Wet N’ Wild Tasmania.
The plan was formulated with my brother, Rob to go on the
Eaglehawk Pelagic Trip organised by Chris Lester on September 21st
2003. However, Rob needed the Forty-Spotted Pardalote, Pink Robin and Dusky
Robin for his list so we thought a three-day trip, with our wives could be
We arrived in Hobart on Friday 19th September to
lousy weather. The wind was howling, rain showers swept across the tarmac and it
had been snowing on Mt Wellington the previous day. Sunday’s boat trip was not
looking promising at this stage.
The first challenge was the Forty Spotted Pardalote. We knew the
spot was Peter Murrell Reserve, the only problem was finding Peter Murrell
Reserve. The only information was 15 minutes south of Hobart on the Channel
Highway near the Vodaphone Call Centre but the reserve was not marked on the
street directory. After a couple of false starts we finally found the Vodaphone
Centre marked on the map. Just to clarify the directions, take the main road
south to Kingston, continue south along the Channel Highway toward Margate. Just
past the Antarctic Headquarters there is an industrial estate with Vodaphone
marked on the sign. Turn left here and take the dirt road beside the Call centre
to the gate.
The conditions here were very ordinary. The wind was roaring
through the trees and we really thought we had little chance. We searched the
"manna’ gums below the first dam wall and the only bird we saw was a
Yellow-throated Honeyeater. We moved to the second dam to find it looked a
little more promising as there were several Spotted Pardalote, Grey Fantail,
Grey Shrike Thrush and Brown Thornbill. There was a small, dull brown bird
flicking around relatively low down. Eventually, I got my binoculars on it to
see the yellow vent and yellow face of the Forty Spotted Pardalote.
We headed down through the picturesque Huon Valley to our
overnight accommodation near Dover. Risely House is a very comfortable B & B
run by Phil and Greg. They have a private conservation area here and a garden
full of birds including Dusky Robin, Crescent Honeyeater, Black-headed
Honeyeater, Beautiful Firetail, Superb Blue Wren, Fantail Cuckoo and Brown
Thornbill. Olive Whistler was heard calling but the place was so wet, I wasn’t
going chasing it.
After a wonderful meal, a good night’s sleep and a sumptuous
breakfast, we headed back toward Hobart to Ferntree to search out the Pink
Robin. Conditions today were much better. The wind had dropped and the sun was
out so the walk along the pipeline track was pleasant. We found the Pink Robin
on the road off the Ferntree Bower. We heard it calling and we squeaked in not
one but two beautiful males with their pink breasts standing out like beacons.
Other good birds here were the Tasmanian Scrub-wren, Strong –billed Honeyeater,
Tasmanian Thornbill and Golden Whistler.
Our overnight accommodation at Eaglehawk was appropriately
called Osprey Retreat (although Osprey would be a rarity in Tasmania). This is a
4-½ star B & B and, not to put to fine a point on it, was very nice. While
enjoying a welcoming cup of tea with our hosts, Kathy and Werner, a very
obliging Olive Whistler hopped along their deck. A Yellow Wattlebird seen out
the window was the 10th of the 11 possible endemic for Tasmania. The
Scrubtit was the only omission from the list.
Sunday dawned reasonably calm but overcast. So the boat trip
looked on as we boarded the Pauletta. We headed north-east out of Pirates Bay
into the swell and it soon became obvious that it was going to be a far from
pleasant day as significant amounts of spray were coming over the boat. Once off
the shelf the swell was 2-3 metres with a 1-1-½-metre chop and the wind got up
to 25-30 knots. I said the organiser, Chris Lester, at one point "this is
exciting" and Chris said, "if it gets anymore exciting I’ll charge extra".
Within minutes of that conversation a wave broke over the back of the boat, the
deck tilted toward 45 degrees and what seemed liked half a swimming pool of
water came on board. Chris went flying across the deck, followed closely by my
brother, who was very appreciative that Chris broke his fall. Meanwhile, I clung
even tighter to stanchion that was my saviour. One passenger was very seriously
sea sick to the point of severe disorientation and hysteria so the trip was
called early and we were back at the wharf by about 2.30 p.m.
Despite the atrocious conditions we saw everything we could have
expected to see and more. The common albatross was the Shy with the nominate
race and Salvin’s in good numbers. We saw a couple of Bullers, a few
Black-browed, several wanders and most importantly for me one Northern and two
Southern Royal. There were lots of Petrel’s including the much sought after
Grey, great views of White-headed, Cape, Great–winged, Northern and Southern
Giant Petrel and Grey–backed Storm Petrel. One other rarity was the Southern
I think its an adage of pelagic birding that the worse the
weather, the better the birds so all up it was a very memorable day and a very
memorable long weekend.