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Tasmania Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Date of Trip: February 2007

In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin — 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.
This Trip Report covers the 14-days we spent bird watching in Tasmania in February 2007.

We saw 86 bird species at 11 parks. The cities where we saw the most birds were: Bicheno = 74, Hobart = 52.

The parks where we saw the most bird species were: Bicheno Hideaway = 38, Tasman NP = 37, Bruny Islands = 31, Marie Island NP = 29, Governor Island Marine Reserve = 27, Denison Conservation Area = 22, Douglas-Apsley NP = 16, Freycinet NP = 15, Moulting Lagoon =12, Scamander Lagoon = 11, & Mt Wellington Park = 8.


Bicheno – Bicheno Hideaway ( 41.899S 148.308E). The chalets look like they are made from two Quonset Huts joined together. Our chalet was about 200 feet from the ocean with a great view of the sunrise.

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

Hobart – Grosvenor Court Apartments ( 42.897S 147.325E). The apartments are located within easy walking distance to the Salamanca Market, Battery Point, Wrest Point Casino, and Harbor. We would have rather stayed out of town — possibly Bruny Island, but we couldn’t find a place at a reasonable cost (we were there during the Hobart Cup Horse Race and the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival).

Highlights of the Region:

Eating fresh Tasmanian Rock Lobster, a.k.a. Crayfish, at the Sea Life Center in Bicheno.

Seeing mobs of ocean birds like Buller’s Albatross, Shy Albatross, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and Australian Gannets on the Sealife Encounter Eco tour to Tasman Island. The ocean arches and pinnacles were nice too.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Stay 4 nights in Hobart, not 7.

Stay several nights in the mountains SW of Hobart.

Birding Summary

Of the 86 bird species we saw in Tasmania, 36 were endemic to Australia. Most of the 50 non-Australian Endemic bird species we saw were new for us.

43 of the species we saw in Tasmania were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia; that is: Tassie Magpie, Domestic Geese, Little Penguin, Tassie Spotted Pardalote, Tassie Australasian Magpie, Tassie Eastern Rosella, Little Wattlebird Tassie, Striated Pardalote, Tassie Richard’s Pipit, Tassie Eastern Spinebill, Spur-winged Plover, Tassie Superb Fairywren, Australian Gannet, Tassie Forest Raven, Tassie New Holland Honeyeater, Tasmanian Native-hen, Black Currawong, Forty Spotted Pardalote, Tassie Noisy Miner, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Black-faced Cormorant, Tassie Golden Whistler, Olive Whistler, Tasmanian Thornbill, Tassie Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Tassie Gray Fantail, Peacock, Tassie Wedge-tailed Eagle, Black-headed Honeyeater, Tassie Gray Shrike-Thrush, Tassie Scarlet Robin, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Blue-winged Parrot, Green Rosella, Scrubtit, Yellow Wattlebird, Tassie Brown Thornbill, Homing Piegon, Shy Albatross, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Buller’s Albatross, Tassie Little Grassbird, & Silver-eye Tassie.

Special Comments:

On Jan 30 it took 2 hours to drive the 158Km from the Hobart Airport to Bicheno (pronounced Bish-en-O). My wife tells me it was a very scenic drive, but I didn’t see much because I was concentrating on the narrow road and trying to drive fast so we would get to Bicheno before dark.
On Jan 31 we went for a morning walk on the beach. We started off thru dense bush where we spotted Great Cormorants roosting in a dead tree. After 20 minutes we came to a sandy beach. There were gulls and terns everywhere. What caught our eye was a dead Fairy Penguin — they are so small!

We could see seabirds on the offshore rocks. We went rock hopping to get closer to them. We ended up seeing a mob of Australian Gannets and a few Black-faced Cormorants.

On the walk back we noticed masses of Beach Geraniums growing between the rocks on the beach, and scared-up a Spotted Quail-thrush. Back at the cottage we found a large bed of Lion’s-Tail that was absolutely stunting. In the afternoon we went into town to continue our shore walk. There were thousands of Silver Gulls and Crested Terns on the offshore rocks with a smattering of huge Pacific Gulls. The highlight of the walk was seeing a Yellow Wattlebird pruning itself in a tree. The wattles looked like long orange-yellow ice-sickles hanging from beneath each eye. We got a fish sampler from a Take-Away place in town for dinner. I thought the fish was good. My wife didn’t care for it. It probably would have been better if they had provided tomato ketchup for the chips. After dinner we had a Tasmanian Scrubwren come on the porch.

