The next festival will be on October 23-26 2014. Click on the 2012 flyer for contact details.
Round Sheoaks itself we commonly see forest ravens, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, green rosellas, kookaburras, superb fairy-wrens, yellow-rumped and brown thornbills, yellow wattlebirds, New Holland honeyeaters, eastern spinebills, grey shrike-thrushes, European goldfinches, welcome swallows, silvereyes and blackbirds. Each summer grey fantails (in Tasmania aptly called cranky fans) zip around in the sheoaks and we look forward to the return of the fan-tailed cuckoo with its melodic trill. In autumn and winter scarlet and flame robins are a joy to watch as are the great rafts of gannets which assemble out on the bay. Gannets are unmistakable as they plummet into the water after fish from a great height.
A pair of white-bellied sea eagles live up the Swan River. It’s reasonably common, especially on windy days, for them to soar majestically past, barely moving a wing. The large Pacific gulls also ride the air currents above our house.
On the short walk to our beach in addition to the small birds mentioned above we often see white fronted chats. Down on the beach, common residents include Pacific and silver gulls, Caspian, crested and white-fronted terns, pied and sooty oystercatchers, hooded plovers and pelicans. At low tide a large sandbank appears in the river estuary. This is a favourite spot with gulls, oystercatchers and in summer with migratory waders.
In autumn large moths appear and are around for about 6 weeks. A pair of tawny frogmouths take up residence then on our street light, swooping on this bounty each evening.
Honeymoon Bay is in the National Park. This tiny bay is immediately after Freycinet Lodge. At either end are pink granite rocks, a perfect place for a winter picnic. Just off shore is the tiniest islet where a pacific gull is usually to be found, often in company with a cormorant drying its wings. Above the bay is a picnic and barbecue area sheltered by sheoaks - the site of an Aboriginal midden. You will usually be joined there by green rosellas, yellow wattlebirds, superb fairy-wrens, and in winter/spring by a family of grey butcherbirds and flame or scarlet robins. Out at sea you may be lucky enough to see a pair of sea eagles glide by.
On the Wineglass Bay walk all the small birds we have round Sheoaks will be present plus yellow-throated, black-headed and crescent honeyeaters, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and green and eastern rosellas. In some of the gullies we’ve seen beautiful firetails.
A complete bird list for the National Park is available from the NP Information office or on the web at www.parks.tas.gov.au/factsheets/wildlife/FreycinetBirdList.pdf
At Sea. A cruise on the catamaran Schouten Passage (www.wineglassbaycruises.com) is a great way to see birds, including some pelagic species. Watch out for little penguins fishing near the jetty and a bit further out. In Great Oyster Bay and on and around Refuge Island and Promise Rock regulars include pelicans, cormorants, Pacific and silver gulls, Caspian, crested and white-fronted terns, gannets, white-bellied sea eagles and sometimes a wedge-tailed eagle. There’s a huge white-breasted sea eagle’s nest as you go through Schouten Passage. From October till April short-tailed shearwaters fish the bay in their hundreds; a truly wonderful sight. Also out in the Tasman Sea you may find black browed, shy and yellow-nosed albatrosses, southern giant petrels, and less commonl,y flocks of fairy prions and fluttering shearwaters. In season thousands of short-tailed shearwaters fish out in the Tasman too.
Moulting Lagoon is a Ramsar site. Although large there aren’t many places where you can reach it from the land. One is off the Coles Bay Road heading for Bicheno, 12 km from Hazards View Road. There’s a car park, its entrance marked by a small triangular green and white sign indicating a Greening Australia project. In winter this can be boggy. If so, park on the road side. From the car park a track runs down to the water. Here you may find thousands of birds, or again you may not, as being wild birds their presence can’t be guaranteed. Moulting Lagoon is home to 8000 black swans, more when most of the rest of Tasmania’s swan population arrive to moult. In spring there are often hundreds of cygnets.
