Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bruny Island, Tasmania



Given that it poured with rain the whole day we were on Bruny, we headed back for another look around. Getting off the ferry we turned left into Missionary Road towards Barnes Bay. In a stand of white gum, we heard Forty Spotted Pardalotes high in the trees. Dusky Woodswallows were perched on a dead tree, and there were good numbers of Black Headed Honeyeaters. At Dennes Point Crested Terns lined up on the rocks, a European Goldfinch was feeding young in a tree in the picnic area and an Australian Hobby watched over the beach.


On the Killora Road we stopped at a clump of trees where a number of honeyeaters were noisily foraging, and snapped a pic of a small olive bird that paused momentarily on a low branch – a Forty Spotted Pardalote. A little further on Black Currawongs were feasting on grubs in the roadside trees.



We went back to Mavista Reserve looking for the Pink Robin, without success, but came across a family of Striated Pardalote.



At Alonnah, we walked along the beach were we found the Hooded Plover at the tideline, a Yellow Wattlebird in the dune shrubs, and a Pallid Cuckoo on the powerlines.




We stayed overnight at the Captain Cook Memorial Caravan Park, where there were Swift Parrots in the park trees, Superb Fairywrens hopping around outside our cabin, and Tasmanian Thornbills in the creek-side shrubs. Brush Bronzewing wandered the walking track in front of us, Pacific and Kelp Gulls, Pied Oystercatchers and Masked Lapwings were on the beach, and Green Rosellas in the picnic area trees. At one point we were planning to watch the Fairy Penguin come ashore, but when we heard that that would not happen until well after ten when it was fully dark we went to Plan B, a quiet night recovering from the miles of hiking.

We checked out the rookery on The Neck early in the morning, great to see the paths they had taken to and from the sea. Two babies were visible huddling in their sand burrow.



On to Cape Bruny lighthouse, which was the finish point for the marathon last visit, so we avoided it. We had the place to ourselves this time, except for Welcome Swallows, New-Holland Honeyeaters, Superb Fairywren, White-faced Heron, Scarlet Robin, Dusky Robin, Common Bronzewing, Greenfinch and White-fronted Chat, bathing, hawking, and hanging about on the lawn.








At Jetty Beach we saw more of the honeyeaters, plus a Tasmanian Scrubwren and a Beautiful Firetail and an Echidna that was much less reluctant to be photographed that the birds seemed to be.




Monday, December 26, 2011

Maria Island, Tasmania


Maria Island (inexplicably pronounced Mariah Island) was a ‘probation’ convict station where convicts learned agriculture prior to their release, the site of camps of whalers and sealers in the early 1800s, the base for the varied enterprises of Italian entrepreneur Diego Bernacchi, and the site of the National Portland Cement Company.

Since the late 1960s Maria has become a kind of Noah's Ark, as a number of threatened species have been introduced here in a bid to protect their kind. The very things that made the island a convict settlement, now make it an ideal refuge for plant and animal species that are elsewhere under threat. So alongside native pademelons which occurred on the island naturally, are Forester kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies which have been introduced to the island. Cape Barren geese and Tasmanian native hens have also been introduced. The endangered forty spotted pardalote is found here in good numbers, along with the white gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) that is essential to its survival.

A ferry ride from Triabunna, the various natural and historic attractions on Maria could occupy you for a full day or more, but there are no supplies on the island so all food and drink had to be carried in. Provisioned only with a bottle of water and a couple of muesli bars we occupied three hours walking down to the Painted Cliffs.

Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Black-headed Honeyeaters, Yellow-Wattlebirds, Black Currawong, Tasmanian Native Hens, Australasian Pipits, Cape Barren Geese with babies … were among the birds seen.









Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tasmania, South



We made an early start at Peter Murrell Reserve, accessing it from Huntingfield Avenue, Kingston, via a track beside the Vodaphone call centre. Immediately beside the cark park in a stand of white gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) we heard Forty Spotted Pardalotes calling, but they were too high and the light too dim for us to distinguish them from the Striated Pardalotes that were also calling. A photo was out of the question so we wandered on to the dam where there were Australasian Grebe, Pacific Black Ducks, Chestnut Teal and Maned (or Australian Wood) Ducks. I don’t know if it was love or war, but the male was repeatedly attacking the other bird. Lots of Tasmanian Native Hens at the edges of the dam, Yellow and Little Wattlebirds in the trees, Welcome Swallows and Superb Fairywrens. A group of Yellow-throated Honeyeaters foraged in the trees alongside the second dam, the path was higher up the hill, so the birds in the top of the trees were conveniently at eye level.


Continuing south on the Channel Highway as the rain started to fall, we pulled in at the Bruny d'Entrecasteaux monument at Gordon, where several of the Tasmanian race of the Dusky Woodswallow sat about in the rain, looking as miserable as we felt.


