It was a cool cloudy, misty and sometimes rainy day when we set out to explore the Tasman Peninsula and the Tasman National Park in southern Tasmania. This did not perturb us for we had prayed that morning for God, who is always gracious and kind to grant us new vistas and new birds (lifers) which we had not yet seen in the wild. Interesting enough, on previous visits to Tassie I had not seen many birds at all, partly because I was not a true birder and partly because of the difficulty of actually viewing the Tassie birds, which I will share as we move along.
As we drove we sighted our first lifer, the Tasmanian Native-hen grazing in a grassy field. This bird is endemic to Tasmania. As we approached them from a distance they shot off with incredible speed into the bush. We later found out that the locals call them ‘Turbo-Chooks’ for this reason. Boy they can move fast, they don’t need to use their wings! We would see a lot of these during our stay in Tasmania, as they are found throughout the island state. Click on photo to enlarge it.
At Sorel at the important Pitt Water Nature Reserve (an important migratory bird corridor) we stopped to view the birds. As you can see above the lighting was poor and it was misty and raining, but I managed to get enough detail to show the peculiar characteristic of the Musk Ducks that were resting. The male has the unusual round protrusion from under its beak. A large flock of Chestnut Teal were on the shore, a bird quite common to our state, and featured on previous blogs. However, our prime goal was to spot the Hoary-headed Grebe, a rare bird to sight. We did not realise till we enlarged our photos that we had actually seen one, another lifer!
The head is covered with fine white feathers over the face. These birds are very shy of humans making them very difficult to get a close photo of. They spend most of their lives on water diving for crustaceans, yabbies, small fish, beetles and other insects. Please excuse the dullness of the photos due to weather and distance from subject.
As we drove further we found a beach that was a nesting reserve for Pacific and Kelp gulls. There were many gulls nesting and resting, and many immature gulls at various stages of maturity just relaxing at low tide. We had to view and photograph from some distance so as not to disturb them.
I love photographing the ocean when it is raging. The Tasman Arch and the The Blowhole are some of the natural wonders of the peninsula.
Looking out over the ocean I could see up on this ledge a Kelp Gull with two juveniles. When I saw the second photo I could hear my mother saying “Be careful now, don’t go too close to the edge or you might fall!”
The Tessellated Pavement is another natural wonder at Eaglehawk Neck, and as it was low tide we were able to walk out on it.
Nearby was a park where various exhibits display some of the early history. EagleHawk Neck is the narrowest point separating the peninsula from the mainland of the island. It was ideal for preventing convicts from escaping from Port Arthur penile colony. They did this by chaining viscous dogs all across the neck of the peninsula to deter them from escaping. Though some did escape over the years.
As we walked around from one vista to another birds moved from tree to tree in small flocks. It was most frustrating because the light was poor, the trees tall and the bushes thick, and the birds moved very fast. Thus I apologise for the poor colour and definition in many of this day’s photos. The Black-headed Honeyeater was another lifer for us, endemic to Tasmania.
We also had our first sightings of the Yellow Wattlebird here, but were unable at this stage to get any good photos, this was another lifer, endemic to Tasmania. This is one bird on our list for which we came expectantly to find! Look closely at the long pendulous wattles hanging from each side of its neck. Better photos are coming. This Yellow Wattlebird bird completes our set of Wattlebirds, as we already have the Red Wattlebird in NSW, but not in Tasmania and the Little Wattlebird in NSW and also here in Tasmania, which we will see later.
The Wattlesbirds are aggressive honeyeaters and there were many flowering gums and wildflowers out for them to feed on, like this beautiful flowering eucalypt.
The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike is a forest bird we are familiar with in NSW, and was quite at home here in Tasmania. It is usually identified by its beautiful song.
One place that is really worth visiting on the peninsula is the wildlife park or Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, which is a special place where Tasmanian animals and birds are cared for. The Tasmanian Devil is endemic to Tasmania, though it, like the Tasmanian Tiger roamed the mainland many years ago. Above are some Tasmanian wallabies, pademelons, kangaroos and the Eastern Quoll (found also on the mainland). The Quoll is the second only carnivorous marsupial to the devil, and also threatened.
