A weekend in Tassie

Subject: A weekend in Tassie
From: allan benson <>
Date: Thu, 05 Jul 2001 19:17:32 -0700
A Weekend in Tassie

The swells looked liked moving sand dunes. Big 3 metre monsters moving
relentlessly toward the Tasmanian coast 20 kilometres to the east. Here
they smashed against the dolerite columns  that form the ruggedly
spectacular cliffs to the south of Eaglehawk.  It was a perfect day at
sea. Despite the big swell, there was little chop and the ?Pauletta?
handled it smoothly. Maybe the two gentleman looking decidedly green,
lying on the seat in the middle of the boat may not have concurred.

We had left Pirated Bay at 7.30 am and headed south east past Hippolyte
Rock. The birding had been relatively quiet with Shy, Yellow Nosed and a
good number of Buller?s Albatross seen. Silver Gull, Kelp Gull,
Black-faced Shag, Crested Tern and Gannet completed the list.

However, now we were off the shelf with a good berley slick running and
things were starting to hot up. Pterodromas were starting to come to the
boat.   Great -winged Petrels were the first, looking like FA-18 jet
fighters as they manoeuvred around the boat. They were soon joined by a
couple of Providence Petrel. The dainty Cape Petrels were common while
the Common Diving Petrels disappeared in a whirr of tiny wings
reminiscent of quail as they dashed across the water. The prions stayed
frustratingly far enough away from the boat to prevent positive ID of
anything but a Fairy. There was lots of speculation but its damned hard
to pick the field marks on prion from a pitching boat at 25 metres.

?What is that? I called, having no idea what it was, just that it was
different. Grey Petrel came the immediate chorus. Much better views than
the one I saw in 1992 but not great. Fortunately it returned later to
pose for photos above the stern of the boat. 

This is good I thought but something new would be nice. Grey-backed
Storm Petrel came the call. It was 25-30 metres out but clearly visible.
Fortunately it came much closer- dark hood light underneath, grey right
down the back- definitely a Grey-backed Storm Petrel -tick.

The trip rounded out with both Northern and Southern Giant Petrel
including a white phase Southern, as well as only two Wandering and a
couple of Black -Browed Albatross. A Northern Royal was called but it
was a long way away and I never saw it.

Another trip was planned for the Sunday to see Sooty and Light-mantled
Sooty Albatross and Blue and Kerguelen Petrel we missed on the Friday
but for me it was going to be a relaxing weekend with my wife touring
the country south of Hobart where any birding would be incidental.

As I drove across the causeway between Sorrel and the airport to pick up
my wife, spray from the bay broke over the car. Doesn?t look good for
Sunday I thought to myself. And so it was. 5-7 metre swells with a 3
metre sea on top with 60 knot winds was the forecast and so the Pauletta
stayed on its mooring and everybody got a chance to relax.

After a careful examination of the needlework shops in Hobart, we drove
south through Kingston, Huonville, Greavestown and Dover. Here we found
the most delightful B & B called ?Risely House?.   The owners have
?donated? 18 acres of their land and along with some neighbours and
crown land nows forms part of a 120 acre reserve which is either natural
or regenerating bush. I went for a walk through this reserve and saw
Grey Fantail. Brown Thornbill, Superb-Blue Wren, White-browed Scrubwren
and Green Rosella. I kept flushing what I assumed were Brush Bronzewing
and a glimpse of what was probably a Bassian Thrush. 

The highlight was a pair of Olive Whistlers that I attracted by pishing.
I had waited till last year to stumbled over one and it was real thrill
to get such a great second view.

In the cottage garden in front of the house were Dusky, Scarlet and
Eastern Yellow Robins as well as Eastern Spinebills.  

The list of endemics was rounded out  with Forest Raven, Black
Currawong, Yellow Wattlebird and Black-headed Honeyeater.

We decided that the Huon Valley is a beautiful place with the apple
orchards contrasting with the back drop of magnificent native  forest.
However, there is a real sense of isolation here, even though it is only
two hours from Hobart. 

So this was a weekend in Tassie. One new tick on a very enjoyable boat
trip, a chance to see the countryside south of Hobart and the
opportunity to see some Tassie endemics. 

Allan Benson
8 Sherston Close Niagara Park NSW Australia 
Phone  61-243- 627189

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