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22 – 27 OCTOBER 2018
By Andy Walker
This short Tasmania group tour commenced in the state capital Hobart on the 22nd of October 2018 and concluded back there on the 27th of October 2018. The tour focused on finding the state’s endemic birds as well as two breeding endemic species (both Critically Endangered [IUCN] parrots), and the tour is a great way to get accustomed to Australian birds and birding ahead of the longer East Coast tour.
The tour included a couple of days birding in the Hobart environs, a day trip by light aircraft to the southwest of the state, and a couple of days on the picturesque and bird-rich Bruny Island. We found, and got very good views of, all twelve endemic birds of Tasmania, these being Forty-spotted Pardalote, Green Rosella, Tasmanian Nativehen, Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Dusky Robin, Strong-billed, Black-headed, and Yellow-throated Honeyeaters, Yellow Wattlebird, Tasmanian Thornbill, and Black Currawong, as well as the two Critically Endangered breeding endemic species (Orange-bellied Parrot and Swift Parrot), of which we also got excellent and prolonged views of a sizeable proportion of their global populations. Other highlights included Little Penguin, Hooded Dotterel, Freckled Duck, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Grey Goshawk, Laughing Kookaburra, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Blue-winged Parrot, Pink Robin, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, Striated Fieldwren, Southern Emu-wren, and Beautiful Firetail. A vagrant Hudsonian Godwit was a rather nice bonus bird too.
A total of 110 bird species were seen (plus two species heard only), along with an impressive list of mammals including Short-beaked Echidna, Afro-Australian Fur Seal, Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelon, Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby, Common Brushtail Possum, and Spotted-tailed Quoll. Full species lists are provided at the end of this report.
Day 1, 22nd October 2018. Arrival in Hobart
Tim, Kay, and Sandra arrived around midday and transferred to our hotel in Hobart, with the rest of the day at leisure.
Day 2, 23rd October 2018. Hobart environs
We spent the whole day birding to the west of Hobart. As we stepped out of the car in the parking lot we were immediately into it, with the first bird of the trip being the simply gorgeous Superb Fairywren – what a way to start the tour! It didn’t stop there, and over the next few minutes we were watching Green Rosella, Black-headed Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Satin Flycatcher, Silvereye, Grey Currawong, Forest Raven, and nesting Striated Pardalote. Continuing out of the parking lot we found Masked Lapwing, Great Cormorant, Hoary-headed Grebe, Pacific Black Duck, and Eurasian Coot.
Entering the forest we were suddenly face-to-face with another Scarlet Robin and then had fantastic, prolonged views of a family group of foraging Strong-billed Honeyeaters. Here we also found Grey Fantail, Grey Shrikethrush, Brown Thornbill, Tasmanian Scrubwren, and Tasmanian Thornbill. A very showy Shining Bronze Cuckoo also gave great views, while Fan-tailed Cuckoo remained a heard-only bird.
A small waterbody held our first Maned Ducks, Hardhead, and a flock of bathing Kelp Gulls, along with more Great Cormorants and Hoary-headed Grebes. Some further exploration resulted in finding a very showy Laughing Kookaburra, many of the aforementioned species, and our first mammals of the trip, several Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelons (including a female with a very cute joey in her pouch) and a Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby.
After lunch (with Superb Fairywren and Eastern Spinebill) we took a walk along a river gorge. It was fairly quiet in general; however, we found our main target birds along the trail when we saw Scrubtit, an often-tricky Tasmanian endemic, along with Black Currawong and the stunning Pink Robin. We had further views of several mouse-like Tasmanian Scrubwrens, a brief Brush Bronzewing, and nesting Spotted Pardalote too. All of this ended what was an excellent first day’s birding.
