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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Birding On My Own
Australia &
New Zealand 2002
Emmalee Tarry
Revised 2015

Trip Reports

Table of Contents


Chapter 14


Ferry To Tasmania
Tasmanian Endemics
Mt. Wellington
Peter Murrell Conservation Area
Forty-Spotted Pardalotes
Bruny Island
Cradle Mountain South
Cradle Mountain North
Devonport - Melbourne

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Striated Pardalot Tasmania

Striated Pardalot

Spirit of Tasmania II
The ferry to Tasmania leaves from downtown Melbourne. The ferry sails to Tasmania 7 nights a week. On Saturday and Sunday there are morning sailings. You can't see any birds during the night so I took the morning. It cost AU$200 for a round trip for the car and 1 passenger.
I stayed at the Ashely Gardens Caravan Park on the south side Melbourne. The Masters World Championships are going on in Melbourne and the campground is filled with athletes. There are 25,000 athletes here competing for 28,000 metals in all kinds of events from swimming, track and field, baseball. My neighbor is a volunteer in charge of awards.

Thie ferry is a huge boat with restaurants, sleeping cabins, stores, gambling, elevators, and swimming pool. Once aboard I took the elevator to deck 8 which is an open deck with lounge chairs and a swimming pool closed until summer. On this cold, damp day the glass walls on either side are welcome shelter. You cannot see directly forward, but there is plenty of space on either side. The trouble is that looking down from 8 stories the birds are very small.

We sailed out of Port Phillip Bay using the channel down the eastern side. Mount Martha is on the left side of the boat. I saw 17 Straw-necked Ibis on the bay, Pied Cormorants, White Ibis, Australasian Gannets. Once outside the narrow entrance I began to see flocks of Short-tailed Shearwater.

You are warned that you cannot bring any fruit or vegetables from Victoria to Tasmania and when the boat docks, customs inspects every camper with a sniffer dog and opens every refrigerator. By the time I got off the dock it was dark. I drove directly to the Abel Tasman Campground in Devonport. .

Tasmanian Endemics
While you are on the ferry take the time to review the Tasmanian endemics and specialities. I was able to see all the Tasmanian endemics and saw most of them several times. Here is a list of the Tasmanian Endemics according to Thomas and Thomas . Parenthesis shows locations where I saw them.

Tasmanian Native-Hen (Bruny I), Green Rosella (Brady Lake) , Forty-spotted Pardalote ( Peter Murrell, Bruny I), Brown Scrubwren (Mt. Wellington),Scrubtit (Mt. Wellington), Tasmanian Thornbill (Mt. Wellington), Yellow-throated Honeyeaster (Cradle Mt. S), Black-headed Honeyeater (Peter Murrell, Brady Lake), Strong-billed Honeyeater (Cradle Mt. S), Yellow Wattlebird (Snug CG),Dusky Robin (Bruny I, Cradle Mt. ),Black Currawong ( Mt. Wellington, Cradle Mt. S ) .

Specialities according to Thomas and Thomas are: Black-faced Cormorant(Bruny I) , Masked Owl, Hooded Plover(Phillips Island Victoria), Pacific Gull(Bruny I), Kelp Gull(Bruny I) , Must Lorikeet, Crescent Honeyeater(Victoria) , Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Pink Robin(Cradle Mt.), Satin Flycatcher, Forest Raven(Mt. Wellington) , Beautiful Firetail( Barron Grounds ), Orange-bellied Parrot, Swift Parrot (Devonport)

Mount Wellington
It took me all day to drive from Devonport to Hobart on the southern end of the island. I saw lots of European Goldfinch, Masked Lapwing, Common Blackbirds. I spent the night at the Sandy Bay Campground in Hobart. This campground was on a steep hill with no level spots. I had to chock my wheels and spent the night trying not to slide out of bed. The next morning I set off for Mt. Wellington making a very bad wrong turn which forced me to go 11 km before I could turn around and go back the way I came..

Black Currawong

To find Fern Tree mentioned in Thomas and Thomas follow these directions. After you see the turn off for Mt. Wellington go around another curve and park near the pub on the left. This is Fern Tree. On the other side of the road is a small church with a park on the left. I walked up a steep track from the park. This is the Fern Glen track.
One of the first birds I saw was the Black Currawong a Tasmanian Endemic. Notice the yellow eye and long tail.

