Trip Report Wilderness SW TAS

To: "Birding Australia" <>
Subject: Trip Report Wilderness SW TAS
From: "Chris Coleborn" <>
Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2007 19:21:17 +1100
Hello All,

Earlier this month my adult daughter Anna and I spent a fortnight in the spectacular and awesome vastness of the World Heritage listed South West wilderness area of Tasmania. We lived and worked from a shack near the Birches River, which flows into Birches Inlet and then into Macquarie Harbour. The shack is the base for a release and monitoring site of the ORANGE-BELLIED PARROT (OBP). The fortnight we were there we did not see another soul, and apart from a nightly safety radio report-in, hardly spoke to another soul. The opportunity to spend over 30 hours of close observation of OBPs, and making some notes for the records of this worthwhile project, was very satisfying. Details on this project can be found on various websites including:

The setting was certainly world class. There were towering mountains, misty gorges and mist and tree shrouded creeks, towering bluffs and abrupt escarpments, rugged plateaus bisected by wooded gullies and spreading and vast plains and swampland of Button Grass and a multitude of other herbage forming a wonderful tapestry of flowering plants. All this spread out with a marvellous sense of space and ever changing character with the passing of the day and the weather changes. It is the home of some very special animals too - including the OBP. It was great to walk through all this variety of landscape, and we particularly enjoyed one fine day an eight hour 35 km hike along the Low Rocky Point Track.

There were also impenetrable thickets of Tea Tree and associated plants, and in places one could penetrate into the understory of Beech Forests, hoary with age and fallen mammoths moss and lichen covered, and ferns and associated plants like a wonderful garden. It was great to see such wonderful trees as the Beech/Myrtles, Black-hearted Sassafras, Huon Pine and various species of giant eucalypts. The OBP's however, made their home in the Button-grass plains and flats, and nested in the copses and little islands of eucalypts to be found scattered over the plains and in some of the gorges that broke into the plateaus.

While the area does not have a large number of bird species, there are some very special birds to be found here. The many sightings of OBPs, of which there are only about 200 - 250 in the wild now, were the most significant. However, it was always riveting to freeze and get a view of a flushed GROUND PARROTS, with their silent, quick flight and sudden disappearance into the low, dense herbage. There were some good sights of them though. One memorable one was when a GROUND PARROT landed in a bush with the morning sun on its back - the mottled black and yellow/green of its head and back was breathtaking.

We enjoyed some other special birds here too, all of them endemic sub-species or species of Tasmania. One of the more memorable, were several encounters with the most delightful, at times so shy and at times so confiding, little SOUTHERN EMU-WREN. With their blush of pastel blue to the male's throat and to their striated brown backs and rufous underside and trailing 'Emu feather' tails they would pop up onto Button-grass or stunted tree stems, or in some giant rushes. In the depths of the towering forest, we enjoyed a male PINK ROBIN, so startlingly pink and black in the subdued lighting, softly calling as it accompanied us for a time in our wander in his world. I thought we also saw a BASSIAN THRUSH here, but could not get a second sighting in the twilight of the forest to verify it. We did get to see a reclusive OLIVE WHISTLER though, silently looking at us and then flittering away into the enclosing forest. Skulking in thickets we saw TASMANIAN SCRUBWREN, and in the isolated islands of trees at the heads of gullies and on island rises in the plains, we saw TASMANIAN THORNBILL. There were some wonderful sights of YELLOW-TAILED BLACK COCKATOO. One unforgettable one was seeing close up this startling large black parrot feeding in the top of a profusely flowering and strikingly crimson, Tasmanian Waratah - what a contrast. We encountered, on one of our dinghy trips down the creek, a flock of STRONG-BILLED HONEYEATER. YELLOW-THROATED HONEYEATER were common and they with the CRESCENT HONEYEATER, were the most common birds around, and their cheerful calls made up the bulk of the delightful dawn chorus.

There were a range of other more common birds to be seen too, such as nesting TREE MARTINS & WELCOME SWALLOWS. On the waterways there were BLACK SWAN, AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK & LITTLE PIED CORMORANT. Raptors included SWAMP HARRIER & BROWN FALCON. We flushed several LATHAM SNIPES from some small, grassy ponds on the plains and flats. More ordinary bush birds included BRUSH BRONZEWING, FAN-TAILED AND HORSFIELD'S BRONZE-CUCKOO, GOLDEN WHISTLER, GREY SHRIKE-THRUSH, GREY FANTAIL, BLACK-FACED CUCKOO-SHRIKE, CRESCENT & NEW HOLLAND HONEYEATERS, AND FOREST RAVEN. We also came across several pairs of the endemic GREEN ROSELLA. There were also good numbers of BLUE-WINGED PARROTS, of which we had good sightings as they fed with the OBPs. A SOUTHERN BOOBOOK was heard calling one night.

I had hoped to see some BEAUTIFUL FIRETAIL here too, but they did not conveniently appear for us to see them. We had heard that the rather rare subspecies of the AZURE KINGFISHER nested in this area, and I was also hopeful of seeing it, but we missed it too.

We enjoyed wonderful views early one morning of an EASTERN QUOLL, and had several clear views of BROAD-TOOTHED RATS, and some passing sightings of TASMANIAN DEVIL & COMMON WOMBAT. The SWAMP ANTECHINUS is found in this area, and I searched with spotlight several nights looking for one, but was not successful - the same for SWAMP RAT. With all the insects to be found here, I thought we would encounter some bats, but I did not see one.

Invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians were also of much interest, and it was satisfying to use the guides and reference books seeking to identify them. I particularly enjoyed observing the many breeding frogs here, including the COMMON FROGLET, TASMANIAN FROGLET & SMOOTH FROGLET. There were striking fly-bys in the morning sun of MACLEAY'S SWALLOWTAIL BUTTERFLIES, with their wonderful lime-green and black filigree markings.

It was a great time, not only for contributing to the conservation of OBP, but a real privilege to enjoy this wonderful part of the world and for me, to enjoy a dad and daughter time together as pals and fellow explorers!

I trust that the holiday season and new year ahead will be a safe and happy one for all.


Chris Coleborn


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