Australian Ornithological Services Pty Ltd

Tasmanian bird and mammal tour

29 January — 4 February 2017

Tour leader: Philip Maher
Tour organiser: Patricia Maher


Our first scheduled tour of the year was a tonic. We had Bob and Susan from California, Russell from Texas, Martin, an English/Australian expat living in Hong Kong, Neil and Magda from Victoria, Fiona from Central West NSW and Paul from the ACT.  Magda, Bob, Susan, Paul and Russell were new to AOS while Fiona, Neil and Martin were familiar faces.

Day 1.
29 January 2017
After breakfast at the Old Wool Store in Hobart, we headed for Mount Wellington but en route pulled up in an area of bush that adjoins some houses in the outer suburbs. This spot often has a nice lot of birds and that again proved to be the case. Some species here included our first yellow wattlebirds, black-headed and yellow-throated honeyeaters, eastern spinebill, dusky robin, spotted and striated pardalotes, brown thornbill, green rosella and a pair of satin flycatchers on a nest. The dusky robins surprised me as I had not seen them here before. We were off to a great start!

Our next stop was in wet forest a short distance up Mt Wellington. This has been a good spot for pink robin and scrubtit over many years and did not disappoint this year. We bagged a lovely male pink robin and eventually found a pair of scrubtit; however, the scrubtits were not in the mood to be looked at by a bunch of birders and only about half the group managed a decent view. The bane of all bird guides! No great drama with this group however, they took it in their stride. I was probably more worried than they were, given scrubtit is now not so easy to get since Tasmania has become drier.

We had good looks at Tasmanian scrubwren and Tasmanian thornbill here, as well as golden whistler and grey shrike-thrush, which looks and sounds so different to their mainland counterparts. Amazing how the birdlife has changed in Tasmania since we first started running tours over here in the early 1990s. Crescent honeyeaters were common up Mt Wellington once — now we never see or hear them. Our first black currawong was seen as we drove back down the mountain. Lots of brush bronzewing were also heard calling at our first two stops but despite our best efforts none were seen.

We headed to Dru Point Reserve at Margate for the first of seven excellent picnic lunches Trisha prepared on this tour. En route we saw our first New Holland honeyeaters.

It seemed, if we got a wriggle on, we could make the 1.30 pm Bruny Island ferry so made haste for Kettering. Had Trisha not already paid our fare when she arrived (in a timely, orderly manner) and the obliging woman in the ticket box, warned about a busload of birders' imminent arrival, hadn’t waved us around the barriers, we would have been cooling our heels until the 2.30.

We saw quite a few black- faced shags about the wharf at Kettering and on the short D'Entrecasteaux Channel crossing, as well as plenty of kelp gulls.

Our first stop on Bruny was our old hotspot for forty- spotted pardalote near Barnes Bay. The north end of Bruny has been decimated with years of drought and there is now very few pardalotes, or birds of any species, up the north end. We saw a couple of New Hollands and one or two black- headed honeyeaters here, where once there were dozens. A single striated pardalote calling was the only member of the genus present. We moved on. On a side road going off from Barnes Bay we stopped for some bird activity and found a pair of forty-spotted pardalotes displaying with wings outstretched at a possible nesting hollow.  A third bird was also seen here so good to see there are still some forty-spots left on North Bruny.


Forty-spotted pardalote Bruny Island P Maher

As we made our way south towards the isthmus, a small group of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos feeding in some roadside banksias gave a lovely flash of yellow. We saw the usual pied and sooty oystercatchers as we passed through The Neck. At the first lookout past The Neck, we could see a lot of bird activity out in Adventure Bay. There were hundreds of kelp gulls, and a good number of Australasian gannets, black-faced shags and crested terns. They were all milling about in a couple of clusters and diving into the water in a feeding frenzy. After watching them for a bit we realised the largest concentration was over what looked like three or more very large whales. Eventually a large white flipper was seen and we could see they were humpbacks. It seemed the wrong time of year for them to be in this part of the world but with rising ocean temperatures nothing should surprise any more!