On Feb 1 we set the alarm clock so we could see the sunrise. When we got up all we could see was clouds. It was 8:30am before the sun burnt thru.

About 9am we went to the Blowhole in downtown Bicheno. It was high tide and the waves were churning thru the rocks.

We walked along the short Governor Island (41.873S 148.312E) foreshore track. It still took a long time when you stop to notice all the birds, butterflies and flowers. January and February are prime butterfly and flower season here. There were hundreds of Bright-eyed Brown Nymphs and Common Brown Butterflies. Along the rocky path we saw Nasturtiums, delicate Geraniums, Ice Plant, Gazannias, Bunny-tail Grass, Bleeding Heart, and White Daisies. In the surf-backwater we saw red and white anemones, Kelp, and a billion barnacles.

We split a fish basket from Rose’s Cafe for lunch. The Calamari rings were tender and tasty. The prawns were fresh and fluffy. The fish was fresh and crispy. We didn’t know what to make of the scallop — part of it looked normal enough, but there was the orange part we had never seen before. About 2:30pm we drove to the nearby Douglas-Apsley NP 41.859S 148.192E). The park covers a huge area of mountainous terrain, but only a minuscule part of it is accessible by walking tracks. We walked down to the river where we photographed the Beautiful Firetail and Scarlet Robin. We saw the Forty Spotted Pardalote, Black-headed Honeyeater, and Yellow-throated Honeyeater. On the way back to the car we spotted an Echidna (Hedge-hog) with its nose stuck in the ground (when its nose is in the ground it thinks you can’t see it).

On Feb 2 we were on deck to watch the sun free itself from the ocean in a blaze of glory. The ocean was upset and tried to blow the sun out of the sky with strong winds all day. Even so, a Striated Fieldwren came to our porch.

At 7:30am we had found our way to the huge Moulting Lagoon near Coles Bay (42.014S 148.220E). This is the permanent home to 10,000 Black Swans. Some of them must have been blown away today because we only saw about a thousand. The shore here was carpeted in spongy Beaded Glasswort. We walked along Coles Bay near the VC where I got a picture of a Yellow Wattlebird.

From Coles Bay we could see The Hazards Mountain Range forming a backdrop to the bay. We drove into Freycinet NP (pronounced Fary-cen-na 42.127S 148.322E). Then we drove up one of The Hazards and walked down to the photogenic Sleepy Bay. Even though the water was COLD and the wind was howling, 3 young women showed up to go swimming.

When we got back to the car we met Charlie, David and Norman from Richmond, Va. who were biking around Tasmania for 2 weeks. The youngest of the three had just turned 60. They asked if they could ride with us to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse 5Km further up the steep mountain road (they had been told the road was too steep to bike).

It was a squeeze to get 5 people in our 4 door Suzuki, but we managed. There was a boardwalk around the lighthouse that provided great views of the coastline down to the pristine Wineglass Beach. The wind was blowing so hard we had to hold onto our hats even though we had the chinstraps as tight as they would go.

We dropped off our guests and headed to Coles Bay for lunch. We got there at 11:40am, so we sat by the bay for 20 minutes till they started serving food. We got another Fisherman’s Basket — this one came with Oysters on the Half Shell and Pickled Baby Octopus. I ate the head of the Octopus and thought it was good, but the tentacle was chewy. They had good-looking raspberry cheesecake, but we were stuffed.

We saw on the map that Coles Bay had a Bush Reserve, so we investigated – we saw see a Bush Bronzewing for the first time.

We stopped at Friendly Beach on the way out of the park. The wind was a steady 40 to 50 mph. This would be a great place to walk and maybe bird watch, but not today. The only gull we saw was hiding between big rocks for protection. As we were leaving a young woman with boys 4 & 6 came to the beach so the boys could bogie board.