There is usually a good selection of ducks – black, musk, mountain, wood and chestnut and grey teal. Cormorants, terns, pelicans, grebes, and in summer migratory waders, are also to be found. Good binoculars or a scope will be a big help if the birds are all over the other side as happens on windy days.
A closer entry point is down River and Rocks Road. Heading towards Bicheno this is the second road after Hazards View Rd. It ends in a T junction. If you turn left the road ends in a couple of hundred metres at a free camping area. Lots of shells are embedded in the sandy edges of the track down to the water. This is an Aboriginal midden. As you can imagine, Moulting Lagoon was a popular hunting spot with local Aborigines. What a pleasant sheltered place this must have been for them to over winter. The shells indicate the presence nearby of extensive shellfish beds. In fact at low tide you can still gather pipis (clams) without even getting your feet wet. On the little beach you will often find sooty and pied oystercatchers, Pacific gulls and white-faced herons. Some nearby rocks are a favourite perch for several types of cormorants while a raft of pelicans is likely to be sailing round just off shore.
If you drive to the right at the T junction you will reach Meredith Point, named after an early settler. Drive slowly as Bennett’s wallabies often dash across this road. We have several times been fortunate to see a pair of white-bellied sea eagles perched in a large dead tree half way along. Meredith Point is another spot where you may or may not see lots of birds and it is especially good for waders at low tide in summer.
The final entry point to this side of Moulting Lagoon is down Flacks Rd. - the third road on your left after Hazards View Drive. The road is unmade and corrugated. Drive slowly as again wallabies often dash across. The road ends at a car park. Climb the stile and follow the fence down to the water. If it’s low tide and the migratory waders have arrived from the northern hemisphere this is a good place to see them. Failing that there are almost certain to be pelicans, (the rocks here are actually called Pelican Rocks) black swans, chestnut breasted shelducks, oystercatchers and cormorants.
More information about birds on Moulting lagoon is available on the web at www.parks.tas.gov.au/factsheets/parks_and_places/MoultingLagoon.pdf
In rough weather Freycinet Adventures (www.freycinetadventures.com.au) go sea kayaking on Moulting Lagoon because it usually remains calm compared with the bay. Of course if you have your own kayak you can simply explore the area from the water yourself.
Loon.tite.ter.mair.re.le.hoin.er.walking track at Waterloo Point, Swansea. This is across the bay from us and is a 45 minute drive in daylight, longer once it’s dark. Take a jacket and a torch with you. You may also want to have dinner somewhere in Swansea beforehand. Drive into Swansea on the Tasman Highway. Just past where the highway takes a 90º turn to the right, turn left into Wellington Street. Continue on until you reach the Esplanade, turn left again and park in the car park at the end of the street. Here you will find information boards about the nearby Catholic and Anglican cemeteries (worth a look) and the walk through the mutton bird (short-tailed shearwater) rookery. During the day there are great views across the bay to the Freycinet Peninsula. However, the best time to do this walk is at and just after dusk from October till April when the mutton birds will be returning to their nesting burrows.
There is a period from mid October till mid November when only a few will return each night. They have by this stage re-bonded, repaired their burrows and mated. For about a month they go out to sea fishing to store up energy for the breeding season when they will take turns at incubating the egg and for a while, at minding the chick. If this is the only time you can see these amazing birds, then seeing a few is better than not seeing any, so still go. Keep to the path to avoid crushing their burrows and only use your torch to shine down to prevent tripping. Shining it on the birds will confuse them. Stay low (there are seats) and keep very quiet. You will be rewarded with marvellous close up views of the birds as they glide in on their long wings and crash land near their burrows. The waiting birds and as they get older, the chicks, make quite a racket as the other birds come home. Eventually all will be silent once more. During the shearwater season you will see them fishing if you go out with Wineglass Bay Cruises.