Down towards Lunnawana I backed up to check out a small creek. As I was doing so Bob and Susan called out from the back, “there's a rail out there!” The rail had been feeding out on the edge of some rushes but had ducked back in. I was fairly sure it would be a Lewin's. I had first seen Lewin’s here about twenty years ago and had seen them in this general vicinity quite a few times since then. Eventually we figured out where we needed to stand to get a view and wangled some good looks and photos of an immature Lewin's rail. I dropped the troops at their Explorer cabins and said I would be back to collect them in a while. Driving to and from Inala, where Trisha was preparing dinner, I saw yellow-rumped thornbill, beautiful firetail and an echidna, i.e., two birds and a mammal we had not seen as yet on the tour. The troops weren’t thrilled to hear that! Still, while we were eating barbequed salmon in the Inala garden, an immature beautiful firetail sat up on a wire just above us. The day was not over yet as we were soon off spotlighting.

We saw all the usual mammals: Bennett's wallabies and Tassie pademelons and up towards The Neck had the first of many eastern quolls. Over twenty quolls were seen of both the dark and light phases and some up close. What a cute mammal. One of the rare golden form of brushtail possum was seen as well as about a dozen or more of the regular dark form that occurs on Bruny. There has also been a big drop in the numbers of possums on Bruny. We used to spotlight up to 100 in a night in the 1990s. On the way back we called in at the penguin rookery and saw a couple of little penguins and a few short-tailed shearwaters. The finale was a great view of a long-nosed potoroo on the roadside. We crawled into bed at about midnight.

Day 2 
30 January 2017 
After yesterday’s big day and late night, we had a bit of a lie in this morning. I retrieved the group from Explorer Cabins at about 7.45 and we breakfasted down at Inala, where Trisha had prepared breakfast.

Birding on Inala after breakfast we saw quite a few forty-spotted pardalotes. Tonia, the owner of Inala, reported good numbers of young raised this season. A few more black-headed honeyeaters were seen and our first male scarlet robin and more dusky robins. Strangely enough, no flame robins were seen at Inala this time. A small party of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos flew, like Pterosaurs, over Inala's Gondwanan-themed garden. Just up the road from Inala we stopped where I had seen the beautiful firetails the previous afternoon. We soon located them but again they were juveniles and not the lovely, barred adults we’d hoped for. Still it was great to see everything had bred this season. We continued on heading across Mt Mangana to Adventure Bay. Up in the wet forest we searched for more scrubtits and eventually located a pair but the weather being cold and windy, scrubtits weren’t of a mind to be looked at. I was getting concerned but assured the troops, with a show of confidence, there would be plenty more opportunities …

Some in the group saw another male pink robin. A whistler called nearby which I wasn’t sure if it would be a golden or an olive. Happily it turned out to be an olive and we had great views of a couple of birds. The Prostanthera (mint) bushes were in full bloom and looked fantastic as we continued across Mt Mangana. We arrived in Adventure Bay for a quick lunch that Trisha had ready and waiting for us. Trisha was preparing dinner up at Fentonbury (in the Derwent Valley) tonight and was keen to get back across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel. But for those of us not in a hurry, we strolled down onto the beach for great looks at Pacific gulls with their outrageous bills. Also, along the beach near the mouth of the river, we located a pair of hooded plover complete with a nest with two eggs. There was a lot of human activity in the vicinity and with no signs or fencing around the nest, its success is doubtful.

We didn't see any wedge-tail eagles on Bruny; the only raptors we did see were two brown falcons and a swamp harrier. It was time to head for the ferry so we made tracks for North Bruny.

