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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Cruise: New Zealand, the Tasman Sea and Australia

An Antipodean Adventure

2022 Narrative

MELBOURNE PRE-CRUISE: Day 1, 29 November 2022. All arrived in good time, often a few days early for some sightseeing and acclimation, and after a brief intro meeting we met local guide Steve Davidson for a visit to some open woodland and suburban habitats near the hotel. The first ‘official’ group bird was a stunning Eastern Rosella and things went on from there—from the tiny and endearing Weebill to the majestic and massive Wedge-tailed Eagle! From gaudy pink Galahs and a roving band of foraging White-winged Choughs to Australasian Grebes with chicks and a sunlit pair of perched Australian Hobbies. And of course those iconic Eastern Gray Kangaroos. At our second stop we stepped from the bus and discovered we had parked right below a roosting Tawny Frogmouth, a bizarre creature indeed! Then came Rainbow and Musk Lorikeets, Red-rumped Parrots, amazingly obliging Superb Fairy-wrens, various honeyeaters, and simply stunning views of a nesting frogmouth with chick, a wonderful culmination to our introduction to the remarkable avifauna of this southern continent. After a fine dinner and bird list we retired to sleep…

Day 2, 30 November 2022. An early start with breakfast on the road got us out along the Great Ocean Road, with first stop the very scenic Point Addis, where we enjoyed a very confiding Rufous Bristlebird, colorful Blue-winged Parrots, and more Superb Fairy-wrens. A pleasant sunny walk through the low eucalypt forest near Anglesea was almost overwhelming for the new sights and sounds—from low-foraging King Parrots to perched-up singing Shining Bronze and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, from stunning Eastern Spinebills and dapped Red-browed Finches to obliging Gray Currawongs and a briefly seen and decidedly unobliging white-morph Gray Goshawk. Next stop the handsome Hooded Plover and some (Australian) Crested Terns before the tide came in too high; then a great local bakery lunch (with point-blank Sulphur-crested Cockatoo) before our final stop at a small lake where Latham’s Snipes gave surprisingly good views. Then back to the real world in good time to take Covid tests and deal with the rather challenging Princess Cruises app and website before a fine dinner and sleep. All in all a terrific day.

Day 3, 1 December 2022. Another early start with breakfast on the road (perfect timing, while we let the drizzle blow itself out) followed by a morning of field and marsh birding in the Werribee area. Songs of native Horsfield’s (or Australasian) Bushlarks and non-native Eurasian Skylarks filled the air, mixed with the distinctive vocal offerings of lovely Golden-headed Cisticolas. Raptors included Black, Black-shouldered, and Whistling Kites, while Fairy Martins along a fence and a quartet of Galahs perched on low thistles were also notable. Waterbirds featured numerous Black Swans, including a pair being chased off by an unhappy Brolga, apparently defending its nest. The salt ponds at Avalon held Red-necked Stints and handsome Red-capped Plovers, at least before a dashing Australian Hobby shuffled the deck. A drive around Mara produced the enigmatic Cape Barren Goose (or Cereopsis), a primitive member of the waterfowl tribe, and then it was time for lunch. After lunch we poked along towards to ferry dock in Melbourne, via elusive (but loud!) singing Australian Reed Warblers, a dapper Sooty Oystercatcher, and great views of Pacific Gull.

MAIN CRUISE: Day 1, 1 December 2022. Our whole group partook of the pre-cruise extension so that we all arrived together at Station Pier in Melbourne for a pleasantly efficient afternoon boarding of the Grand Princess. After settling in, we gathered at the bow for some tips on at-sea birding before a slightly delayed departure at 7.45 pm, followed by rounding up and releasing a White-faced Storm-Petrel that had come aboard the night before, disoriented by the ship lights. Seeing this beautiful little bird up close, and watching it fly off strongly, was a great way to start our pelagic birding. After a birdlist to conclude our wonderful, bird-filled pre-cruise extension with Steve Davidson we enjoyed a good sleep on our new home.

