We continue our tour of Tasmania in search of lifers (ie. birds we will see for the first time in the wild). The weather is improving today, as we catch the vehicular ferry from Kettering in southern Tasmania and cross the D’ Entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island, a large island often unknown to many tourists to Tasmania. It is known for its birds and unique wildlife. It is curious that in Sue Taylor’s wonderful book “Best 100 Birdwatching Sites in Australia” the only Tasmanian site she mentions in her book is Bruny Island and no other. We found birds all over Tasmania, but generally speaking, for us they were the most difficult of any birds in Australia to view and photograph. Bruny Island is so into birds that its residents hold a Bird Festival every 2 years towards the end of October, where people come from all over the country. Bruny Island boasts of having all 12 of the species endemic to Tasmania, and is one of the best places to see one of Australia’s rarest and smallest birds, threatened with extinction, the tiny Forty-spotted Pardolote, which we were unable to photograph on our visit. Click on photos to enlarge
One amazing factor when my wife and I go out birding, or travel anywhere, is that we are constantly aware that our gracious and most generous God is guiding us, and that He wants to enjoy and appreciate His wonderful Creation with us. After arriving at the entrance to Adventure Bay, near where we were to stay, we parked near the beach where we saw the above sign about the endangered Hooded Plover. To our amazement an older gentleman alighted from his car which had only just pulled up and after a conversation with my wife, proceeded to take us on a free guided tour of this important nature reserve beach. He was an expert who was keeping watch of this important site and its broods. He was a wealth of knowledge, and this was so God’s gift, as we would never have known where to look.
As we walked and talked along the beach I could not ignore this Masked Lapwing pair in flight, it was just so beautiful!
Further along, as we sighted the tracks of various birds in the sand our guide interpreted for us (see above photos). We saw that several different bird species nested and lived along this beach including Little Penguins, which unfortunately did not come in while we were there. This Pied Oystercatcher was with its juvenile (note the dark legs, yellow beak with black point and dark eye of the immature).
Soon we found what we were looking for the beautiful small shorebird, the Hooded Plover, our next lifer! which has been breeding here and recently had its young. It was such a treat to see these little birds running in the sunlight. What a blessing to have the best guide just walk into our situation and walk out again. We were so thankful for his kindness and God’s goodness.
Later on we saw immature Pacific, Silver and Kelp Gulls were on the beach as was a Pacific Black Duck family.
As we continued exploring the island we found more ‘Turbo chooks’ or Tasmanian Native-hen. They are very fast runners, I guess if your flightless like these guys, it pays off when being pursued. We were blessed to see the little chicks. The island seems covered in ‘new life’ with so many young of almost all bird varieties.
Next morning, to my delight when I awoke early to catch the ‘morning chorus’ this is what I saw at the front door, mother and baby Bennett’s Wallaby, probably looking for a handout. They stayed for over an hour, but it is not helpful or wise to feed our native animals with our food. The air was filled with birds song, as I proceeded down the road where we were staying.
I was delighted that my first bird was a lifer, endemic to Tasmania, the Strong-billed Honeyeater. This bird is very similar to our mainland Black-throated Honeyeater, except for the colour of the beak and eye surround. This small honeyeater was very ective and difficult to photograph, as was most of the birds as they sped past me within inches.
The Tasmanian race of the New Holand Honeyeater was the most abundant bird, and most active, similar to its mainland cousin.
The Flame Robin male stood out against the green background.
Introduced birds that were seen and photographed are above, mainly from the early English settlers.
The Yellow-throated Honeyeater is also in good numbers here. There were just so many birds darting about from flower to flower and bush to bush.
Small flocks of Green Rosella moved through the flowering trees.
This morning we set off on the amazing 3 hour Bruny Island Wilderness Cruise which leaves from Adventure Bay. These specially designed, extremely powerful boats take us out into the wild Southern Ocean to explore the hidden wonders, which many never see. This is an unforgettable experience. Below is a movie clip of some of the features. A small flock of Pied Cormorants watched while they rested on a floating barge.
Bird of the Week: The Black-faced Cormorant.
But the greatest find on our wilderness cruise was the sighting of the rare Black-faced Cormorant which is endemic to the ocean waters and islands around Tasmania, but can be found at times around the southern mainland coast . This was another wonderful lifer for us, especially since we saw breeding pairs, chicks and juvenile birds. They have a large rock where they live and breed, see below.
The Black-faced Cormorant is a non perching cormorant which only lands on rocks and landings out in the ocean and along the coasts. They look similar to the Little Pied Cormorant (see last photo above) except for their a black face, but live and breed in small colonies exposed to the ocean well away from human habitation. The Black-faced Cormorant dive for fish which they bring to the surface to eat. Their fathers are not waterproof so they are often seen spreading their wings to dry them (like other species of cormorant).
The Only raptor we saw was this Swamp Harrier, which was a surprise to us to see it out on the Southern Ocean.
As we returned from our cruise we were taken further out into the Southern Ocean to view ocean birds (pelagic birds Gr: ‘open sea’). We did see Yellow-nosed Albatross but were unable to photograph it. The Australasian Gannet was one bird we did see from a distance and were able to catch reasonable shots. This is another plunge-diving bird found in the oceans around southern Australia.
Having returned from our cruise we set about driving to suggested spots to see if we could get a glimpse of the the rare White Wallaby. This is a mutation of the Bennett’s Wallaby and endemic to Bruny Island. Many come to the island and never see it. We drove to suggested places and saw nothing, so we prayed asking God to bring them to us or us to them, and went back to the same spots and still nothing but the normal brown Bennett’s Wallaby, and there were plenty of them to be found on the island!
So somewhat despondently we began driving back to our accommodation, when we saw a sign to a nature reserve we had not noticed on our map. We were curious about it, as we had a couple hours before sunset, and wanted to do something. As we drove down this road we finally found the White Wallaby, which we believe God led us to, since it was in none of the places suggested on the information pamphlets. We were so delighted.
We actually saw three White Wallabies along the same road about 1km apart. There is controversy over whether they are albino or white, this is because some claim they have dark eyes and not red (lacking all melanin). However, on close examination of my shots, the eyes are red. This was our final gift for the day to make our Bruny Island stay complete. Though we searched for the tiny Forty Spotted Pardolote in the places the locals recommended but we did not see one to photograph. This may be because they are so small and move around the tops of the tallest trees in Bruny Island. One expert told us they had moved west from Adventure Bay area recently. These birds favour feeding from White Gum (eucalyptus viminalis) on insects and especially the crystallized honeydew protective covering produced by larvae of psyllid bugs called lerps.