Back on Tassie’s mainland we headed through Hobart and northwest to the Derwent Valley and our overnight abodes in the villages of Fentonbury and Westerway. While dropping some of the group at Duffy's Country Accommodation at Westerway, Fiona glimpsed an Australian hobby dashing overhead, the only sighting for the tour. We gathered at Hamlet Downs at Fentonbury for dinner before heading out at dusk for more spotlighting. We were hoping for a sighting of the Apple Isle's iconic Tasmanian devil and a masked owl. In the half light along a bush track something dark scampered across the track but the creature was too quick to fathom whether it was a devil or dark-phase quoll. We tried my spot for masked owl but it was quiet tonight. The two previous years they were here, the first year seen and the second year only heard. We once saw bettongs along here but not for several years. A lot of the native bush has been converted to blue gum plantations since our early days of spotlighting here. We’d spotlighted a few wallabies, padimelons and brushtails when round a bend we hit pay dirt with a Tasmanian devil on the roadside. It was about three-quarters grown and looked quite healthy although it did have some small blotches on its face. This is the second consecutive year we have bagged a devil on this road. We headed for home after two long but successful days.

Day 3
31 January 2017
Breakfasting at Hamlet Downs, we could hear a grey butcherbird calling and a small group of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos were feeding in an introduced pine.

We birded for an hour or so along a forested country lane past our accommodation. Most of the endemic honeyeaters were here: yellow-throated, black-headed and, briefly seen by a few, strong-billed. Other species here were golden whistler, grey shrike-thrush, gold finch and brown thornbill.

Pushing on, we stopped at a tiny creek not far from Westerway. Here we had an adult platypus feeding only a few metres from us in shallow water. I had not seen platypus here since ‘they’ took out some introduced trees a few years ago. Up towards Derwent Bridge we stopped for our first hairy echidna. Both the Australian monotremes were had in a single morning! We search for blue-winged parrots near Brady's Lake but didn’t stand a great chance with the weather having turned. However, we did see our one and only male flame robin near some prickly hakea. We continued on to Derwent Bridge where Trisha had a hot lunch waiting for us in the new BBQ area opposite the famous Wilderness Hotel.

Platypus, Westerway area, 31 January 2017 P Maher

After a brief respite at our accommodation, we travelled west of Derwent Bridge towards the Franklin River. Target birds for the afternoon were scrubtit and ground parrot. The splendid leatherwood trees that produce the distinctively flavoured honey were in full bloom about the Franklin. The mix of wet forest (eucalypts and beech forest) near the river was alive with small birds and finally the whole group had great views of scrubtit. I was surprised that the scrubtits were feeding up a bit higher than normal. There were at least four birds present and they were in company with many Tasmanian thornbills. Tassie scrubwrens were flitting about in the understory.

After this breakthrough we headed back to the buttongrass plains to search for ground parrot. The weather was still cold and windy with some showers so not conducive to looking for ground parrots, but we persevered. After a short search one was heard calling and we managed to flush it up for a reasonable view in flight. On the drive back a small group of blue-winged parrots flushed up from the roadside but it was raining and they didn’t stop.

After dinner over at the pub (for me a very good Sri Lankan curry) we headed out for another spotlight. However, the spotlighting tonight was not up to the high standards we’ve previously set at Derwent Bridge. Besides scores of wallabies, padimelons and brushtails, the best we could do was a single common wombat. This area was once a stronghold for Tasmanian devils. I think we haven’t seen one here now for at least  four years. Also worrying is that we have not seen an eastern quoll here for the last two years. Ten years ago we could spotlight up to a dozen in a night. We often spotlight Tasmanian morepork and tawny frogmouth up here but not on this occasion. Still it was great to see the wombat, which Russell particularly relished.