 There are also Forest Ravens which have a white eye and no white on tail or wings.

In a flock of noisy active birds I pick out Scrubtit, Tasmanian Scrubwren, Tasmanian Thornbill.
I drove toward the top of Mt. Wellington stopping at the Springs parking lot. There are toilets, picnic tables and several walking tracks here. Again I saw Forest Raven, Tasmanian Thornbill, and Superb Fairywren. I walked up the road to the site of the old hotel. There is a great view from what used to be the hotel front yard. Daffodils were blooming in old flower bed.

Peter Murrell Conservation Area
I drove back down to the B64 and took it south to Longley and then turned left to Kingston. I was looking for the Peter Murrell Conservation Area which was mentioned in the Lonely Planet Watching Wildlife in Australia. The directions were pretty vague. Here are more precise directions.

From Kingston take the B68 toward Margate. Just outside Kingston there is a rotary with a Mitre Store on the coast or left side of the rotary. Immediately after the rotary turn left on the road to Huntingfield (something I couldn't find on any map). Stay on this road for about a half mile. On the left just past the Vodaphone plant is a dirt road into Peter Murrell Conservation Area. If you come to a school you have gone too far.Drive 100 yards down the dirt road to a small parking lot.I saw Richard's Pippit along the dirt road early in the morning.

Next to the parking lot is this small pond surrounded by White Gums. There were Pacific Black Ducks and Welcome Swallows on the pond.I found the nest hole of the Striated Pardalote in the sand bank down this path on the right just past the small bridge.Yellow Wattlebird, New Holland Honeyeater, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Laughing Kookaburra

Pond at Peter Murrell Conservation Area.

Forty-spotted Pardalote
A Pardalote is a small bird with a stubby tail. There are four species in Australia, three of which breed at Peter Murrell. White gums are the preferred habitat of the Tasmanian endemic Forty-Spotted Pardalote. You can also see Spotted Pardalote and Striated Pardalote here. You can see these two elsewhere in Australia, but the Forty-spotted you have to get in Tasmania and this was the best location I found outside of Bruny Island.

The Spotted, Red-browed, and Striated Pardalotes build dome shaped nests inside narrow tunnels in steep or vertical sand banks. The first Pardalote I saw was the Striated at Lorikeet Park in north New South Wales. It was nesting in the vertical sand bank along the beach. Someone told me that Pardalotes are a problem to the construction industry because as soon as they dump a pile of sand at a construction site the Pardalotes start digging a nesting hole. I can't confirm this bird problem story.

What makes Pardalotes a challenge is that they like to feed in the upper canopy and the tops of mature White Gums are along way up. Here is a shot of the parking lot with Willy parked under a White Gum. I am standing on a small hill beyond the parking lot trying to get a view into the canopy.The first day here, Ranger Andrew Kirkley told me the Forty-Spotted were nesting in this White Gum. He also told me the best time to see them is early in the morning . Camping is not allowed in the conservation area. I drove on south to Snug where there is a nice caravan park.

White Gum trees at Peter Murrell Conservation Area

I came back here the early next morning and I found the Forty-Spotted almost immediately. Two were chasing each other around the parking lot and for a short time both clung to hanging branch.I even had one bird on the ground and was getting ready to photograph it when a dog chased it away. I chewed out the owner for walking her dog off leash. How inconsiderate dog owners can be. Dogs do not belong in wildlife areas.

I eventually noticed a hole to the left of the White Gum in the picture. A pair of Forty-spotted were going in and out of the hole. I moved in closer for a photo and noticed this larger bird in the hole with agitated Forty-spotted hanging around. In this photo the Pardalote is hanging on the piece of hanging bark on the left. The larger usurper is perched in the hole. It may be a Striated Pardalote.
The Ranger told me there are orchids, coastal heath and Platypus in the conservation area. He has not seen the Platypus lately.

Forty-spotted Pardalote outside hole
Striated Pardalots 2 Hole of Striated Pardalotes Striated Pardalote

Bruny Island
I very much wanted to go to Bruny Island. There is a car ferry from Kettering, but the problem is that on the island some roads are paved and some are not. As you drive the island the sealed road will suddenly turn to dirt and that makes for a serious problem with the rental car insurance. Remember my rental insurance specifically limits me to driving on sealed road. While I sometimes risked driving on unsealed road when there was little chance of accident, that is really not the case on Bruny Island. There is a good deal of traffic here and opportunity for accident. To see Bruny Island I needed a driver.

