Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

South-East Australia Road Trip Spring 2019: Part 7, Hobart and North Tasmania

Tasmanian Masked Owl

After leaving Bruny Island we headed to Hobart for a few days of mostly relaxing, sight-seeing and catching up with friends, setting up the caravan in the city showground. The odd visit to local bushland reserves proved worthwhile with Grey (Clinking) Currawongs quite common.

Grey (Clinking) Currawong
I'd heard a few Satin Flycatchers earlier in the trip elsewhere in Tasmania and finally managed to see a male close-up in Hobart's Waterworks Reserve.

Satin Flycatcher

Satin Flycatcher

Satin Flycatcher
I checked out Goulds Lagoon and was surprised to see about a dozen Freckled Duck there.

Freckled Duck
From Hobart we headed north for a couple of days in Latrobe, near Launceston, where we camped by the pleasant South Esk River.

South Esk River near Launceston
Then it was on to Latrobe, south of Launceston, for a three-day stay. The Warrawee Conservation Area and the Mersey River offered some of the finest forest scenery of the trip. 

Warrawee Forest Reserve near Devonport
It was here that one of the star birds was encountered – the Tasmanian race of the Masked Owl. 
I had noted a 2018 ebird record from the Warrawee forest and so it was there I headed. I found a large and vocal female Masked Owl about 500m from that site, or about 1.3km from the reserve's locked gate. It was interesting to note that the owl's “twittering” calls were given far more often and were a good deal louder than those given by mainland Masked Owls. The Warrawee bird was also a good deal darker and more reddish-brown than any birds I've seen on the mainland.

Tasmanian Masked Owl

Tasmanian Maksed Owl

Tasmanian Masked Owl
Olive Whistler was quite common at Warrawee. From Devonport we again boarded the Spirit of Tasmania ferry for a comfortable journey back to Port Melbourne.

Olive Whistler

Saturday, 7 December 2019

South-East Australia Road Trip Spring 2019: Part 6 – Bruny Island

Forty-spotted Pardalote
During our last evening at Port Arthur I saw Eastern Barred Bandicoot but managed just poor images in the by now predictably dreary, damp and unexpectedly (for November) cold weather conditions. (My external flash had also died.) 

Eastern Barred Bandicoot
We then headed south to Bruny Island, the best-known hotspot in Tasmania for finding the state's endemic birds. It didn't disappoint. A short distance from the ferry landing, I checked out Missionary Road and quickly found several Forty-spotted Pardalotes within a few hundred metres of the main road. I'd heard that North Bruny was unusually dry and that the pardalotes had become more difficult to find. Dusky Robin was also here.

Dusky Robin

Forty-spotted Pardalote
We spent the first night behind the pub at Alonnah on South Bruny, the next morning checking out the Cape Bruny Lighthouse and Jetty Beach. A flock of Strong-billed Honeyeaters was foraging in eucalypts about 1km before the lighthouse. Several Flame Robins were around the lighthouse. 

Cape Bruny

Flame Robin

Strong-billed Honeyeater

Strong-billed Honeyeater
We moved to the caravan park at Adventure Bay on the eastern side of South Bruny for the next three nights. Plenty of Tasmanian Native-hens were seen earlier during the trip but I hadn't got around to photographing them until here.

Tasmanian Native-hen

Adventure Bay
Several Tasmanian Scrubwrens were in the caravan park grounds. Nest boxes for Swift Parrot in the grounds were used last year by the parrots but this year only European Starlings were occupying them.

Tasmanian Scrubwren
During several days on Bruny I heard just a couple of Swift Parrots at Adventure Bay, regarded as a stronghold for the critically endangered species: Bruny Island's significance for the bird is noted in a sign prominently positioned at the ferry landing. (As noted earlier, plenty of parrots were present at Port Arthur.)

A visit to the Mavista Nature Walk behind Adventure Bay turned up a few Scrubtits – the last of Tasmania's 12 endemic species that I wanted to photograph. While several endemics were seen earlier in the trip, all 12 were spotted easily on Bruny Island. 


We went looking for Eastern Quoll one night, beginning at the jetty landing an hour after sunset and slowly driving the roads east and south, detouring via Missionary Road. We saw a total of 8 quoll including two dark phase individuals but all were seen fleetingly crossing the road or leaving its verges, or distantly in paddocks. None offered a photographic opportunity. Quoll feeding on roadkill on Bruny had in the past been easily photographed but these days, road kill is removed by the island's commercial wildlife company, Inala. According to the company, this is to prevent raptors and quoll feeding on dead animals from being hit by cars. The only other vehicle we saw during our quoll foray was an Inala tour car; the company presumably knows where road kills are relocated. Inala charges $285 per person for a three-hour evening tour.

A Morepork showed well roadside during our return to Adventure Bay. At a well-known breeding colony of Little Penguins at The Neck, which divides North Bruny from South Bruny, I saw a couple of penguins close to the carpark.

