birding down under 4

Subject: birding down under 4
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2001 14:08:16 +0200


Our July week in Bronte village, almost at the geographical centre of
Tasmania and at ca 800m a.s.l., was in its entirety dedicated to an
informal amphipod meeting of 22 colleagues from all over the world. This
means much informal discussions and workshops, and a few excursions to see
our animals in the field, mostly to the west of Bronte village; there was
thus not all that much time for birding. In addition, the weather was
finally somewhat winter-like also by our Norwegian eyes, with chilly,
windy, grey, wet days predominant and even some token sleet one day; the
welcoming log-fires were therefore often more tempting at free moments than
the muddy tracks. Moreover, from the dining room windows we could at our
leisure watch the massive Tasmanian Brush-tailed Possums and, more
exclusively, the nimble beautifully spotted Eastern Quolls, that came to
put-out food there. One of the quolls was of the uncommon melanistic morph,
very beautiful indeed.

During the days both Clinking and Black Currawongs scavenged in this area,
and they also often tried to raid the garbage. These Black Currawongs
(endemic to Tasmania) have a wonderfully evocative call, chiefly heard in
the evenings and early mornings ("I'm here! Where you?" was how Traudl
heard it), like some old-fashioned car-horn and usually uttered in flight.
Also the magpies (Are the Tazzie magpies really smaller than the mainland
ones? It seemed so to me), the ubiquitous and strangely tame Masked
Lapwings, and the deep-voiced Forest Ravens contributed to making even this
chilly and somewhat bleak place in mid-winter a place of wonderful and
weird bird calls.

Some of Tasmanias endemics were easy to find even without really trying.
All the way along the Derwent valley we had seen the chicken-like Tasmanian
Native Hens in wetlands and paddocks, Green Rosellas were usually present
'on campus' (on camping, rather) at Bronte, and the weird 'Vomitbird', the
Yellow Wattlebird with its overlong wattles and uncouth voice, was also
present here, although not as common as among the flowering gum trees of
Hobart's suburbs. The small roving flocks of Thornbills seemed to me almost
exclusively to consist of the endemic Tasmanian Thornbills at Bronte (and
mostly of Brown Thornbills around Hobart; can this be right?), and when the
weather finally cleared on the last morning, a short walk after breakfast
added two more endemics: Black-headed Honeyeaters high in the trees (We had
earlier found Strong-billed Honeyeaters on the slopes of Mt Wellington),
and the large and somewhat lethargic Dusky Robin lower down in the undergrowth.

The nicest bird, however, and not only because it was a life bird for me ,
were the Pink Robins of the rain forests during the excursions: the males
with their shocking pink bellies, the females with their conspicuous
yellowish wingbars. In more open country there were also Scarlet Robins.

My other life bird was part of the utterly fascinating 'nightlife' of this
area; we went on one 'woildloife-spotting tour' one evening, and also
returned from our fieldwork often late enough to see night animals. In the
dark there are animals everywhere, no doubt in part because of the absence
of foxes from Tasmania. Mostly possums, wallabies, and pademelons---and
rabbits, of course!--, but also now and then some of the other small
roo-relatives (bettong, potoroo), quolls, an enormous wombat, and even
(though sadly not in front of my minibus) two Tasmanian Devils. And also at
several occasions, close to Bronte village, my first ever Masked Owls (I
think I heard them call too during an evening walk in the dark, when we
also felt surrounded by all sorts of mysterious thumping sounds along the
dark road).

We left Tasmania just when the weather turned finally nicer, and at Sorell
airport Musk Lorikeets now had joined the common Rainbow Lorikeets. It is
sad, by the way, how quickly such an enormously colourful and interesting
bird as the Rainbow Lorikeet becomes 'just another lorikeet', when it is
only common enough! We always live in danger to overlook our commoner birds!!

Alastair Richardson and John Bradbury were the people who organized our
'chatshop' efficiently and smoothly and who also had  made the fieldwork
schedules. Tusen takk!

                                                                Adelaide, 28 
July 2001
                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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