 Day 4
1 February 2017
Trish did breakfast for us over at the new barbeque facilities opposite the Wilderness Hotel. The weather had improved slightly as we ventured out towards Lake St Clair. I had found a nice patch of forest bordering an area of swampy heathland over twenty years ago and have been going there ever since. It has rarely let me down and this year proved to be no exception. The first thing I noticed on our arrival was that the giant eucalypt at this locality was not in flower. I was disappointed as this would almost certainly mean that the swift parrots wouldn’t be present here this year. Prior to the climate going feral this species of eucalypt would always be in flower in February, now some years it has no flowers at all. Initially it seemed a bit quiet but we soon found a large party of strong-billed honeyeaters, one of the last endemics all the group had not seen. We enjoyed some great views as they were feeding down low in the Banksia marginatas. I hadn't seen them do this previously, being largely insectivorous, but possibly due to the cold weather they needed a sugar fix and with no eucalypts in flower the banksias were all they had going. Anyhow it made for great viewing and we enjoyed watching them for half an hour feeding on nectar and on insects in the hanging bark of the eucalypts. They also had some juveniles with them that are actually more colourful than the adults with yellow about the head and yellow bills. While watching the strong-billed honeyeaters we also encountered a magnificent male satin flycatcher that came down quite low and really showed itself off. A female flame robin was also nearby and flew up to its nest where it was feeding several young, about half-grown. This is one of the few nests I have ever seen of this species. We worked hard to get a look at the very shy crescent honeyeaters that were also feeding in the banksia and yellow-flowered melaleuca and eventually succeeded in obtaining satisfactory views. The female of this species is drab and if not familiar with the species, its identity can be baffling. The number of crescent honeyeaters about Derwent Bridge seems to be greatly reduced in recent times. The banksia and melaleuca understory was formerly alive with the sound of this species. As we were looking at the crescents we were completely surprised when a swift parrot came flying out of the flowering melaleuca where presumably it had been feeding in the flowers. This, I think, is the first time I have seen the species feeding in melaleuca. It was rather elusive and appeared to fly back down into the melaleuca but we were unable to relocate it. It appeared to be a juvenile bird. With no eucalypts in flower I guess the species was not too choosy on such a cold day. As we ventured out into the tea tree swamp to search for southern emu-wren, a pair of wedge-tailed eagles flew over making it two pairs we had seen on the central plateau. We didn’t have to search long for the emu-wrens before some of the keen-eyed members of our party spotted movement. With some patience, we all eventually had lovely views of the male emu-wren. What a bird! One of the emu-wrens appeared to be carrying food so l suspect they were feeding young. Two groups of emu-wrens were seen, which was great as we had been unable to find them here last year for the first time ever. (Last year was a lot drier than the present season). Trisha texted to say that lunch was ready and another tour group was wanting to use the barbeque that she was monopolizing. So with that we made haste back to Derwent Bridge.

After another lunch with the black currawongs we headed back out west of Derwent Bridge to the area of snow gums and button grass where we had our brief sighting of the blue-wing parrot yesterday. Sure enough, they were still there and we spotted about five birds that landed in a big snow gum a few hundred metres from the road. By the time we were halfway out there, they were off and were not stopping anytime soon. So that was that. We did flush up a Latham's snipe from the roadside which was our one and only sighting for the tour.

We set off retracing our route back to Hobart and once more called in at Brady's Lake to check for striated fieldwren and the blue-wings. The weather had greatly improved since our last visit so I was slightly optimistic. We drew a blank on the fieldwren; seemingly their numbers are diminished up here like many other species.

It was looking rather bleak for the blue-wings as well but on the way back out one flushed up from the roadside in the very spot I have had them several times previously. It turned out it was a pair with about four or five juveniles. In typical blue-wing fashion they were timid and took some getting a look at but eventually we were satisfied. Luck was with us still — while we were watching the blue-wings we realized there were swift parrots in the eucalypts above!  We saw at least ten birds, predominantly juveniles. This is also a locality I have had them previously on several occasions. They appeared to be feeding on lerp or at least something in the eucalypt leaves; there being no flowers on the eucalypts. With this great success, we headed for Hobart Town feeling satisfied. Several more hairy echidnas were seen as we left the central plateau. Back near Gretna, we stopped at a large roadside dam and added a host of waterbirds to our list. These included a solitary Cape Barron goose, shovelers, both chestnut and grey teals, Australian shelduck, hoary-headed grebe and black-fronted dotterel. We arrived back at our accommodation in Hobart to the news that we would not be flying to Melaleuca for the orange-bellied parrots in the morning due to strong winds but may be able to make it after lunch. We knew this had been on the cards due to the number of fronts passing across Tasmaniathis week. We retired after an enjoyable meal at our accommodation at the Old Wool Store; Fingers, I think, were collectively crossed that 1) our flight would take off,  2) would land safely, and 3) we’d see some orange-bellied parrots while the species is still extant in the wild.