About 2am on Feb 3 a Brush-tailed Possum knocked over the garbage can on our front porch. When I went to investigate – the possum posed for pictures. It wouldn’t leave till we brought the can into the house.

We left at 7am to drive the coastal road to St Helens. We saw carnage all along the 75Km route — dead Tasmanian Devils, Possums, Wallabies, and Wombats. Where are the raptors when you need them? I guess Forest Ravens will have to do.

There is a network of lagoons and beaches that runs from Bicheno to St Helens. We stopped often. Just out of Bicheno we saw 2 Green Rosellas along the road. There were clouds and some wind, but the worst weather stayed behind us

At the lagoon in Scamander (41.463S 148.265E) we hit the jackpot – Hooded Plovers, Spur-winged Plovers, and Red-capped Plovers.

We stopped at the Captain’s Catch for lunch. My wife had fried Blue Eyed Fish with chips. I had 9 fried calamaris. I have never seen such large calamaris — and Beautiful.

We drove to the Bay of Fires NP at the end of the East Coast road (41.170S 148.282E). It was scenic, but blustery.

We took the long way home thru the mountains, which required us to cross the St Mary Pass (41.580S 148.184E). The road was scenic, but narrow. The pay-off for this hassle was stopping at the Mt Elephant Pancake Barn (41.632S 148.236E) for dessert. My wife had a crepe filled with fresh raspberry jam and topped with whipped cream. I had a chocolate banana split.

At the bottom of the mountain we stopped to look at a field of domestic geese. We then spotted 7 Tasmanian Native-hens and one Black Currawong.

On Feb 4 we got up in time to see a Wallaby and Joey munching on the Germanium bush at our cottage (they turn in for the day about 9am).

We drove to the bakery in town for Cappuccino, Chai Latte, and Apricot Slice (we would call it Apricot Crisp). A good way to start the day!

We walked along the waterfront looking for a place to sit in the shade. The trees were blooming everywhere, which brought in heaps of New Holland and Yellow-throated Honeyeaters, as well as Little and Yellow Wattlebirds.

In the late afternoon we went for a walk along Governor Island. A fisherman was offshore cleaning his catch to the approval of the gull mob.

For dinner we went to the Sea Life Center for Crayfish; a.k.a. Tasmanian Rock Lobster. My wife had a char grilled half-Lobster with butter, garlic and parsley. I had a half-Lobster prepared Thermadore style (cheese, Dijon mustard, and garlic). The lobsters were harvested locally – you see lobster traps everywhere. This was the sweetest and tenderest lobster we ever had.

On Feb 5 we were off at 6:45am for the hour drive to catch the ferry to Marie Island NP. Before the voyage to the island we had Carrot Cake for Br at the Bakehouse in Tribunna.

We arrived at Marie Island (42.581S 148.066E) at 10:30am. Right off the boat we saw mobs of Cape Barren Geese and Tasmanian Native Hens.

We headed into the Eucalyptus forest on the Mt Marie track. It was hard at first to see any birds because of the Tree Martins whizzing past our heads. As we walked up the mountain track we saw Black-headed Honeyeaters, got a brief glimpse of two Blue-winged Parrots, saw a Forty Spotted Pardalote, and photographed a Green Rosella munching a seed cone.

Back at the base area we briefly toured the old penal colony complex.

We caught the 4pm boat back to Tribunna. For about half the ride we had 2 Spinner Dolphins following the boat power surfing in the wake – quite a show! We got back to Bicheno at 6pm. We had a Sea Food Platter for two at the Sea Life Center.

On Feb 6 we stayed at the cottage till 9am and started for Hobart. We stopped at 9 Mile Beach, but it was too cool and blustery to stay out long.

We stopped in Swansea for lunch. My wife got a mushroom tartlet filled with caramelized onions, goat cheese and capsicum. I had an Eye Fillet steak with a pumpkin curry sauce and green beans. Beautiful! We got to Hobart at 3pm.

On Feb 7 we got to Mt Wellington City Park (42.885S 147.221E) outside Hobart at 8am. It was clear when we arrived, but by the time we got to the top of the Mt we were in the clouds — and it was cold.