Day 3, 24th October 2018. Melaleuca Orange-bellied Parrot twitch
After breakfast we headed to the Cambridge Airfield near Hobart, where, full of anticipation, we boarded our small plane for our one-hour flight to Melaleuca in the southwest corner of Tasmania, all of this for our quest to find one of the rarest birds in the world. The flight is worth taking in its own right, as the views of the coast and Bruny Island (our destination for the following day) are absolutely spectacular. The flight back at the end of the day was equally impressive as we flew through the mountains on an overland route, several peaks still with snow present.
After we arrived on the small airstrip at Melaleuca we immediately set out birding, and after literally just stepping off the airfield we were watching an eye-level Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo in great light, followed by the stunning Beautiful Firetail, a particularly well-named bird.
Another hundred meters along the track we suddenly stood with several of the Critically Endangered Orange-bellied Parrots all around us! Just incredible, and over the next hour or so we sat in awe watching these birds tend their nests, foraging, and even bathing in a small puddle! We recorded at least twelve, possibly as many as fifteen birds during the time we were there. A definite highlight of the Tasmania tour that would prove hard to beat!
Although it was hard to take our eyes away from the parrots we did find a few other very nice birds in the area, including good looks at Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Dusky Robin, Green Rosella, Black Currawong, Beautiful Firetail, Southern Emu-wren, Striated Fieldwren, Superb Fairywren, New Holland Honeyeater, and Swamp Harrier. It was also wonderful to spend the day in such a remote and beautiful wilderness area, with the only sound being that of the birds.
Exceedingly happy we jumped back on the plane and headed back to Hobart, where we had a lovely meal on the quayside, along with a celebratory nice bottle of wine!
Day 4, 25th October 2018. Hobart to Bruny Island
We had the full day birding on Bruny Island, and it was yet another wonderful day packed full of really exciting birds and other wildlife. Leaving Hobart after breakfast we headed toward the small town of Kettering, where we boarded the car ferry to cross the short distance to Bruny Island. Along the way we found our first Black-faced Cormorants, but the sea was very calm, so nothing else of real note was seen (except for a pair of much-enjoyed Afro-Australian Fur Seals), but the view was rather nice.
We spent the morning birding around the north of the island, where we targeted a few endemics and other species and in doing so found the rare Forty-spotted Pardalote with ease, which was very pleasing. Other birds we found included Dusky Robin, Flame Robin, Chestnut Teal, Hoary-headed Grebe, Common Bronzewing, Tasmanian Nativehen, White-faced Heron, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Yellow Wattlebird, Dusky Woodswallow, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, and Black-faced Cuckooshrike.
We had a great lunch at the Cheese Factory, and as we sat and ate we got some amazing views of a rather tame Grey Butcherbird that gave very close views, allowing a great study of all its features.
We then continued to the south of the island across ‘The Neck’, stopping to enjoy our first Pied Oystercatchers, Sooty Oystercatchers, and Pacific Gulls of the trip, and along the way we got very lucky with a brief glimpse of the shy Bassian Thrush.
Our afternoon was very successful too. We spent it around Adventure Bay (visited by both Captain Cook and Charles Darwin), and despite the cool conditions and increasing wind we found Hooded Dotterel, Swamp Harrier, Brown Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, and, best of all, the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. We did very well with the Swift Parrots, watching about a dozen birds feeding in a flowering eucalyptus tree.
After checking into our rather novel accommodation (a converted church!), we enjoyed dinner and followed it up with a night walk and drive. This was also very successful and finished the day off in an excellent manner, with us watching several Little Penguins leaving the sea and walking up the beach to their burrows, after watching thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters flying around our heads as a huge full moon rose over the ocean. What a sight! After this we took a brief drive, finding Spotted-tailed Quoll, Common Brushtail Possum, Red-necked (Bennett’s) Wallaby, and Tasmanian (Red-bellied) Pademelon. A Morepork was heard but was on private land, so we couldn’t chase after it. But all in all, what a great day with all Tasmanian-endemic birds now firmly ‘in the bag’ for the trip!