Day 5
2 February 2017
I decided to visit Gould's Lagoon this morning as we had not had time to call in there en route to Westerway. Gould's Lagoon had been notable for having freckled duck present for the last few years, a rare bird in Tasmania. But after big rains last year through the interior of the mainland the freckled ducks have probably repaired to the Diamantina! How do they know? However, there were still quite a few ducks present including a female or immature blue-billed duck, the first I have seen here and plenty of Tasmanian native-hens running across people's gardens. We also saw our first musk lorikeets here and our first eastern rosellas. The highlight here was a great look at a spotless crake. I think this is the first I have seen here for at least five years. In recent years we've only been seeing spotted crakes at this locality. There was no sign of the spotteds on this occasion so perhaps they also have gone back to the mainland to breed along with the freckled ducks. Both like to breed in the lignum swamps of the interior. While at Gould's Lagoon we received a text from Trish to say we would definitely be flying to Melaleuca at midday so we made haste to Sorrel to have a quick bite to eat before our flight.

We arrived at Cambridge airport in good time. The pilot warned us the flight would be rough so we were mentally prepared. As it turned out it wasn't too bad and it was fairly clear so we had a reasonable look at some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia. It is disappointing to see they are still cutting down old growth forest in the Picton Valley. When we first started flying to Melaleuca about twenty years ago the old growth forest had barely been touched; now there is not much left in this area.  

The landing was a bit rough but we were soon on the ground with binoculars and cameras at the ready. In a short time we had our first orange-bellied parrots at one of the feeders including a couple of adult males. A warden said that they have not raised many young so far this season although there are still some on nests. With only three wild females returning to Melaleuca this breeding season, the species is in a highly precarious situation. At least the seasonal conditions appeared a lot better a Melaleuca this year, the heath looked very wet, unlike the previous year when it was bone dry. About twenty captive-bred birds were released into the wild this season to try and bolster the species.

 Our next good sighting was a pair of striated fieldwren near the 'airport lounge'. We had close up views as one sat up on a bush and sang right beside us. Here too was a superb, adult beautiful firetail, also sitting up on the heath. 

Striated fieldwren, Malaleuca, 2 February 2017, P Maher

We walked up to one of the other feeders and on the way found three or so orange-bellied parrots feeding in the natural scrub. It was nice to see them feeding under natural conditions. We saw more OBPs at the nearby feeder and overall saw about a dozen birds: adult males, females and some juveniles. We also saw a swamp rat Rattus lutreolus feeding under the feeder, which I think may have been a new mammal for me.

Beautiful firetail, Melaleuca, 2 February 2017 P Maher

We turned our attention to seeing another ground parrot as Magda had missed it previously, and it would be nice to have a better view. After a while, one fly across the heath and we saw, more or less, where it landed. As we approached the locality we spotted it sitting up on a tussock in the short heath. It allowed us to approach within a few metres. It was an immature bird which may partially explain its unguarded behaviour. The plumage of this bird is just exquisite when seen at close range. A couple of southern emu-wrens were also glimpsed in the heath but with a cold wind blowing they weren’t going to sit up. We were all well satisfied with our time at Melaleuca so we headed back to the airstrip for Thomas (with Magda as co-pilot) to fly us back across the mountains to Hobart. The trip back again was a bit rough but no one was ill so all was good.

Ground parrot, Melaleuca, 2 February 2017, P Maher.

Day 6
3 February 2017
The plan today was to add some migratory waders to the list but first up we drove down towards Seven Mile Beach to search for grey currawong, which we were still missing. We saw lots of scarlet robins and forest ravens as well as little and yellow wattlebirds, grey butcherbird, magpies, galahs and a magnificent common bronzewing on a power line showing off its bronze to great effect. However, we only had glimpses of the grey currawong flying through the trees away from us. Some years we run into them in several places but this year they were elusive.

We headed off to Sorell, pausing on the causeway for musk duck and great-crested grebe. At the lookout in Sorrel there were a couple of small flocks of red-necked stint but not much else on offer.