Day 2. The ship’s clocks were set forward an hour last night (despite not corresponding with our marginal shift in longitude) but we still figured out sunrise and met up near the bow for a fabulous first day of pelagic birding, starting in shelf waters of the Bass Strait, passing between Cape Barren Island and mainland Tasmania, and then out into the deep waters of the Tasman Sea for the afternoon. Birds came in pulses, most notably swarming carpets numbering tens of thousands of Short-tailed Shearwaters with hundreds of Tasmanian Shy Albatrosses mixed in, shortly before reaching the continental shelf. Once past the shelf, species composition changed noticeably and birds were also fewer and farther between, as is often typical of deep waters. Gadfly petrels were well represented with no fewer than six species, mainly Mottled and Gould’s, with smaller numbers of the handsome White-headed and at least one Pycroft’s Petrel, a poorly known species perhaps not documented previously in Australian waters! The molting Little Shearwaters were likely of the taxon assimilis, from Lord Howe Island and perhaps a cryptic species. Mammals were also interesting, including hundreds of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, a few Striped Dolphins (identified ‘posthumously’ in photos!), and for the lucky few, a small pod of Gray’s Beaked Whales. And let’s not forget those flyingfish, a bit unexpected in these cooler southern waters.

Day 3. The ship’s clocks were set forward another hour last night (again not corresponding with our shift in longitude or with so-called smart phones, leading to some confusion over times and alarm setting) but we used common sense and started birding around sunrise on the bow. Winds had shifted from head-on to following us, which meant much of the day was spent right up on the bow, allowing for great views and even photos of many species. Mottled Petrels dominated the morning but White-headed Petrels took over in the afternoon, and Broad-billed Prions were our first new species for the cruise, followed by Wandering and Southern Royal Albatrosses, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, and a nice Black-winged Petrel in the afternoon. We also got to practice prion identification (not an oxymoron!) as well as puzzle over which taxon of White-faced Storm-Petrel we were seeing (in hindsight, the Australian dulciae), as they danced and splashed crazily over the water. Mammals included a few groups of Sei Whales to round out a wonderful day at sea—with the entire day’s birdlist comprised of tubenoses!

Day 4. With everyone now on New Zealand time, we met early on the bow under gloomy skies with the coast of Fiordland looming ahead of us, cloaked in cloud. Birds were dominated by hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters and tens of Auckland Shy Albatrosses, among which we picked out our first Pintado Petrel and Northern Giant Petrels. Appropriately, a group of Long-finned Pilot Whales heralded our pick-up of the local pilot, who would give the captain sound advice about navigating the fjords. Shortly after entering the famous Milford Sound a porpoising group of Fiordland Crested Penguins passed close by the starboard bow for all to see. Then it was simply stunning scenery in glaciated valleys with hanging waterfalls and forest-cloaked hillsides, made more picturesque by sporadic breakthroughs of sunlight and blue sky. Heading back out to sea we re-entered masses of feeding shearwaters mixed with White-fronted Terns, and our inshore transit south to Thompson Sound featured a good selection of species: both Southern Royal and Wandering Albatrosses, a Salvin’s Albatross amid numerous Auckland Shy Albatrosses, and even Cook’s and single Mottled Petrels plus a couple of unexpected Gray-backed Storm-Petrels. Back in sheltered sound waters the birds changed to Kelp and Silver Gulls, which, together with rain squalls meant that most folks opted to rest and prepare for the late afternoon and evening back out on the open sea.

