In April this year, Louise and I headed down to Tasmania for a five day break. The exact destinations were a mystery to me as Louise had planned the entire trip and was resolute at keeping the details a surprise. We picked up a hire car from the airport and headed off... two hours later we pulled into the driveway of a remarkable wooden octagonal house (in what I would learn was Pirate's Bay) where I was surprised by two familiar faces popping up from their hidden positions! It was our good friends Jo and Jason, fellow nature nerds who knew the area well from their many visits and who had arrived the day before. (You can find Jason's photography here)
After the drive down we needed to stretch our legs, so we strapped on our binoculars and all went for some fresh air and a wander down the track to Pirate's Bay - there are 14 endemic Tasmanian birds and I was itching to get spotting. We were not disappointed, we got some excellent views straight away of Dusky Robin, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Tasmanian Thornbill and Green Rosella. By day's end we had also picked up Black Currawong, Tasmanian Native-hen and while not an endemic, the Beautiful Firetail in the jetty car park added another lifer to the tally.
The following day was the start of Louise's secret activities schedule; we were all off on a four hour privately chartered (oooh la di da di, how posh!) boat trip heading out of Eaglehawk Neck. Now if any of you have read the account of my previous pelagic experience you would know this was going to be a great test. This was exactly the purpose as Louise has previously experienced savage sea-sickness and was very reluctant to get on a boat, despite her real desire to see albatross. I had stocked up on a couple of recommended drugs, and this was going to be a solid road, or should I say wave test of their efficacy.
We hit the jetty early to meet Damo from Wild Ocean Tasmania and hopped aboard his prowler boat, hoping the calm, still day would not keep the albatross too far offshore. Within the first half an hour all of Louise and my fears were assuaged; with the drugs pumping through our system and the low, incredibly stable boat neither of us felt in the least bit queasy. Under the expert skippering of Damo we explored along the sheer cliff faces, occasionally entering some of the large caves that perforate the coastline. The scale and unique geology is really something to behold!
One of the big bonuses of Eaglehawk Neck is the very close proximity (in relation to the Victorian coast) of the continental shelf - basically the hotspot for all of the really cool pelagic birds! I was amazed to see our first albatross come in when we were not far off shore at all - after heading further out to sea and following the banking silhouettes of some Shy Albatross we came across little hotspots of feeding activity. Short-tailed Shearwaters shared the air with Kelp and Pacific Gulls, Crested Terns joined the fray and rafts of seals floated with one flipper aloft as if to welcome us to their domain. One of the highlights was the appearance of a Common-diving Petrel. The day was really delivering for us all and my breakfast remained firmly, and confidently ensconced where it should be. Bloody marvellous! By the end of the session we were heading back to dry land with Louise having happily ticked four species of albatross: Shy, Black-browed, Yellow-nosed and Buller's.
In the evenings, we would take ourselves off into the pitch black night to go spotlighting with the aim of finding ourselves some night birds. Whilst we were not successful with finding the owls we were after, we were very excited to come across Eastern Barred Bandicoots foraging on the side of the roads. The conservation status of the EBB is critically endangered in Victoria - the wild population sadly extinct with all hope reliant on some reintroduction sites - and vulnerable in Tasmania. You can read further about these brilliant little mammals here including finding out about the mind-blowing duration of their gestation period! (You can click the photos below to see them properly if you'd like)
Our two days went extremely quickly and we are keen to get back as soon as we are able, but we were off to Bruny Island... another spot we had been excited about exploring for some time! We highly recommend checking out Pirate's Bay and Eaglehawk Neck, as well as heading out on one of the Wild Ocean Tasmania trips - you will be in excellent hands and will be supporting their fantastic conservation efforts.