The Tasmanian devil is the world’s largest living carnivorous marsupial. The devils are in grave danger of extinction due to a terrible facial tumor disease that had decimated more than half the devil population, which is why conservationists are separating groups of devils to various isolated areas away from the wild stock. These creatures eat road-kill and dead and dying animals. They eat every part of the animal bones, meat and fur leaving nothing behind. You know if devils are around because the roadkill from the night before is gone in the morning. They like most Australian animals are nocturnal, they are fearful of mankind, and usually keep well away from us. They have the most powerful jaw of any creature for its size and the best sense of small of any creature of over 1 km.
We were surprised at the number of birds both captive and wild we saw while walking around the conservation park or Unzoo. Our first sighting was the Cape Barren Goose which is found in great numbers in and around Tasmania and its islands. It is one of the two geese endemic to Australia, the other being the Magpie Goose, which I have featured in previous blogs.
It was not surprising to find the Superb Fairy-wrens nearly everywhere we went, they were doing as well here as on the mainland in Sydney.
The Tasmanian Thornbill was another lifer, endemic to Tasmania, and very similar to the Brown Thornbill. It has a rufous forehead and olive shoulders, unfortunately the poor light does it no justice.
My Bird of the Week – The Yellow Wattlebird
We were taken on a nature walk by one of the attendants where we had a close up look of the Yellow Wattlebird which they would call and it would come for feeding. These shots give you a good close up view of the bird, its wattles and long tail. The bird was very shy and took some encouraging to coax it to the feeder. These were taken from some distance.
Here is a comparison of the three types, note the wattles and the lack thereof in the Little Wattlebird. These birds are classed as honeyeaters and eat nectar, insects and berries. They are very aggressive birds and guard their territories in a similar way to the Noisy and Bell Miner, attacking other birds. They mainly feed from the flowers of eucalypt trees and are found in the lower tree canopy and bush areas, calling with their distinctive harsh grating sound. These birds move about areas but are not migratory.
From the map below it can be seen that the in recent years the Little Wattlebird has become found alongside both red and yellow species.
As I was walking I heard this chatter in the trees as bits of fruit fell, and lo and behold another lifer, the Green Rosella, also endemic to Tasmania. The immatures are all green but become more yellow on their underside as they mature. By now we were very thankful that we had seen so many lifers already today, God has been so good to us, as I have been here before some years ago, and not seen all of the different species of birds that I have seen today.
How amazing to see Tawny Frogmouths up close in Tasmania. As many of you know I have been featuring the Frogmouth families in Oatley Park Reserve at home in past months, and here we saw them close up. Notice the female has a rufous brown colouring.
As we walked across a small walk bridge my wife found a bird nest that had fallen from a tree. It may have been a Grey Fantail. Note the precision and care that has laboriously and skilfully gone into its creation.
At the conclusion of our nature walk we came to seaside where fish was left on a post a Pacific Gull came and ate it. The pacific Gull are common in Tasmania, and the southern most coast of the mainland. They are are large gull with lipstick lips, and go through several stages of maturity in their plumage, as featured in my earlier photos. They are similar to the Kelp Gull, which only has red on the bottom portion of the beak tip.
Time was escaping us and we had to leave and return to Hobart for a lovely meal at an Italian Restaurant at Battery Point. On our way we stopped to watch these Sooty Oystercatchers on the shore.
While we watched a pair of Pied Oystercatchers walked over to join the Sootys in a Oystercatcher’s conference. They all seemed to mix together very well in a much more harmonious way than I have seen on the mainland. I have seen on many occasions the Pied push the Sootys away. The Sooty Oystercatcher is a endangered in NSW and threatened in Victoria, but seems to be doing much better in Tasmania, being present on every coastal area I visit. Thank God for havens where such humble and quite creatures can live and breed in peace. Tasmania is one big wildlife park. We gave thanks for the many beautiful sightings we had this day, for the beautiful scenery and the lifers.
” I will give thanks to you Lord my God, with all my heart; I will tell of all the wonderful things you have done.” – Psalm 9:1
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