Day 5, 26th October 2018. Bruny Island to Hobart
We awoke to a cool morning and made our way to Adventure Bay for breakfast, although nothing is done quickly on Bruny Island and it took us over an hour to cover the short distance as we kept finding great birds to look at along the way, such as Grey Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Flame Robin, Scarlet Robin, and many more birds we had enjoyed the previous day.
Following our great breakfast in a beautiful setting we spent some time watching a foraging flock of Swift Parrots, getting better views than the previous day due to the wind finally having dropped a bit. Here we also had further good looks at New Holland Honeyeaters and Dusky Woodswallows. A short drive along the bay revealed Tasmanian Nativehen (our best look to date), a flock of gorgeous male Superb Fairywrens, stunning views of a family group of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, and a lovely surprise in the form of a rather small (but hugely appreciated) Short-beaked Echidna (see picture at the end of the report). As we commenced our journey back to the north of the island we were distracted by a fly-over Fan-tailed Cuckoo, which led to a U-turn. Suddenly we were watching and listening to both Fan-tailed Cuckoo (a pair) and Pallid Cuckoo sitting next to each other on overhead powerlines. Even with Grey Fantail, Silvereye, and a pair of Scarlet Robins trying to distract us, all kept an eye on the cuckoos. We also had a low flyover of a huge White-bellied Sea Eagle here.
Finally getting to our target trail we took a brief walk, finding many of the birds we’d enjoyed over the previous days, such as Shining Bronze Cuckoo, another Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Australian Golden Whistler, more close views of Scarlet Robins, Yellow-throated, Black-headed, and New Holland Honeyeaters, a flock of Grey Currawongs, and some distant Australian Pipits.
After another enjoyable lunch we spent a while birding around the north, finding a repeat of the birds we had seen there yesterday with the added bonus of a Blue-winged Parrot along with Dusky Robin and probably our best views of Green Rosellas too (and another, much larger, Short-beaked Echidna). With that it was time to catch the ferry back to the Tasmanian mainland and drive the short distance to Hobart, where we enjoyed a lovely Thai evening meal to celebrate a wonderful day, but, more importantly, Kays birthday!
Day 6, 27th October 2018. Southeast Tasmania and tour concludes
We awoke to a windy and rather threatening overcast morning in Hobart and prepared for our final few hours of birding of the trip. We headed to a small waterbody near the city and found a nice selection of waterbirds new for the trip. With Freckled Duck being probably the most significant find, the high count of thirty birds was very good. Here we also found Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead, Chestnut and Grey Teals, Mallard, and several other ducks and similar species. Great Egret was busy hunting in the shallows, and Latham’s Snipe was sitting stationary along the edge of the reedbed, displaying fantastic camouflage. Tasmanian Nativehen was fairly common, as too was Australasian Swamphen. Tim managed to get some incredible footage as he witnessed a swamphen catch and then drown a Pacific Black Duck duckling, which it then ate – not something you see every day! The trees and grassland nearby held Musk Lorikeet, Galah, Eastern Rosella, and European Greenfinch, all new birds for the trip. The wind was bitingly cold, and so we thought enough was enough and moved along.
Our next, and final, stop of the trip was at a lagoon near the airport. Here we found a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, and within this flock was a vagrant Hudsonian Godwit – a really nice surprise addition to the tour list! Here we also had good views of Eastern Rosella and Little Wattlebird in the adjacent gardens, along with Red Knot, Pied Oystercatcher, Musk Duck, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, and Hoary-headed Grebe. It was enjoyable watching these birds out of the increasing wind and a great way to end what had been an excellent and really enjoyable four-and-a-half-days’ birding around the beautiful island state of Tasmania.
We headed back to our hotel, packed, and made our way to the airport, where the tour concluded. Luckily we were all about to commence the 16-day East Coast tour, so we were all very excited about the prospect of some more great birding and travel together as we boarded our flight to Melbourne, Victoria.
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.