Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tassie: Hola Juan Fernandez!

I love Tasmania. Which is not unusual since I also love most of Australia. I truly do. And when I learned that there was an opportunity to get on the 14 January pelagic out of Eaglehawk Neck, I made plans to head to the Land Down Under the Land Down Under. There is much to say about the ten-day trip, and I have just now decided to write it in two blogs. Therefore, this is Part One of what was a Two Troopy Trip to Tassie.

When I learned that there were two places available on the boat, I contacted my birding buddy, Robert, and unsurprisingly he was up for the trip. We made plans to ferry ourselves and our troopies to Tassie.

On Friday morning 12 January we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania. It was an easy crossing, although mostly rainy and grey. The ferry was an hour behind schedule and our arrival at Devonport was close to 8pm. We headed south to a free camping area that was only twenty minutes south of the ferry. We arrived tired and hungry to a very clearly stated “No Overnight Camping” sign. Damn it.

We found another free camp about 45 minutes further south and after a lot of bouncing down winding, unsealed roads we eventually arrived around 10pm at Liffey Falls Camping Area. It was a lovely spot, but it was too dark to appreciate it. The next day I had a beautiful ride down A5 toward Eaglehawk Neck. Here are a few photos from the drive through the Central Highlands of Tasmania. It is gorgeous out there.
At Liffey Falls Camping Area

Very cool and basically out in the middle of nowhere. It is worth a google and a stop if you are passing through!
We arrived in Eaglehawk Neck at the Lufra Motel where I had secured us a room. They call these rooms “fisherman’s rooms.” They are less fancy than their regular rooms, but they are quite clean, comfortable and roomy. I personally love them and have stayed in them before (and will again).
First thing in the morning we arrived at the boat greeting old, and a few new, friends. It was a bit windy and bumpy, but the seasickness patch was doing its job and I was fine. The first Lifer I picked up was a Providence Petrel that circled the boat. We saw a second one later on as well. After we were set up to berley we had lots of Storm-petrels in the slick, including four Black-bellied Storm-petrels which were Lifers for me. We had a many good birds indeed. And then... Juan showed up.

A good sign heading out of the harbour.

Black-bellied Storm-petrel

On pelagics, I very often think, “I don’t know what that bird is.” My pelagic identification skills are pretty lame. I was on the port side of the boat as a  ‘petrel’ that was very light underneath came flying directly toward the boat. I thought, “I REALLY don’t know what that bird is!” I pointed and asked, “What is that!” I turned to my friend Paul Brooks who was standing just to my left. Paul organizes these trips and his pelagic bird identification skills are amongst the best. His face was blank. He said, “I don’t know. Take pictures!” We did.

After consulting the field guides and checking the photos, it was determined that we had seen a Juan Fernandez Petrel. This was only the second sighting in Australia! The first sighting had been in 1985 off NSW. Of course this was a Life Bird for everyone! Sweet.

Paul Brooks' back of camera underwing shot that clenched the identification.
There was much joy! Lifer High was infectious and we were silly, giddy and gleeful. When we arrived back in Eaglehawk Neck my friend, Karen Dick, had organized for a group of us to go to a little café. There we had Lifer Chips! Delicious! In my opinion, Lifer Chips are an excellent version of celebratory Lifer Pie.

Robert and I also had an early supper at that café and then headed back to the motel. The next day we were going to the mountains of northern Tassie for a couple of days. I was looking forward to that, although I was really not feeling that great. But for the most part, all was well.

There is more to come in the second part of the Two Troopy Trip To Tassie blog entries. Sending love from back at the Tiny House in Lara.