Bicheno, a half hour drive away, is the best place to see little penguins come home to their burrows at night. Nick Wardlaw and Paul Males saved this penguin colony from destruction by trapping the feral cats and dogs which had reduced it to a mere 40 birds. Even now vigilance must be constant. The National Parks rangers run an ongoing program with local primary school students, ensuring that every child becomes a champion of the penguin colony and understands the importance of keeping cats inside at night and making certain that dogs are not allowed to roam at any time, but specially after dark. Now there are up to 700 penguins with over 200 birds returning to their nests of an evening at peak times, from September to November, and about 100/night for the rest of the year.
We recommend the commercially run tours. You will always see some penguins as it's a large rookery – www.bichenopenguintours.com.au You will be in a group of only 15 accompanied by a knowledgeable and often amusing guide. Observe in silence as the penguins walk by only feet away and occasionally right over your feet. If a penguin family is occupying one of the lidded wooden nesting boxes watch as the chick dives into its parent’s throat to feed on regurgitated fish. As groups are small book in advance to avoid missing out. The penguins come in after dusk giving you time for a meal in Bicheno first, or in winter, afterwards. Tours presently cost $25/head.
Birds observed on the Freycinet Peninsula since we moved here in March 2003, mainly by us, but a few by our guests.
E = Tasmanian endemic
|Common name||Scientific name||Endemic|
|Australasian Shelduck||Tadorna tadornoides|
|Black Swan||Cygnus atratus|
|Australian Wood Duck||Chenonetta jubata|
|Pacific Black Duck||Anas superciliosa|
|Australian Shoveler||Anas rhynchotis|
|Grey Teal||Anas gracilis|
|Chestnut Teal||Anas castanea|
|Australasian Grebe||Tachybaptus novaehollondiae|
|Hoary-headed Grebe||Poliocephalus poliocephalus|
|Great Crested Grebe||Podiceps cristatus|
|Little Penguin||Eudyptula minor|
|Common Diving Petrel||Pelecanoides urinatrix|
|Southern Giant Petrel||Macronectes giganteus|
|Cape Petrel||Daption capense|
|Short-tailed Shearwater||Puffinus tenuirostris|
|Shy Albatross||Diomedea cauta|
|Australasian Gannet||Morus serrator|
|Little Pied Cormorant||Phalacrocorax melanoleucos|
|Little Black Cormorant||Phalacrocorax sulcirostris|
|Australian Pelican||Pelecanus conspicillatus|
|White-faced Heron||Egretta novaehollandiae|
|Great Egret||Ardea alba|
|White-bellied Sea Eagle||Haliaeetus leucogaster|
|Swamp Harrier||Circus approximans|
|Wedge-tailed Eagle||Aquila Audax|
|Brown Falcon||Falco berigora|
|Purple Swamphen||Porphyrio porphyrio|
|Tasmanian Native Hen||Gallinula mortierii||E|
|Eurasian Coot||Fulica atra|
|Bar-tailed Godwit||Limosa lapponica|
|Pied Oystercatcher||Haemotopus longirostris|
|Eastern Curlew||Numenius madagascariensis|
|Red-necked Stint||Calidris ruficollis|
|Curlew Sandpiper||Calidris ferruginea|
|Sooty Oystercatcher||Haemotopus fuliginosus|
|Double-banded Plover||Charadrius bicinctus|
|Hooded Plover||Thinorus rubricollis|
|Masked Lapwing||Vanellus miles|
|Pacific Gull||Larus pacificus|
|Silver Gull||Larus novaehollandiae|
|Caspian Tern||Sterna caspia|
|Crested Tern||Sterna bergii|
|White-fronted Tern||Sterna striata|
|Common Bronzewing||Phaps chalcoptera|
|Brush Bronzewing||Phaps elegans|
|Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo||Calyptorhynchus funereus|
|Musk lorikeet||Glossopsitta concinna|
|Green Rosella||Platycercus caledonicus||E|
|Eastern Rosella||Platycercus eximius|
|Blue-winged Parrot||Neopheme chrysostoma|
|Fan-tailed Cuckoo||Cacomantis flabelliformis|
|Southern Boobook||Ninox novaeseelandiae|
