Wattlebirds

Soon after my visit to Southern states in December 2017 I wrote about “honeyeaters and their next-nearest kin, mainly because I have … seen species which don’t live around Townsville” and I’m doing it again now.

Wattlebirds are the Southern equivalent of our Friarbirds: big, noisy, gregarious (and often aggressive) honeyeaters. The Red and Yellow are the largest of five species at 38-48 and 31-39cm respectively; the Yellow (Anthocaera paradoxa) is restricted to Tasmania but the Red (A. carunculata) occupies a broad coastal arc from Shark Bay in the West to Brisbane.

wattledird on bottlebrush
Yellow Wattlebird in a South Hobart garden

Continue reading “Wattlebirds”

Seals and Cormorants on Bruny Island

During my recent Tasmanian holiday I spent most of a day on Bruny Island, off the south-central coast of Tasmania (map). Its two halves are separated by a remarkably high, narrow isthmus and the northern part of the island is mostly farming land while the southern part is mostly wilderness.

bay, jetty, powerboats
Adventure Bay with boats like ours

The eastern coast, facing the D’entrecasteaux Channel, is protected but the south-west coast is exposed to the rigours of the Southern Ocean and is dramatically rugged, with high cliffs, sea caves, rocky islets and off-shore rock stacks. We took a small-boat cruise from pretty, tranquil Adventure Bay down to the islets off the southern tip of the island, hugging the coast on the way down to see the scenery and the wildlife and travelling almost straight back.

Bruny Island cliffs
Beyond the bay – Bruny Island cliffs

From a wildlife point of view the highlights of the cruise were the Black-faced Cormorants and the Fur Seals, both of which are restricted to southern coastlines.

black and white birds on rock slope
Black-faced Cormorants in a typical cliff-side roosting area
birds on rock
Close-up of Black-faced Cormorants

The Black-faced Cormorant, Phalacrocorax fuscescens, is the least common of Australia’s five species of cormorant and I have put a couple more photos of them here.

The Australian Fur Seal, Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus, has close cousins in South Africa (another sub-species of A. pusillus), New Zealand and Antarctic waters (other species in the same genus), as per this page on the site of the federal Department of the Environment and this one from the Australian Museum.

seal colony
A typical haul-out location, a flattish rock platform
seal at ease on a bed of kelp
At ease on a bed of kelp
two large seals facing each other
Chat or challenge?
rocky islet with seals
A dozen seals have chosen the platform at the foot of this crag as a resting place

Mount Wellington

landscape with rocks and alpine heath
The peak of Mt Wellington is a low ridge on the edge of a high rocky plain covered in low alpine vegetation

Mount Wellington dominates Hobart’s skyline as Castle Hill dominates Townsville’s, but more so. It is also an extension of wilderness into the city, since the city face of the mountain is the Eastern tip of the vast South-western wilderness, as this map shows. Here are two sets of photos I took on the mountain on my recent holiday in Tasmania.

Waterworks Reserve

Waterworks reserve, looking over the upper dam towards Mount Wellington
Waterworks reserve, looking over the upper dam towards Mount Wellington

The Waterworks Reserve was a key part of Hobart’s water supply in the early years. A stream running down from the mountain feeds two dams, and the reserve comprises the dams and the valley in which they nestle. Most of the valley is forest, as seen above, but there are walking/cycling trails, picnic areas and the necessary access roads and pumping stations.

Waterworks reserve, looking over the lower dam towards Hobart
Waterworks reserve, looking over the lower dam towards Hobart

Waterbirds love the dams and a visitor is sure to see gulls (they fly in from the Derwent estuary over the ridge), several species of ducks and a scattering of other birds. On this occasion I saw White-faced Herons, a dark cormorant which I think was a Great Cormorant rather than the Little Black Cormorant I am more familiar with, and a pair of cute little Australian Wood Ducks, Chenonetta jubata. 

grey duck with chestnut head
Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata, male

The Summit

Rocks and a beautiful sky
Rocks and a beautiful sky
Cloud drifting up the gully which is the top end of the Zig-zag track
Cloud drifting up the gully which is the top end of the Zig-zag track
shrubs and rocks
Misty moody landscape

The summit is above the tree-line and is a world of rocks and low scrubby alpine vegetation. It is always ten degrees colder than the city, and clouds can sweep across in minutes even on a day which looks bright and sunny. This visit was in late January and it was, rarely for the mountain, shirt-sleeves weather and with many of the plants in full bloom it was as pretty as it ever gets – but “pretty” is not a word that comes to mind up here. “Beautiful”, yes; “awesome” if you like; often “harsh”, “bleak” or “raw”; but not “pretty”.

At this point, however, I will own up to misleading you (just once!) with my camera: my misty moody landscape has not been photoshopped but was taken from ground level and the trees and boulders in the foreground are actually only knee high. Here are some more of the plants, shot from a more familiar viewpoint:

grass clump and small tree
Alpine vegetation
Shrub in full flower
Shrub in full flower

I took a lot of photos of insects, as my regular readers will have expected, and the best of them are on my flickr photostream – click here and scroll through the set to see craneflies, a black cicada and more. (The birds and other wildlife I’ve added since then are also Tasmanian but not from Mt Wellington.)