We retreated down the hill looking for birds. We mostly saw Black Currawongs, lots of them – they have a white arch on their tail feathers. We only saw 8 bird species today, but 7 were endemic (the exception was a house sparrow).

On Feb 8 we caught the 7:45am ferry to Bruny Island (43.291S 147.330E). Our first stop was Barnes Bay. In the trees outside the small town we found 5 Tasmanian specialty birds: the Black-headed Honeyeater, Green Rosella, Tasmanian Native-hen, Yellow Wattlebird, and Yellow-throated Honeyeater.

We headed south along the coast on a gravel road. The tide was out, which left a vast mud bar by the coast. We stopped once and found a flock of Wilson’s Storm-petrels hiding amongst the Pied Oystercatchers and Gulls.

We stopped at the end of North Bruny Island at the game reserve. Little Penguins and Short-tailed Shearwaters nest here. We could see the Shearwater burrows in the gigantic sand dune, but no birds (only a dead chick). They say 17 million Short-tailed Shearwaters (a.k.a. Mutton Birds) come to Tasmania each year from the Bering Sea.

We drove across the neck of land connecting the N & S Islands, and on to the South Bruny Island Lighthouse. This is as far south as you can get in Australia. We tried to find a restaurant for lunch, but they were all closed today. We caught the 2:15pm ferry back to Hobart.

For dinner we went to the Waxed Restaurant near our apartment. We started with Pumpkin soup, Greek Salad (without lettuce), and Foccocia bread. For the Main course we had a small pizza with chicken and veggies. The tomato sauce was made from fresh mashed tomatoes. Beautiful!!!

On Feb 9 we left at 7am for the 50-mile drive to the Tasman Peninsula. At 9:45am we boarded ((43.034S 147.947E) the Sealife Encounter for an Eco tour to Tasman Island at the south tip of the peninsula.

The coastline is dominated by weathering Siltstone cliffs and towering Dolomite intrusions. The Siltstone, being very soft, has been eroded by the sea into numerous blowholes, sea caves, sea arches, box canyons, pinnacles, and islands.

The Encounter is a 750-horse power aluminum hull boat capable of going 40 knots. Its shallow draft allowed us to enter many of the sea caves and drive thru a few.

Fur seals inhabit these waters and rocks. We came on a group of seals that were feeding on a school of fish with the help of Crested Terns and Shy Albatrosses. These were the first Albatrosses we had ever seen.

For lunch on the boat we had smoked octopus and smoked tuna by Herman the German, along with Farmers-cheese, olives and crackers. The octopus was right (really good). Beautiful!!!

We had 6-foot waves on the return trip. The boat powered thru the waves with flying surf and powerful booms when we bottomed-out.

About 8am on Feb 10 we walked down to the weekly Salamanca Market on the Hobart waterfront. There were a couple hundred vendors mostly selling stuff we didn’t need or didn’t want to pay to ship back to Melbourne. We did get some huge meaty cherries, and a Tasmanian hat for me. Next we walked over to see part of the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival at the Wharf. Hundreds of wooden sailing and powerboats had come from all over Australia, including the oldest yacht in Australia dating from 1873.

Late morning Feb 11 we walked down to the Hobart Casino. Their buffet lunch was sold-out. All wasn’t lost — there were beautiful flowers coming and going.

The yards here tend to be small. Many people have opted for flowers instead of grass in their front garden. The Roses are crackers! The Fuchias are rippers and turn into bushes.

On Feb 12 we walked downtown to find Mures Seafood Restaurant for Lu. The Information Center said it was in the middle of the Wooden Boat Show area, but we could get in free if we told them we were only going to the restaurant.

We both ordered half a Green Crayfish with Rosemary, Chili breadcrumbs and pesto flavored goat cheese served on angle hair pasta tossed in Basil butter with spinach and Cherrie tomatoes. Extravagantly Beautiful!!!!

My wife had Ashbolt – the drink of the Angles; a drink brewed from elderberry flowers with a crisp and lively flavor. I had Limon, Lime and Bitters.

oday Hobart had their sailing regatta in the bay, the Hobart Cup horse race, and fireworks at night.

E-mail if you would like a file with the specific birds we saw each day.


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