Leaving Dusky Sound around 4 pm we found that ‘outside’ conditions had changed while we were inside the fjords, with winds gusting at 25–30 knots and impressive waves throwing up walls of white spray. Swarms of Sooty Shearwaters and Mottled Petrels accompanied us as we left the fjords and, after a brief spell sheltering from the elements, we were able to watch from the bow thanks to the following wind and sea—real Southern Ocean birding! Amid numerous Cook’s and Mottled Petrels we spotted a single Soft-plumaged Petrel and found (courtesy of digital images) at least two Pycroft’s Petrels; prions came in pulses, alternating between good numbers of Broad-billed, then Fairy, then Broad-billed again; a few Gray-backed Storm-Petrels were challenging to spot, and an hour or so out we entered the domain of Common Diving Petrels, with hundreds of these auklet-lookalikes battling low over the waves into the wind; and of course there were albatrosses—Southern Royal, Gibson’s Wandering, Auckland Shy, and a few Salvin’s and Campbells. Eventually, fading light ended a truly atmospheric afternoon of pelagic birding.

Day 5. 6 am on the bow ‘as usual’ found us just offshore from the long and winding estuary into Port Chalmers, with bracing cool winds but low seas, as we were now on the lee side of New Zealand. Watching a Royal Spoonbill battle the wind as it flew past nesting Northern Royal Albatrosses was notable, and we worked on our cormorant ID, with Spotted Shags, Pied and Little Pied Cormorants, and a nesting colony of Stewart Island—or Otago if split—Shags. The tidal flats held both South Island and Variable Oystercatchers plus flocks of migrant Bar-tailed Godwits. After some remarkable local port bureaucracy, we met our guides for the day—Theresa and Asta—and headed up to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, a fenced area of native forest home to some of New Zealand’s remaining native landbirds. The two vocally accomplished native honeyeaters—Tui and NZ Bellbird—were seen easily, but perhaps more memorable were the formidable Kakas and the massive NZ Pigeons. Friendly and decidedly plump South Island Robins recalled long-tailed antpittas, and a roving group of Pipipis (an onomatopoeic name, for their call) showed briefly. Other stars of the morning were a family of the massive, prehistoric-looking Takahe (feared extinct for 50 years but rediscovered in 1948) and the tiny, decidedly cute Rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest bird and a member of an ancient avian lineage. After a fine lunch we headed down to a couple of coastal lagoons for some local hospitality and a selection of waterbirds that included majestic Royal Spoonbills and obliging Pied Stilts. Back onboard, late afternoon birding as we left the harbor featured Northern Royal Albatrosses wheeling over the colony, plus our first Little Penguin of the cruise and groups of Fluttering Shearwaters among the numerous Sooties. Just another wonderful day of austral birding.

Day 6. Glorious sunny skies and low seas found us just offshore from Lyttelton, where we cruised into the harbor as small numbers of the handsome Hector’s Dolphin showed well, plus the usual Kelp Gulls and Fluttering Shearwaters. A shuttle bus from the ship took us out of the port to meet our guide David Thomas, and driver Tony, for a full day ashore. We were blessed by glorious weather and made the long drive up into the Southern Alps to see the iconic Kea—not always easy to find but David knew ‘the spot’ and we enjoyed point-blank views of this remarkable parrot, as well as good views of the often elusive Pipipi (or Brown Creeper). A stop en route produced Black-faced Terns, plus some great scenery photo ops, and after lunch we made the long trek back down to the coastal lowlands with a little time to seek Wrybill along one of the rivers where they and Double-banded Plovers nest on gravel bars. Sadly, no luck with Wrybill but a beautiful pair of plovers and more Black-fronted Terns were very nice, plus a superb and obliging dark-morph New Zealand Fantail. Heading out from the harbor we again found Hector’s Dolphins—or, rather, they found us—and also had direct comparison views of the notoriously similar Hutton’s and Fluttering Shearwaters.

