2nd - 23rd October 2014
Often referred to as the ‘Timeless Land’, the island continent of Australia has been cut off from the rest of the world for more than sixty million years and as a result has evolved a remarkable and unique flora and fauna. This isolation has enabled the marsupials to flourish and diversify; we will encounter such remarkable creatures as kangaroos, wallabies, possums, Koala and the strange Platypus. The birdlife has also followed its own evolutionary path, resulting in Australia having more endemic bird species than any other country in the world and many bird families which are restricted to Australasia. Australia’s immense geographical area means that it is simply impossible to see all of its endemic birds during one visit, any attempt to do so would result in far too much time travelling and too little time actually spent in the field. This unique tour to the south-east corner of Australia and Tasmania has been specifically timed to take place at the very best time of year, in the austral spring.
Our journey begins in the Island State of Tasmania, which has been separated from the mainland for thousands of years, resulting in the speciation of a dozen species of birds. We hope to encounter every one of the island's 12 endemic birds, including the rarest and most difficult to find, the Forty-spotted Pardalote, whose entire population is estimated at fewer than 1,500 individuals. We should also find several species which are easier to see in Tasmania than on the mainland. These include Black-faced Cormorant, Pink Robin and Olive Whistler and those that winter on the mainland and breed only in Tasmania, the Swift Parrot and the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot (around 20 breeding pairs left in the world!), the later sadly, is now down to 50 birds in the wild. In addition to fabulous birding we also have an excellent opportunity to view kangaroos, wallabies, possums and the most famous of all the islands creatures, the Tasmanian Devil. We will enjoy a full day pelagic boat-trip out from Eaglehawk Neck, where we will be surrounded by a good selection of albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels and prions. Next we go birding in the cool temperate forests of Mount Wellington and Bruny Island, before flying to the remote south-west of Tasmania where we will visit the breeding site of the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, where we should be able to see them at a feeding station. We will conclude the Tasmanian part of the tour with a visit to the remote north-west, where we will go spotlighting for quolls, possums and best of all, the amazing Tasmanian Devil.
We then fly to Melbourne, on the mainland, where we travel northwards to the arid bushy terrain of the ‘Mallee’, in northwestern Victoria, where we visit two of the Mallee National Parks, this specialised habitat is made up of short, multi-stemmed eucalypts and is home to the mound-nesting Malleefowl and other uniquely-adapted birds of this arid environment. We then spend some time birding the Kerang Lakes system, searching for a multitude of wetland species, such as Hoary-headed Grebe, Straw-necked Ibis, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australian Shelduck, the rare Freckled Duck, Whiskered Tern, Red-capped Plover, Banded Stilt, Red-necked Stint and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. We then drive to the Murray River Floodplain, which has a number of diverse habitats including grasslands, wetlands, woodlands and riverside River Red Gums. From a birding point of view it is most famous for the Plains-wanderer, a unique species in a family all of its own. We will enjoy searching for this nocturnal bird under a sky literally crowded with stars. We spend the rest of the tour birding in the wet sclerophyll forests along the south coast of Victoria, searching for such exciting species as Brown Goshawk, Common Bronzewing, Gang-gang Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Lyrebird, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Pilotbird, Bell Miner, White-naped Honeyeater, Rose Robin, Golden Whistler and Red-browed Finch, to name but a few.