We moved on to Orielton Lagoon. This was a great spot for waders years ago when the causeway was blocked off. (Not so great after the causeway was opened up to allow the tidal water back in). Several skylarks were seen near the lagoon and on the walk in we saw our first white-fronted chats. Over at the lagoon we had a flock of about twenty Pacific golden plover; as well as a few pairs of red-capped plover and a single curlew sandpiper feeding with a couple of hundred red-necked stint. There was no sign of the bar-tailed godwits that usually frequent this area. A lone little egret was seen here as well as lots of shelducks and scores of nesting kelp gulls. We headed off for the east coast as we were meeting Trisha in Orford for lunch.  It was so windy at the lunch spot the oilskin tablecloth attempted to make a break for it. A small group of yellow-tailed black-cockatoos fed in nearby trees.

We birded after lunch near the mouth of the Prosser River. Here we had more Pacific gulls and a pair of hooded plovers with at least two tiny chicks out on the sandbank. One of the hooded plovers was feisty with an oystercatcher when it wandered too close to a chick. We walked up along the foreshore and had some nice bush birds in the banksia scrub. Here the group had their first views of yellow-rumped thornbills. There were lots of little wattlebirds, and a grey fantail feeding young in a nest only a few feet off the ground. The fairy terns used to nest regularly on the sandbank at the mouth of the river but now rarely do so.  

It was time to start heading for Eaglehawk Neck so we made our way south through Nugent. We stopped at Marion Bay to look for spotted crake to no avail. We saw several pairs of very well-coloured white-fronted chats here and more red-capped plovers and stints and a large flock of pied oystercatcher. Further along in Blackmans Bay we had about half a dozen or so common greenshank. We checked into the Norfolk Bay Convict Station and Abs by the Bay at Taranna before heading down to Port Arthur's Gabriel’s on the Bay for dinner. Gabriel's is in a lovely bush setting so after dinner (which was good) we stepped outside to have a try for Tasmanian morepork, which I had heard calling here previously. Just on dusk a pair of tawny frogmouths started calling, which we quickly located. A few minutes later the morepork started up and we got him as well, making two night birds in a few minutes and both new for the tour. We spotlighted our way back home and kept finding stuff. Near the restaurant we had southern brown bandicoot and a bit further up the road another wombat was seen. Back near our accommodation an eastern barred bandicoot shot across the road. Good food and a successful post dinner spotlight, the best way to end the day.

Tasmanian morepork, Port Arthu,r 3 February 2017, P Maher.

Day 7 
4 February 2017
Sadly, it had come to the last day of the tour. What a cracking tour it had been with so many highlights and such a great bunch of people.

We headed down to the wharf at Eaglehawk Neck at 7 am to meet up our captain John Males, on the Pauletta. Our group were joined on the boat today by David Mead from Far North Queensland and local, Els Wakefield, who'd brought her Dutch friend, Matt. I thought the ocean could be rough today given all the wind there had been in the last few days but it turned out to be surprisingly calm. Just a gentle if uneven swell and it became calmer as the day progressed. A good thing as some of the folks weren’t great seafarers!  

I was hoping our luck would continue out on the ocean and we would see some cracking seabirds. The first new bird for the tour was white-breasted sea-eagle as we left the bay. We tracked out southeast towards the Hippolytes. We had not gone far out when we started seeing our first shy albatross that breed locally on Albatross Island in Bass Strait. Quite a few Australasian gannets were seen and of course heaps of black-faced shags and kelp gulls that breed out on the Hippolyte Rocks. We saw the usual Australian fur seals on the way out to the Rocks as well as a few up on the Rocks and in the surrounding waters. There were a lot of fishing boats out enjoying the calm ocean. They were all fishing out around the Hippolytes and must have disturbed the seals on the main Rock as most of the seals were in the water. We started seeing lots of short-tailed shearwaters beyond the Hippolytes and then a few fluttering shearwaters and Buller's albatross. Not long after, well inside the shelf, we started seeing our first white-faced storm-petrels. Wisdom has it that you don't start burleying until you get out to the shelf but I convinced John to stop here, well inside the shelf, and start putting out some burley. This had paid off for me a few years back when we had a great view of a mottled petrel. We started burleying and the boat was soon surrounded by birds; in fact, we had more birds at this locality than we had at the two stops we had out on the shelf. Birds seen here included shy, Buller's, yellow-nosed albatross, white-chinned petrel, short-tailed and fluttering shearwaters (some brilliant views of the fluttering), dozens of white-faced and some Wilson's storm-petrels, a single fairy prion, lots of kelp gulls and a few silver gulls. It was really quite spectacular there for a while. After about an hour we weren't getting anything new so we continued on out to the shelf where it was quiet and I was starting to regret leaving our hotspot inside the shelf. However, after a half hour or so a few more birds started coming in and eventually it wasn't too bad. Storm-petrels were the bird of the day; they were thick, probably the most I have ever seen off Tasmania. Most were white-faced and we must have seen well over a hundred for the day. Quite a few Wilson's were about and we added our first grey-backed to the list. We looked in vain for black-bellied which had been seen off here recently.

