2 local birders have kindly shared their knowledge of where to find birds around Hobart.
Birding with Don Knowler
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.
Birding with Els Wakefield