|Laughing Kookaburra||Dacelo novaguineae|
|Tawny Frogmouth||Podargus strigoides|
|Superb Fairy Wren||Malurus cyaneus|
|Spotted Pardalote||Pardalotus punctatus|
|Brown Thornbill||Acanthiza pusilla|
|Yellow-rumped Thornbill||Acanthiza chrysorrhoa|
|Yellow Wattle Bird||Anthochaera paradoxa||E|
|Little Wattlebird||Anthochaera chrysoptera|
|Yellow-throated Honeyeater||Lichenostomus flavicollis||E|
|Black-headed Honeyeater||Melithreptus affinis||E|
|Crescent Honeyeater||Phylidonyros pyrrhoptera|
|New Holland Honeyeater||Phylidonyros novaehollandiae|
|Eastern Spinebill||Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris|
|White-fronted Chat||Epithianura albifrons|
|Scarlet Robin||Petroica multicolor|
|Flame Robin||Petroica phoenicea|
|Golden Whistler||Pachycephala pestoralis|
|Grey Shrike-thrush||Colluricincla harmonica|
|Grey fantail||Rhipidura fuliginosa|
|Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike||Coracina novaehollandiae|
|Grey Butcherbird||Cracticus torquatus|
|Australian Magpie||Gymnorhina tibicen|
|Grey Currawong||Strepera versicolor|
|Forest Raven||Corvus tasmanicus|
|Richard’s Pipit||Anthus novaeseelandiae|
|Beautiful Firetail||Stagonopleura bella|
|European Goldfinch||Carduelis carduelis|
|Welcome Swallow||Hirundo neoxena|
|Common Blackbird||Turdus merula|
|Common Starling||Sturnus vulgaris|
An American bird-watcher phoned me to see if I could suggest some birding hotspots around Hobart to keep him occupied before setting sail on a trip to Antarctica. The birder said he had always wanted to undertake a birding trip to Australia but time constraints meant he only had a day in Tasmania after jetting in from the eastern United States. Unfortunately, as the American pointed out, there is nothing on any website yet that lists Hobart's birding attractions but I told him it wouldn't take me long to draw up my own mini-tour and e-mail it off to him.
Bird-watchers visiting Tasmania, whether they are embarking on a tour to Antarctica or not, really want to see Tasmania's 12 endemic or unique species and all these can be seen with the Hobart city limits, with the possible exception of the forty-spotted pardalote which generally requires a slightly longer journey - to Kingston!
The centrepiece of any bird-watching tour to Hobart has to be the historic Waterworks Reserve just four kilometres from the city centre, but I have to be careful to point out that the location is really only good for woodland and forest birds and, despite its name, it is not a place for rare waterbirds. The upper Waterworks Reserve, which follows the Sandy Bay Rivulet, is also a great place to view southern Tasmanian forest in its near pristine state and to view Tasmanian birds in much the same setting as the Aboriginals would have seen them before the arrival for the first Europeans. The big attraction for me at the Waterworks Reserve are the large flocks of endemic green rosellas forging in the tops of the mature eucalypts and they offer a perfect introduction for foreigners to Australian parrots. With a little luck sulphur-crested cockatoos and yellow-tailed black cockatoos will also make an appearance. Also in the Waterworks Reserve are the yellow wattlebird and Tasmania's four native species of honeyeater (crescent, strong-billed, black-headed, and yellow-throated) and the robin exclusive to the state, the dusky robin. The reserve also offers Tasmanian the native-hen and an array of interesting birds also found on the Australian mainland, like satin flycatcher and dusky woodswallow. I always tell tourists if they have only time for one or two birding location in Hobart, the Waterworks Reserve is the place to go along with the Royal Botanical Gardens for swift parrots.