The campground director arranged for me to take a tour of Bruny Island with Robert Pennicott. Robert normally runs nature trips on a boat out of Adventure Bay on the south east side of the island. His clients see Southern Right and Humpback Whales, Dolphins, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Fur Seals, Oystercatcher. He is temporarily beached because he just bought a new boat and delivery is delayed. He will go to Queensland next week to pick the new boat up at Noosaville. So today he in willing to be a bird guide for AU$150.

2015 update : From the web I learned that Robert Pennicott is still in business as Bruny Island Cruises. He now has a number of fast boats and specializes in scenery, whales, seals, albatross, Driving on Bruny Island is still a problem if your rental car is restricted to sealed road. I was very pleased with day with Robert.  He is a good guide.

Robert Pennicott Bruny Island

The car ferry from Kettering cost AU$21 round trip. ( That is called AU$21 return in Australia.) Walk on passengers ride free. The first boat leaves at 7:30 and then every 15-30 minutes thereafter. The trip takes 15 minutes.

At the dock I saw Common Blackbird, Silver Gull, Kelp Gull, Little Black Cormorant, Black-faced Cormorant, European Goldfinch, New Holland Honeyeater, Masked Lapwing.

Robert met me on the other side with his Toyota van. Our first stop was at a pond on the left hand side of the road which met the description of the pond Thomas and Thomas called Dusky Robin Pool. On some big logs by the pond there were Superb Fairywrens. We walked a bit up the road and found Dusky Robin and Black-headed Honeyeater.

The road from the ferry is sealed. We drove on this road and took the second left on a dirt road to Dennes Point. This is a one lane road on which you can meet a large truck. To get the best spot for Forty-spotted Pardalote drive 8.2 km on this dirt road until you pass a quarry on the left. Go up the hill and look for a blue house on the right. The sign on the gate said "321 Lauriston". Across from the gate is another gate and a grass track up the hill. Park on the road and walk up the grass track until you are about eye level with the canopy of the White Gums on the hill below.

Look for Striated, Spotted and Forty-spotted Pardalotes in the canopy. I saw both Spotted and Forty-spotted here. This hillside is actually a National Park but there is no sign to indicate this.

At another stop on this road I had Scarlet Robin, another Dusky Robin, and European Goldfinch. Back on the sealed road we headed south toward the narrow isthmus that separates North Bruny Island and South Bruny Island. An immature White-bellied Seaeagle was sitting in a tree. Before the isthmus the road deteriorates to a two lane dirt road.

On the isthmus between the two islands there is a colony of several thousand Short-tailed Shearwaters and an colony with several hundred Little Blue Penguins. If you come here in the evening with a strong torch you can watch the Penguin parade and also watch the Shearwaters come in to their burrows. You can watch the penguins on Phillips Island but under many restrictions.

Board walk on the isthmus between north and sout Brundy Island
Pacific Gull notice red tip to bill

At the pier outside Adventure Bay where Robert will dock his new boat we saw several Pacific Gulls including one that stayed put while I got this picture. Notice the huge red-tipped bill.

Just past the store in Adventure Bay look for Blue Gum trees on the beach side of the road. Usually Swift Parrots can be found here.

In winter Southern Right Whales come right into the bay just like they do at Warrnambul.

Tasmanian Native Hen on right.

Tasmanian Native Hen
Sooty Oystercatcher

Sooty Oystercatcher

Pied Oystercatcher

Pied Oystercatcher

Pacific Black Duck with ducklings

Pacific Black Duck with her brood, but notice that two of the duckling are very dark. Has she adopted offspring of another species?

Cradle Mountain South Entrance
After leaving Bruny Island, I drove back to Hobart and took the A10 to Queenstown. The road went through pastoral rolling hills with sweeping views. At a pond outside Gretna I saw Australasian and Hoary-headed Grebes, Hardeye and domestic Geese. Around noon I reached Hamilton and had coffee and scones at the Glenn Clyde Coach House built by convicts in 1840. There was a gift shop with handmade crafts and a beautiful spring garden.