Little Penguin

Friday, 6 December 2019

South-East Australia Road Trip Spring 2019: Part 5 - Eaglehawk Neck Pelagic

Southern Royal Albatross

From Port Arthur I joined a pelagic trip on November 9. I'd messed up the dates for another trip organised by Paul Brooks that I'd been booked on so was fortunate that Bernie O'Keefe and Hedley and Irena Earl made room for me on this one, which Paul also joined. We headed out of Eaglehawk Neck and past the imposing Hippolytes with its attendant Australian Fur-Seal colony.

Australian Fur Seal

A blustery south-westerly of up to 25 knots was blowing with a 2-3 metre swell in conditions which would have been marginal for the south-east Queensland pelagics but are commonplace in Tasmania. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach the shelf.

Shy Albatross
One of the things we miss in Queensland is big numbers of albatross and it was sheer joy to once again be among these beautiful birds. Although I've been on numerous southern pelagics in years long gone, it's been quite some time between drinks. I was impressed by the chumming methods used on the boat. The deckhand was devoted to the task, dividing his time between cutting up and dispensing chicken skins, and pulverising fish scraps in a berley bin attached to the back of the boat. The results were impressive.

The first of several Southern Royal Albatross appeared soon after our arrival off the shelf and a couple of Antipodean (Gibson's) Albatross were seen. 

Southern Royal Albatross

Southern Royal Albatross
Antipodean Albatross

Antipodean Albatross
Shy Albatross was, as expected, easily the most common with a maximum of 40 or so at one time around the boat and many more during the day. We had 2 Black-browed Albatross and 3 Campbell Albatross while out wide. 

Black-browed Albatross

Campbell Albatross

On the way back we had a Buller's Albatross up close and distant views of a Light-mantled Albatross as it disappeared into the distance before anyone could get onto it.

Buller's Albatross
White-chinned Petrel was common. Good numbers of Short-tailed Shearwater were about, possibly indicating a late return amid suggestions that the species suffered severe declines while on migration during the northern summer. 

White-chinned Petrel

White-chinned Petrel
A few Northern Giant-Petrels offered fine close-up views and a single Southern Giant-Petrel was often behind the boat. A single Grey-backed Storm-Petrel was seen briefly.
Ebird list.

Northern Giant-Petrel

Southern Giant-Petrel

Friday, 8 November 2019

South-East Australia Road Trip Spring 2019: Part 4 – Devonport to Port Arthur

Swift Parrot
After visiting Glenrowan we continued south to Port Melbourne to board, with caravan in tow, the Spirit of Tasmania ferry for an overnight crossing of Bass Strait. We had a comfortable self-contained cabin and the bar and restaurant were fun. We arrived in Devonport early the next morning and headed east to the coastal holiday town of Bicheno for a two-night stay.  The area wasn't overly birdy but the first Tasmanian endemics were photographed: Yellow-throated Honeyeater and Yellow Wattlebird.

Yellow Wattlebird

Yellow-throated Honeyeater
We did a day-trip to the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula where we had the Tasmanian race of Echidna up close.

Tasmanian Echidna

Freycinet Peninsula
We moved further south to Orford for two nights in the local caravan park run by a couple who should definitely not be in the hospitality business. The endemics continued with Black-headed Honeyeater, the 600th bird species in Australia that I've photographed, and Yellow Rosella.

Black-headed Honeyeater

Green Rosella
I sorted out Tasmanian Thornbill from the more numerous Brown Thornbill without much trouble along Wielanta Road. The Tasmanian race of Striated Pardalote (Yellow-tipped) was common. Owling at night was unsuccessful due to the cold, windy conditions which would plague us over the next few days.

Striated (Yellow-tipped) Pardalote

Tasmanian Thornbill
Black-faced Cormorant, White-fronted Chat and Kelp Gull were among birds about.

Black-faced Cormorant

Kelp Gull

White-fronted Chat
Several Hooded Plovers were seen near a fenced off area where they are breeding successfully.

Hooded Plover
We continued south to the historic town of Port Arthur, where the holiday park was pure delight for our four-night stay. I immediately noticed loud parrot noises near the caravan and realised small flocks of 30+ Swift Parrots was feeding along a 200m stretch of flowering Tasmanian blue gum. They were to remain close by during our stay, sometimes feeding on the ground. We saw flocks also in the Port Arthur Nature Reserve and at Fortescue Beach.

Swift Parrot

Swift Parrot flock on ground
Black Currawong kept the endemics ticking over and Bennett's Wallaby and Red-bellied Pademelon were common in the campground.
Black Currawong

Red-bellied Pademelon
About 10 Cape Barren Geese were seen along the road in and Forest Raven was common.

Cape Barren Goose

Forest Raven

Port Arthur