Day 7. The early risers enjoyed both Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses wheeling in the windy Cook Strait before we entered the more sheltered waters of Wellington harbor for our first day ashore on the North Island. Shuttle buses from the ship took us downtown such that we failed to meet the arranged taxis, but instead we enjoyed the novelty of a cable car ride up the city slopes towards Zealandia, and then efficient shuttles to and from the reserve. A morning on easy trails was surprisingly successful for birding, in part thanks to the numerous other hominids who share this walk and have helped make the native (and non-native) birds acclimated to people. The fenced-in reserve, with its feeders and many color-banded birds, felt perhaps a little like a zoo, but it was heartening to see so many native birds free-flying and safe from mammalian predators (New Zealand was truly a ‘land of birds’ before humans arrived to mess things up, with three native bat species being the only pre-human mammals). Tuis and Kakas were abundant, NZ Pigeons slightly less so, and with a little effort we also found the handsome Saddleback and fast-moving Stitchbird (the latter comprising a monotypic family), plus an active group of Whiteheads, a family of Rifleman, and the always popular perky New Zealand Fantail. After a delicious lunch, the afternoon was free to stay a little longer at Zealandia, wander downtown, or simply return to the ship to relax or edit photos.

Day 8. Another day ashore, this time out of Napier and with Brent Stephenson, co-founded of Wrybill Birding Tours and co-author of the new and comprehensive photo guide to New Zealand birds. Being a ‘local lad’ meant that Brent knew the area really well and we had a wonderful day at varied locations, starting with a couple of vagrant White-winged Black Terns (and surprise Mute Swan) at a very birdy wetland; followed by handsome Black-fronted Dotterel and Double-banded Plovers; then New Zealand Pipits with young and a delightful picnic lunch attended by golden-crowned House Sparrows; and ending with a real treat—a pair of New Zealand Falcons, a scarce and rarely encountered species! Late afternoon birding from the bow in windy conditions produced our first Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Parkinson’s Petrels, a sign that we were into a different pelagic habitat.

Day 9. Strong winds and high seas meant an aborted landing for Tauranga (where birding on land in wind and rain would have been unpleasant), so we headed on north towards Auckland, passing through waters rarely birded and, on cruise ships, usually traversed at night. And what a day it proved to be! Strong winds and high seas were easily birded from the deck, where repeated close views of numerous species were a real treat—the commonest species were Gray-faced Petrels, Buller’s and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, White-faced Storm-Petrels (of the New Zealand breeding taxon maoriana, perhaps a cryptic species, Maori Storm-Petrel),and Cook’s Petrels, the last often right alongside the notoriously similar Pycroft’s Petrel, allowing for fabulous comparisons. Plus Fairy Prions and Little Shearwaters (here of the haurakiensis taxon, likely another cryptic species); Mottled, Black-winged, and Parkinson’s Petrels; Shy, Salvin’s, Buller’s, and both Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses; and even a flyingfish, a good indicator that we were out of the cooler southern waters. All in all one heck of a bonus day.

Day 10. Our last NZ landing found us in Auckland, where local guide Phil Hammond and driver Bill (from Samoa) took us to a few local spots for a very successful conclusion to our landbird excursions. The first planned spot was Bethell’s Beach for NZ Dotterel (aka NZ Plover aka Red-breasted Dotterel…) but en route we added an optimistic stop at a marsh for a slim chance of the rare and even more rarely seen Australasian Bittern. Our luck was truly in, as we enjoyed walk-away views of a bittern sunning itself up in a bush; it seemed mostly unconcerned but then none too happy when a young Swamp Harrier, per its job description, briefly harried the bittern but was sent away with a stab of a long pointed bill! Brown Teal were a bonus, and the beautiful beach held a family of NZ Dotterels. On to our last stop for a picnic lunch followed by a short walk to view shorebirds gathering to roost with the rising tide—a Gray-tailed Tattler and Little Tern (both rare vagrants in New Zealand) distracted us before we found our target: the enigmatic Wrybill, a bizarre plover endemic to New Zealand. The species breeds only on South Island, but some nonbreeders remain year-round in the north, and we enjoyed good views of at least 20 birds, along with a large roost of other shorebirds including 1000+ Bar-tailed Godwits plus South Island Oystercatchers, Red Knot, and.. oh, those clouds look dark and ominous. Our Wrybill reverie was cut short with a hurried walk back to the bus, arriving just as the heavens opened into a rain downpour—timing is everything! To celebrate our great day, a stop for ice cream (including some NZ endemic flavors) was partaken of before heading back to the ship in good time to rest and prepare for late afternoon seabirding.          