After Hamilton the road began to ascend into the wooded hills. Past the power plant on the Derwent River, I stopped to poke around at Brady Lake and chanced upon a pair of Flame Robins. The male posed in a shaft of sunlight for just a short time. It was the color of the Blackburnian Warbler. All the bright robins seems to pass on quickly. I also had Black-headed Honeyeaters and Green Rosella.

Parked on the dam at Brady Lake was a very funny looking car covered with stickers that proclaimed "Paris - Peking 1997, Rt 93 to Rt 66 1999, Australia 2002." On the hood was a map of Australia showing in green the route taken around the continent. The driver was Bernhard Seiffert from Germany. Part of his story got lost in his poor English and my lack of German, but I gather he had purchased the car from whoever made all the trips. He said the car was more like a big motorcycle with a car body. Bernhard retired 2 months ago and just started this trip. He had already driven the Stuart Highway and had seen the couple riding the tandem bicycle.

At the south entrance to Cradle Mountain National Park I rented a campsite and bought a parks pass for AU$33. This allowed entry to all Tasmanian Parks for 2 months, but the Ranger who sold it to me insisted that I tell him how long I was staying and made the pass good only for the number of days I was to be in Tasmania. The campground was on the shore of Lake St. Clair and this Tasmanian Pademelon was in the campground. The lake is fed by glacial melt and very cold.

In fact it was very cold here at night and I used the electric heater for the first time on the entire trip. It was very cozy in Willy with the little heater running under the table. I did not trust sleeping with it on and turned it off at night. At a neighboring site a man was camping out of a station wagon. He didn't like the Pademelon or any other wildlife for that matter.

Tasmanian Pademelon 

 I walked several tracks near the park headquarters. I saw Strong-billed Honeyeater , Black Currawong, Tasmanian Thornbill, Yellow-throated Honeyeater. I have now seen all the Tasmanian endemics.This campground at the south entrance to the park is beautiful with good birds, but the amenities need work. The shower was supposed to cost, but the meter was stunk in the on position so I got the shower free. The headquarters is the end of the road at the south end of Cradle Mountain National Park. Access to the interior is on backpacking trails only.

Back on the Queenstown road, I entered Franklin- Gordon National Park. On both sides of the road is a beautiful heathland with snow covered mountains in the distance.

Frogs are croaking which is a sign of clean water.I parked Willy and walked along the road. It was a fortunate stop. I saw a pair of Pink Robins. They went on their busy way so I was unable to get a photograph. I am very pleased that I am doing so well on the Robins on this trip. Dusky Robin showed up here as well and unlike the Pink Robin hung out for some time.

Thin woods along the Queenstown Highway in Franklin- Gordon National Park.

I kept walking up and down the road for over an hour because I was seeing so many birds. Green Rosellas, Laughing Kookaburra, Skylarks and finally the Striated Fieldwren Calamanthus.  I remember this as one of the most pleasant places to bird in Tasmania.

Franklin-Gordon National Park Heathland with snow covered mountains

Franklin-Gordon Natioanl Park Heathland with mountains in the distance.

Woods along the road Franklin-Gordon Nat Park

Woods along the Queenstown Highway in Franklin-Gordon National Park. I heard an owl calling, but can't identify it by sound.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

I called this a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, but since it doesn't really match the illustration in Simpson and Day I am open to suggestions. At any rate it sat still for a long time. This bird was the reason I stopped at this location in the first place.

Leaving the Franklin - Gordon Park the road entered a heavily wooded area and the road became uphill and downhill. I stopped to bird at several points without seeing much.

Suddenly I came to this barren landscape outside Queenstown. It looks like acid has been poured down the hills. This was the site of the world's largest open pit copper mine. The mine is still active but as a shaft mine. The land remains a moonscape because of the acid runoff from the strip mining. Queenstown is not where I would want to live.

I later read that minining is important to the economy of Australia. Herbert Hoover who eventually became president of the United States made his fortune mining in Australia. I hope he was not responsible for this mess.

Cradle Mountain North Entrance
At Queenstown I took the A10 north to Roseberry where there is a big tin mine and then went to the north entrance of Cradle Mountain on the C132.

This is the Cradle Mountain for which the park is named. There is a very fine and expensive lodge here which is mentioned in Thomas and Thomas for feeding native animals. The lodge no longer feeds animals, but they do have an evening spotlighting trip for AU$25 at 9 PM each evening. You do not have to be a guest to take the trip.

