TR: Southeastern Australia/Tasmania Jan '03 (9)

Subject: TR: Southeastern Australia/Tasmania Jan '03 (9)
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 10:31:08 EST

23 Jan 03 (cont'd)
     After lunch, we went to the Mavista picnic area and Mavista Nature Walk.  This afternoon was spent in the vicinity of Adventure Bay, and we got to do some tide pool exploring, butterfly watching, and hiking, in addition to our birding.  We saw a large White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest, unoccupied for the moment.  The weather was warm but beautiful.
     We had dinner this evening on North Bruny at the Hothouse Cafe.  This was a great restaurant, a converted greenhouse with a garden area and picnic tables overlooking a great view.  The food was really good, and the ladies who cooked it were very entertaining.  They also have a resident peacock;  we first noticed him when he hopped up on to one of the picnic tables and helped himself to pasta from one of the leftover plates.  Later, he climbed/flew to the top of the greenhouse roof area and let out a couple of peacock screams.  This scared and delighted some of the kids present, us included  We also saw a BASSIAN (OLIVE-TAILED) THRUSH hopping around under the picnic tables, great to see since not everyone had seen our previous one at Barren Grounds.
     After dinner, we went mammal hunting.  Actually, embarrassing to have to say, we did the mammal hunting trip TONIGHT that I already wrote about and said we did two nights ago!  Sorry--I had my notes screwed up.  Two nights ago, on the 21st, we also went looking for mammals, but on South Bruny, to the leucistic wallaby sites.  It was tonight, the 23rd, on North Bruny, when we went out spotlighting and got such great looks at EASTERN QUOLLS.  These mammals like the open habitat of North Bruny better and aren't as common on South Bruny.  I will try to keep things straight from now on!

24 Jan 03
     This morning we said goodbye to Inala and left at 7am so as to catch the 8:45am ferry back to "mainland" Tasmania.  After a pleasant ride around the Derwent harbor, we headed up to Mt. Field National Park, arriving there about 11am.  Right away, along the entrance road, we discovered one of the species we had come here specifically to see--BLACK CURRAWONG.  Here on Tasmania, there are two black currawongs that have white in the wing, this species and the GREY CURRAWONG, which Ron spotted a little while later--another life bird for us.  The Grey differs in also having a white vent.
     Shortly thereafter, we finally got a good look at our twelfth and final Tasmanian endemic, YELLOW WATTLEBIRD.  We had heard this species a couple of times already, and we saw it in flight and in the far distance, but today we finally got a good close look, dangling earrings and all.  Very satisfying.  So, unless Tasmanian Masked Owl becomes a separate species, we had now seen all of the Tassie endemics, though it had taken us three plus days to do so.
     We spent the rest of the day at Mt. Field, sightseeing and continuing to look for birds, butterflies, etc.  We saw TASMANIAN PADEMELONS, another endemic mammal, and I'm afraid that the only way to describe them is--cute!  Little versions of wallabies and kangaroos.  We went to Russell Falls and took photos.  Here I also saw a butterfly that I had been hoping very much to see.  One of the understory trees in this wet, higher elevation is known as Peppermint, a eucalypt with aromatic minty toothed leaves.  Here right at the falls it was growing luxuriantly right out in the sunshine.  It is the host plant for a handsome green and black swallowtail species.  Watching the upper parts of the trees for a while, I soon spotted a butterfly weaving in and out which eventually flew in closer and revealed itself as MACLEAY'S SWALLOWTAIL.  Another highlight of the morning was hiking through a grove of Mountain Ash trees, Eucalyptus regnans.  These are the second tallest trees, and the largest flowering plants in the world.  They are surpassed only by the California Redwood.  Very impressive and humbling.  Finally, on our way back to the parking area for lunch, we stumbled on to a male PINK ROBIN, a beautiful bird well worth waiting for.  Tonia told us to watch for the almost bluish sheen to the pink of the male's breast, and she was right, a very unique color.
     Lunch was a picnic in the parking lot area of Mt. Field.  Very very hot!  After lunch, we rode through the highest alpine area of Mt. Field.  This was heath habitat.  While it didn't really yield any new birds, it was full of interesting plants.  Epacris species of heath were a distinctive part of the landscape.  They were also the host plants for a species of butterfly, the MOUNTAIN BROWN, Neolucia hobartensis (actually a blue).  These tiny butterflies were everywhere.  We ended up in a parking area near a lake which I think was Lake Dobson.  We followed the lakeshore around to the west and looked back east over the lake to get some distant but identifiable views of PLATYPUS, the other Australian monotreme. Better looks would have been great, but it was still nice to see.
     We drove back down to Hobart in the late afternoon.  On our way south along the Derwent River we stopped to look more closely at the fires on the other side of the river--very ominous looking, burning through the upper slopes of the nearby hills.  We arrived in downtown Hobart, and coming around the turns into the inner harbor area, were suddenly confronted by a white wall filled with little windows.  This was my first look at a cruise ship--it was the largest floating thing I have ever seen, much larger than I had expected--one of the most amazing sights of the day.  A few minutes later we were unloading at our hotel, the Lenna of Hobart, one of the grand old hotels right near the waterfront.  This was a very nice place, with great food and very comfortable rooms.  Not too long after our arrival, the air was blasted by an incredible horn, the mooing of the mother ship calling everyone home.  The cruise ship departed shortly after that.

25 Jan 03
     I woke up this morning, opened my hotel window, then quickly closed it again after getting a whiff of the strong pall of smoke hanging over the city.  We went and had a lavish breakfast in the hotel dining room and then started out about 7am.  Our plan for today was to drive northward along the east coast heading for the Freycinet Peninsula and Freycinet National Park.  We stopped first at Orielton (sp.?) Lagoon National Reserve, a good shorebirding spot.  We quickly added a couple of new species to our trip list here--BAR-TAILED GODWIT and GREAT CRESTED GREBE.  Other good birds included SKY LARK and LITTLE EGRET.  But the best water bird of the morning was BLUE-BILLED DUCK, the Australian version of our North American Ruddy Duck.  Now that we had seen that species, we had seen all of the regularly occurring ducks that we could realistically expect to see in Tassie and southeastern Australia.
     It was already hot today and still very smoky.  The temperature would end up topping out today at 35 or more degrees, very hot for Tasmania.  Combined with the drought, the heat helped fuel the fires.  Today was a bad day for fires on Tasmania.  We arrived at Freycinet to find that the trails were closed.  It was ok for us to drive out to the peninsula parking areas, but we could not walk along the walking trails.  But it was so hot that we didn't feel too upset by this--we were moving pretty slowly, and wilting in the shade whenever possible.  We drove out to Cape Tourville to the lighthouse--beautiful view.  We also drove around to Sleepy Bay and walked down to the beach overlook area.  We saw some nice herps here, and I got some photographs of a DARK-FLECKED GARDEN SUNSKINK, a very pretty lizard.  We also got more looks at YELLOW WATTLEBIRD.
     We then headed up to Bicheno, where we would be spending the night.  Since this was Australia Day weekend, we had been very lucky to find accommodations that were willing to take us for just the one Saturday night of the three-day weekend.  We stayed at the Bicheno Berry Retreat, a terrific cottage set on a hillside with a glorious view of the beaches and ocean far below.  We ate dinner up the road a kilometer or so at the Diamond Island Resort, where the food was excellent.


Bill Benner
Old Brookville, NY
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