A large group of Silver Gulls and Great Crested Tern were fishing at the edge of the channel, so we tested the waterproof qualities of the cameras and filled a card with mainly shots of sea and sky, but sufficient successful captures to make the soaking worthwhile.


It was a very pretty drive, with English gardens, apple orchards and stone cottages on one side of the road and the channel on the other with Bruny Island on the horizon. We did stop at Ninepin Point Marine Reserve, and walked down to the water, and paused again at Randalls Bay where we caught a glimpse of birds in the roadside trees. They didn’t hang around, so nor did we.


We detoured to have a look at the Arve River creek walk, and if the weather held, a glimpse of Hartz Mountain National Park. The Look-in Lookout was wonderfully unexpected, a pull off on the left of the road where you could peer into the forest – should be more of them. The Arve River Picnic Ground was the start and end of a ten minute loop walk, absolutely amazing .


Hartz Mountain brought our first sightings of the Black Currawong, but there was snow on the ground and the rain felt like sleet. We reflected on the changes in habitat we had driven through in a single day, and the incredible alpine plants that now surrounded us – from the comfort of the car.

The rain finally started to clear around Kingston, so we turned south again heading for the Inverawe Native Gardens at Margate. Cups of tea with Tasmanian cheddar and biscuits restored us sufficiently and we wandered up and down the paths of the gardens with pleasure. Ninety-one species of birds have been seen at the gardens including all twelve endemics, and we saw a good number in the short time we were there, although conditions were less than perfect for birding. Green Rosellas gathered in the trees, New Holland Honeyeaters zipped through the Grevilleas, Eurasian Blackbirds picked through the mulch, and a Laughing Kookaburra failed to be amused. We also saw White-faced Heron, Great Egret, Welcome Swallows, and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.





Friday, December 23, 2011

Tasman Penninsula

We woke to sunshine on Sunday, so headed east to the Tasman Penninsula. We were on the lookout for waders as we passed through Sorrel, but apart from gulls,  Crested Terns, Pied Oystercatchers, Black Swans and the ubiquitous Masked Lapwings, the edges of the water bodies held little of interest. Stopping for breakfast at Dunalley, Black-faced Cormorants, Little Black Cormorants, Australasian Darters and Silver Gulls were lined up on the jetty. We took a detour before Eaglehawk Neck to see the tessellated pavement but were side-tracked by some spectacular native gardens alongside the road that were filled with Golden Whistler, Eastern Spinebill, Little Wattlebird, Superb Fairywren, Grey Fantail, and Yellow Wattlebirds.
A homeowner came out to see why we had huge lenses trained on his bedroom windows, and told us that at Devils Kitchen we could look down on albatross circling below, so we left the tessellated pavement for the next trip and headed off while I remembered his directions.
The scenery was spectacular along the stretch of coast that contains the Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen, but no albatross circled below for us. A lone Australian Gannet flew past, and Silver Gulls launched themselves from the cliffs. Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Beautiful Firetail, Tasmanian Silvereyes, Eastern Spinebills and Tasmanian Thornbills were seen on the walk. We had been told by our first-day birding friend that the way to tell the Tasmanian Thornbill from the Brown Thornbill was to remember that the Tasmanian Thornbill wore white undies!
With the weather closing in, somewhere sheltered seemed like a good idea and the Blue Seal Cafe presented itself on the coast road as a likely spot. With a fire lit, and excellent tea and scones we comfortably waited out the worst of the rain.
The rain continued, a little heavier than drizzle, so we pulled into the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park. The park was designed by renowned zoo landscape architect, John Coe, and includes four large habitats that demonstrate the devil's adaptability to a number of environments, including: a farmyard where the devils live among hay bales and farm machinery, which is where they are increasingly seen; a rainforest area; a eucalypt woodland; and an inside-out area where visitors now walk into the centre of a display with trees and grassland all around.
The park also had a great free flight show with birds that had been rescued or rehabilitated, including a Peregrine Falcon that had a wing amputated after colliding with a power line, and a Galah that had been surrendered by its long-time owners.
While I am interested in the history of Australia, and visiting historic sites, I didn’t think I could cope with the combination of encapsulated misery and tourist consumerism at Port Arthur, so we went to the Coal Mines Historic Site (the Coal Mines formed part of the system of convict discipline, and ruins of accommodation jails and offices remain).
We finished the day on the Tasman Peninsula at Lime Bay, were we saw sodden Green Rosellas, Grey Butcher Birds, Magpies and damp Bennet’s Wallaby and where a Pacific Gull snacking on a crab gave us the idea of heading back to Hobart for a seafood dinner on the Wharf.