Ruined landscape from copper strip mine 

I signed up for the trip and then went to the nearby campground. This turned out to be one of the best campgrounds on the trip. The facilities looked like they were designed by Frank Loyd Wright. Inside the sinks were polished hard wood and hot water was provided for the showers by a small heater attached to each shower. The water was good and hot and there was good water pressure. It is like being back in the land of great plumbing and fine showers the USA . It was like being home.

The camp sites were designed so that from your site you could not see any other camper or tent. This is a Brush-tailed Possum visiting my site. The best part of all this was the price AU$10 per night. for a powered site for one person.I walked the tracks in the campground and saw several birds. There is a small pond which unfortunately had no birds. The campground is new and there is still some construction going on. The birding may get better once the construction is over.

I arrived a little early at the lodge for the spotlighting tour and was invited to sit by their fireplace while waiting. This was most hospitable. The lodge cost AU$158 for one person for one night with breakfast. Perhaps more when the season really get started.

The spotlighting trip is conducted from the lodge bus and you do not do any walking. The night I went on the trip it was raining off and on and we had trouble with the bus windows fogging. I was very happy to have the window open, but I was the only one really dressed for outdoors and so had to close the window whenever someone complained about being cold.

Brush-tailed Possum 

The Wombat is a nocturnal relative of the Koala. It feeds quietly on vegetation.

The highlight of the evening trip were 2 Tasmanian Devils. The Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial. Mostly black they have white patches on the chest. They are very shy and almost always solitary except that groups of Devils gather at the site of a carcase where they fight nosily over the remains. This is how they earned their name. The San Diego zoo now has Tasmanian Devils on display but they seem to sleep most of the time in the day.

We also saw Tasmania Pademelon, Wallaby, Common Brushtail Possum. Platypus is possible in the creek, but we did not see one this night.  Glad I went to Eungula.

Wombat on Tasmania 

Devonport to Melbourne

It is the middle of October and I am beginning to realize the end of my Australian odyssey is near. When I made reservations for the ferry to Tasmania I had to pick a return date. I decided to spend only a week here. I now wish I could stay at least two more days.My last day was spent driving back to Devonport.

I wanted to stop at the Forest Glen Tea Garden mentioned in Thomas and Thomas to see Swift Parrots. Unfortunately the lady who ran it has died and her husband has closed the tea room.

I got back to the Abel Tasman campground early in the afternoon and found Swift Parrots right there. I did my laundry and hung it out to dry. A walk to the nearby beach produced Greenfinch an European import.

The next day was a beautiful sunny day for return ferry trip on the Spirit of Tasmania. Again I had chosen to return on a day trip in order to enjoy the birds on the crossing. In the harbor I saw 2 second year Pacific Gulls with big yellow bills with a black spot on both top and bottom. At sea I immediately began seeing huge flocks of Short-tailed Shearwater both flying and sitting on the water. There were Sooty Shearwaters and at least one Wedge-tailed Shearwater. I also saw 4 Albatrosses with black backs which I could not identify at this distance. There is no reason for the birds to follow the ferry.

At lunch time I went to the Mediterranean Restaurant on board the ship. There is also a self-serve cafeteria. The food was excellent if rather expensive AU$30 for grilled salmon with Bok Choy and a side order of vegetables. I got a huge bowl of perfectly steamed mixed vegetables enough for about 4 people. I love my vegetables and asked if I could take some of the vegetables with me. After all Willy and a refrigerator were right down on the car deck. This must have been an outrageous request because the waitress was so upset she refused to come back to the table and I couldn't get her to bring me more coffee.The manager took over waiting on me and finally brought out the vegetables in a huge china bowl covered with plastic. Fortunately I had a plastic grocery bag in my backpack and dumped the vegetables in that and gave her back the bowl. I made two meals out the vegetables the next day. I guess taking food home is just too American, but I am not going to apologize for not wasting food.

When it was time to drive off the ship, my campervan was the first car in line to exit so I was able to watch the door opening. First the water tight doors open. Then the ramp is lowered. Tonight, the ramp sticks about 1/4 the way down. We sat there for about 45 minutes while engineers in white coveralls peered into fuse boxes and passed tools around. When it first stuck I said to no one in particular. " Close it all the way and try again." Eventually that is exactly what they did and it worked and I didn't have white coveralls or tools. I went back to the Ashley Gardens for the night.

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