning about the methods and lengths taken to protect them. Over the course of the day we had a minimum of at least seven birds (likely a few more), including a ‘flock’ of three birds flying around together. This species really is living close to the edge of existence. It was an honor to see them (but tinged with immense sadness at their plight); hopefully conservation efforts will work and more people will get the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful Neophema in the wild.

Other species noted during the day included Green Rosella, Southern Emu-wren, Striated Fieldwren, Yellow-throated, New Holland, and Crescent Honeyeaters, Beautiful Firetail, and Olive Whistler, but really the day was all about one very rare and beautiful parrot, some incredible scenery, and some exceptional (locally sourced) food and drink.

On arrival back in Hobart we drove south, reaching our base for the next couple of nights on Bruny Island, where a Morepork was present at night.

Day 4, 17th November 2016: Bruny Island

We spent the day driving around various areas on beautiful Bruny Island. Around our accommodation Swift Parrots were busily racing around, giving just fleeting views, but we got excellent views of an amorous pair of Green Rosellas, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, and a small family party of the Endangered (IUCN) Forty-spotted Pardalote competing for territory with both Spotted Pardalote and Striated Pardalote, the latter being incredibly dominant.

A walk through some woodland to a lake gave Musk Duck, Red-capped Plover, another short-beaked echidna, some flyover Blue-winged Parrots, and a stunning male Flame Robin.

A stop in Adventure Bay resulted in a real trip highlight as a pod of at least 150 common bottlenose dolphins swam in from a distance as they hunted fish. They came very close to the shore, giving excellent views – some of them even jumping fully out of the water at times! Here we also enjoyed watching confiding Yellow Wattlebirds and Tasmanian Scrubwrens, but the avian highlight was easily the pair of Hooded Dotterels that were present.

After a very nice lunch at the Cheese Factory we spent some time on the North Island – here we did not need to walk very far to get great views of many species, including more Forty-spotted Pardalotes, Dusky Robin, Bassian Thrush, Beautiful Firetail, Black Currawong, Olive Whistler, Tasmanian Thornbill, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Yellow Wattlebird, Strong-billed Honeyeater, Black-headed Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, and White-fronted Chat. A brief view of a perched Blue-winged Parrot was a treat, as were the nesting and bathing Swift Parrots that showed so well.

After having dinner we made our way to the ‘neck’ between North Island and South Island. Here we found several of the rather cute Little Penguins outside their nesting burrows. Unfortunately, the gale-force wind returned and prevented us from seeing much thereafter bar the usual red-necked (Bennett’s) wallabies and Tasmanian (rufous-bellied) pademelons.

Day 5, 18th November 2016: Bruny Island to Hobart

We had an enjoyable walk around the Inala Private Reserve, despite the cold weather, and it was interesting to learn about the work going on in Tasmania in order to conserve both Forty-spotted Pardalote and Swift Parrot, both of which we had further views of along with Olive Whistler, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, Dusky Robin, and most of the other Tasmanian endemics.

A really nice highlight here was a 20-minute spell from a spot where we watched (open-mouthed!) Wedge-tailed Eagle, white-phased Grey Goshawk, Swamp Harrier, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Australian Hobby (with some prey), Brown Falcon, and Peregrine Falcon! The quality raptors just kept on coming.

After lunch we walked in some really beautiful old forest, where we found Pink Robin, Scrubtit, and several other Tasmanian endemics, but before long it was time to drive back to Hobart.

As we crossed the sea by ferry a White-bellied Sea Eagle and a few Black-faced Cormorants were noted.

We had our final group dinner and contemplated the best birds of the trip, which brought out a varied selection including Plains-Wanderer, Orange-bellied Parrot, Victoria’s Riflebird, Superb Fairywren, Welcome Swallow (recorded on every day of the tour and extension and always present!), and Albert’s Lyrebird. The platypus and dolphin sightings were also considered real highlights.

Day 6, 19th November 2016: Extension Concludes

After breakfast we drove to Hobart International Airport for our lunchtime flights out of Tasmania, and the extension concluded.

 

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.