South Coast Tasmania birding trip report

To: <>
Subject: South Coast Tasmania birding trip report
From: "Els and Bill" <>
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2014 11:44:01 +1100
I thought readers might be interested in this trip as it was the first time it 
had been attempted as an extended birding trip, taking in Port Davey and was a 
great success despite not actually being able to reach Pedra Branca due to the 
bad weather.   If it had been a week earlier, it would have been a different 
story.  I hope it will inspire birders to make a similar attempt next year and 
to discover the possibilities offered by this great charter vessel.

The bird list for the trip can be viewed by following this link:

Kind regards,
Els Wakefield

La Golondrina voyage to SW and SE Tasmania 14th to 19th March 2014.


The six passengers, Karen Dick, John Lillywhite, Andrew Walter, Hazel Britton, 
Peter Madvig and I drove down to Kettering, arriving just as La Golondrina 
pulled up at the public jetty.   We met Morrie Wolf, the skipper and Chrissie 
Rowlands, the   only crewmember.    Chrissie showed us the cabins and we all 
chose where to sleep - some down below on bunks, others under cover on deck in 
single fold-up tents.     The boat was very stable both for the rough weather 
and for bird watching as well as tidy, clean and spacious.   The toilet and 
shower were in a combined space, which worked well.  Morning tea with Morrie's 
wife (Christine's) home made biscuits and fruit cake and then lunch with bread 
rolls filled with thick slices of Morrie's famous pressed beef tongue and salad 
were impressive.   


Soon we were heading south but from the start, Morrie was concerned about our 
wish to reach Pedra Branca, as the weather forecast was for gale force winds 
and a four metre plus swells.  He decided to head as far around the coast as 
possible on the first day and so he managed to reach Port Davey that night, a 
welcome respite from the large, following swell.  On the way Morrie caught two 
tuna, one of which was so large, he was tempted to cut it loose as he struggled 
to bring it in.    The coastal scenery along the way was magnificent with close 
views of untouched bushland, high cliffs and rugged mountains.      Other boats 
anchored in Bramble Cove were grateful to receive newspapers that Morrie threw 
to them as we arrived.  He seemed to know everyone. 


The weather forecast promised deteriorating conditions for the next few days so 
Morrie felt we could afford a few days pottering around in the inland waters of 
Port Davey.   We motored as far as possible up to Melaleuca and then 
transferred to the tender dinghy for the last, winding leg up to the home of 
Jeff and Janet Fenton, greeting them with fresh crayfish as a "passport".  From 
there we walked to the bird feeding station where we were treated to great 
views of 15 Orange-bellied Parrots, 20 Firetail Finch, a Striated Fieldwren, a 
Tasmanian Scrubwren, a Ground Parrot and a Southern Emu-wren.   That night, 
tuna steaks were on the menu followed by Gravenstein apple crumble from the 
Wolf garden.   


Morrie had intended to take us up the Davey River to look for the Azure 
Kingfisher on day three but during the night there was heavy rain that he knew 
had flattened out the swell so he made a quick change of plan. The weather 
forecast was for a 2 to 3 day gale that would have kept us in Port Davey but we 
now had a 12-hour window to escape.   Leaving early after hauling up some 
crayfish, we headed past Maatsuyker Island for Recherche Bay with a dark storm 
hard on our heels.   Here we joined other boats taking shelter but the worst of 
the weather further south was to come the following day, trapping those who had 


As our passengers were a hardy lot, despite the 3m swells, Morrie decided to 
make an attempt at reaching the continental shelf the following morning.   He 
headed due east, past Bruny Island, across the notorious Storm Bay, to Tasman 
Peninsula and Safety Cove.    Here the jetty at Port Arthur was a safe 
anchorage for an entrée of half a crayfish each followed later by tuna steaks 
after a group of us had sneaked off to look unsuccessfully for the Masked Owls 
by the light of a glorious full moon.   Others stayed behind to try some squid 
fishing from the jetty without success except for Morrie who caught a couple 
while showing them how to do it!   


To Chrissie's disappointment, these squid proved useful the following day, day 
five, when we headed out to the edge of the continental shelf east of Tasman 
Island and then north for several kilometres for a brief burley stop before 
being chased back by another threatening storm.  As there had been no time at 
Port Davey for Morrie to catch a shark as he had planned, our burley was very 
limited in quality and quantity, perhaps explaining the lack of diversity of 
pelagic birds.  Morrie timed our return from the shelf perfectly, lingering 
near Visscher Island while Chrissie managed to bake a batch of savoury scones 
as we retreated to Blackman Bay and shelter at Dunalley.   Here we dined on 
Chrissie's secret battered fish recipe while tied securely to the jetty.


Dunalley is slowly recovering from the devastating fires, which were still 
obvious a year later from the water.   The passage through the canal, hand dug 
by convicts, went smoothly as the traffic was stopped for us to go past the 
opened bridge.   Chrissie served hot scones with home made apricot and 
raspberry jams as we crossed Frederick Henry Bay.   Travelling past various 
small islands, extensive beaches and cliffs gave us an interesting perspective 
on this magnificent, fairly untouched coastline that is not apparent from 
shore.  From here we slipped around the Iron Pot, the second oldest light in 
Australia, now clad in scaffolding for restoration work.   Then down the 
D'Entrecasteaux Channel between Bruny Island and Tinderbox Peninsula, admiring 
the historic old white and green pilot station houses opposite the entrance to 
the Derwent River where the old sailing ships arrived from Europe after many 
months at sea.   


Throughout the trip, Chrissie was fantastic, always alert to everyone's needs 
including the skipper's and quietly working in the background.   The high 
quality of the fresh home produce and the delicious meals prepared by cook 
Chrissie made every meal a special occasion.  


As a group, we all pitched in and helped when needed, looked out for each other 
and took turns taking notes on the birds.   


Arriving safely at Kettering, we knew that we had not reached Pedra Branca but 
that Morrie had managed to do more than would have otherwise been possible 
without his clever reading of the prevailing conditions.  All were in grateful 
appreciation of Morrie's amazing seafaring skills learnt from years of 
experience.     In addition his hospitality, warm personality and dedication to 
offering us a comfortable, interesting and exciting experience made this a trip 
of a lifetime.


Els Wakefield
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