Here we had our rarity for the trip but it was not heart-racing stuff: a single wedge-tailed shearwater flew by the back of the boat but only did the one pass. This was my first sighting off Tasmania in nearly thirty years of pelagics. It is inevitable that as the ocean temperatures become higher, more subtropical species will start turning up of Tasmania. Last year we had our first ever Kermadec petrel off here — another subtropical species. We also had our one and only sighting of great-winged petrel here but like the wedge-tail, only did one pass. This one was a very dark bird unlike the grey-faced bird we had last year. A few large shearwaters with a very white underwing came by at this locality and one of these was later identified from a photograph as a sooty shearwater. A difficult bird to identify if you’re not overly familiar with them. More white-chinned petrels turned up here but no other hoped-for petrels. However, a large mako shark did turn up and John's son had some fun trying to get underwater video of it tearing at the burley. It was a big, slow-moving, primitive-looking creature. Some excitement was created when a largish whale appeared just under the surface of the water at the back of the boat but despite our best efforts was never seen again. The views were not good enough to enable any sort of identification to be made. I had just emerged from the bathroom at the time so missed seeing the creature at all. The best I could do was catch a glimpse of some bottle-nosed dolphins going by the bathroom window! Another adult yellow-nosed albatross turned up here making two for the day but we were becoming desperate for a giant albatross. With nothing new turning up we decided to move on and try one more spot before heading back in. While we were in transit we encountered a school of well over a hundred common dolphins and reveled in wonderful close up views of them for some time as they came alongside the boat. I can't remember ever seeing this many common dolphins off here previously. A single black-browed albatross also came past the boat here but was going fast in the opposite direction, and despite putting out burley we could not entice it back.

Bottle-nosed dolphin 4 February 2017 P Maher

We put out the burley again for one last time hoping for something special. All the regulars soon were appearing — shy, Buller's and so on, when the call went up “giant albatross!” and a superb adult wanderer came by the back of the boat. It was a very white bird not unlike a southern royal with just a small amount of black on the outer tail feathers. It, like some of the other birds, couldn’t be enticed back with burley and only did the one pass, albeit a close one. What a great finale! It was time to head for home so John stoked the motor up and let her rip. Back towards Eaglehawk Neck we encountered a large school of about fifty bottle-nosed dolphins, which came alongside and kept us amused for some time. It had been a great day for marine mammals.

After arriving back in Pirates Bay we said our goodbyes to John and deckhand, Michael. I think some of the troops were very pleased to be back on terra firma. Sandwiches, which I couldn't give away out on the boat, suddenly disappeared! Trisha and I drove our tired but seemingly happy clients back to their respective destinations in Hobart before settling in at the Avis car park at Hobart Airport to sort and distribute, without the aid of scales, eighty kilograms of food, cooking equipment, reference books and clothes between two large eskies and two suitcases. We must be getting good at this because we had no trouble checking it all in with Jetstar and departing on the 20.55 back to Melbourne.

Paricipants: Neil Charnock, Magda Dodd, Paul Gatenby, Russell Graham, Fiona Johnson. Martin Painter, Bob Steele and Susan Steele.


Tasmania 2017 checklist of species seen

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