A trip to Hobart is also incomplete without a trip up Mt Wellington and, for the bird-watcher, this does not just include the spectacular view. On the way up the mountain in a hire car it is well worth stopping off at the Fern Tree Tavern for a walk up the Fern Glade Track opposite the pub which will reveal, with a little luck, Tasmanian thornbill, scrubtit and Tasmanian scrubwren. Any of the Fern tree tracks that follow watercourses lined with ferns are also good for pink robins, Tasmania being the main stronghold for the species although it is found in limited numbers in the south-eastern mainland. On the journey up to the Mt Wellington summit, Tasmanian currawongs, also called mountain or black jays, can be found and as forest gives way to more scattered wind-bent trees flame robins are common in summer. Both the Waterworks Reserve and the mountain slopes also reveal birds of prey like the brown and white goshawk and, with luck, wedge-tailed eagles might make an appearance.
Away from mountain and forest, the Derwent offers unparalleled shorebird and seabird watching. Although outside Hobart city boundaries, a trip must be made to the Ralphs Bay mudflats at Lauderdale for sheer numbers of shorebirds, especially and the sight of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of short-tailed shearwaters out on the Derwent waters. Ralphs Bay is also famous for its large population of pied oystercatchers, the mudflats holding about six per cent of the Australian population. Migratory waders like the eastern curlew and bar-tailed godwits are also common here, but at low tide the extensive mudflats can offer only distant views of these birds and for a closer look the waters around Pitt and Orielton Lagoons near Sorrell provide better vantage points. Although the waders are exciting to watch, many of these species can also be seen in other countries.
When I consider visiting birders, I always think of parrots. I'll never forget my first sight of a sulphur-crested cockatoo and an eastern rosella and I have guaranteed places for sighting these two species. The cockatoos always hang out in the grounds of the Kingborough Sports Centre if they cannot be found nearer Hobart, and eastern rosellas are the easiest of all the parrots to find - on the steps of the Hobart Aquatic Centre where they delight on feeding on the seeds of ornamental silver birch trees there.
Don Knowler is a journalist with the Hobart Mercury. He also writes their bird column and in his spare time watches birds - where ever he may be.
Links to other useful bird related sites
With 61 brances, affiliates and special interest groups across Australia Birdlife Australia is your one stop shop for information about Australian birds and bird watching. If planning a visit to Australia well in advance it's worth joining to receive its quarterly hard copy magazine, e-newsletters and have member access to its website. In addition to bird related articles it includes a calendar of events across the country and information about its reserves, camps, tours and even birder friendly accommodation.
Tasmanian National Parks
www.parks.tas.gov.au - all you want to know about our 19 NP's including a section called Fact Sheets where you will find detailed information about our 12 endemic species, some individual species, habitats, etc.
Lloyd Nielsen's Birding Australia
www.birdingaustralia.com.au - promoting the birds of Australia to the birders of the world. Lots of useful birding info, including how to buy Lloyd's annually updated book on where to find birds in Australia.
www.birdingpal.org - a site enabling birdwatchers to make contact with other birdwatchers worldwide.
http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/links/ - a useful site that's exactly what it says; 29515 of them in fact!
www.rspb.org.uk Working to secure a healthy environment for birds and other wildlife, helping to create a better world for us all. Over a million members and 200 nature reserves in the UK.
www.birdlife.org - a worldwide conservartion organisation.
www.surfbirds.com - a general world birding site from the UK - lists, trip reports, photos, blogs, events, accommodation, tours and much more.
www.birdsofbritain.co.uk/bird-guide/index.asp - a monthly web magazine for birdwatchers: over 400 pages including a bird guide, guide to reserves and clubs and birder friendly accommodation worldwide.
www.birding.com - birdwatching in the USA and around the world, including Australia.
www.audobon.org With nearly 500 local chapters the Audobon Society is the US's most important birding organisation. It's involved in conserving and restoring natural habitat as well as providing birding information and activities country wide.