The ship headed slowly north out of the Bay of Isles and ended up passing Little Barrier Island around dusk. Fluttering Shearwaters and White-fronted Terns inshore graded into Cook’s Petrels, and more Cook’s Petrels, and more and more—by evening, hundreds or perhaps thousands of Cook’s were milling around, chasing, and even calling in courtship flights; not to mention good views of Common Diving Petrels, White-faced Storm-Petrels, Little Shearwaters, and Parkinson’s Petrels, among others. A wonderful way to end a wonderful day, and now for three days at sea crossing back across the Tasman.

Day 11. Clocks back last night so 5.30 am on deck seemed early, and even earlier with dark gloomy ‘skies’ masked by dense fog, which thankfully soon thinned to mist and then partly cloudy skies with rain squalls and sunny spells, becoming sunny by the afternoon with lovely tropical cloudscapes. Most impressive were the long rolling cross-swells which, when timed right, caused juddering bangs to reverberate through the ship—and it was fun rising and falling with them on the bow. Out in subtropical waters, numbers of birds dropped off as expected but persistence (and luck) paid off, with avian highlights being singles of Wandering Albatross (a beautiful brown-bodied first-year), Kermadec Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Red-tailed Tropicbird, and White Tern, the last two being notably rare in New Zealand and likely wanderers from breeding grounds at Norfolk Island. Mammals were represented by a spectacular Sperm Whale in late afternoon and small groups of Striped and Short-beaked Common Dolphins, and there were even a few flyingfish.

Day 12. Seas eased off a little overnight, and low rolling swells and sunny skies with scattered clouds greeted us in the morning. As with yesterday, out in the deep blue of ‘No-man’s Water’ the main species were Gray-faced and Black-winged Petrels, but a couple of distant large albatross plus a few Gould’s and single Pycroft’s and Mottled Petrels added variety. Freshening wind from the north through the morning strengthened to 25+ knots by midday as cloud cover increased, and by mid-pm had increased to 35–40 knots with rolling swells and impressive white caps breaking on cobalt-blue crests of the biggest waves. But the birds kept coming, starting with Red-tailed Tropicbirds and Sooty Terns, then White-bellied Storm-Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, and Kermadec, White-necked, and Solander’s Petrels, making for a nine species day for gadfly petrels—a remarkable achievement for what we thought might prove rather birdless waters. By evening the winds were gusting to 50 knots and outside decks were closed.

Day 13. Wind slackened slightly but shifted to westerly overnight, which unfortunately was the same as our heading, such that strong head-on winds meant outside decks were closed. Relocating to Deck 15 we found the conditions more challenging (not helped by LOUD Zumba music!) and managed to get out on deck for the rest of the day. Great albatrosses looked small against the impressive backdrop of a roiling, heaving ocean, and one bird gave superb, prolonged views right alongside. Good numbers of Gray-faced Petrels and some nice Solander Petrels were our last gadflies of the cruise before we reached shallower (and cooler) shelf waters, the domain of shearwaters. Large swirling flocks of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were a little surprising (normally a bird of warm waters), and we also enjoyed good views of Short-tailed, Buller’s, Fluttering, and even a few Hutton’s Shearwaters. The Australian mainland appeared in mid-morning, and by afternoon we were in the Bass Strait, still with strong headwinds, which the captain announced would delay our arrival by two hours. Bird activity had slowed appreciably by late afternoon, and we called it a day, with time to rest and pack before a final group dinner and shared stories of what had been a most memorable and wonderful experience.

Day 14. The morning found us just off the harbor at Melbourne, not far behind schedule (the preceding days of headwind had slowed us down a fair bit) and all disembarked in good time for transfer to the airport and flights homeward or to onward destinations. Thanks to all for making this adventure such a success.

-          Steve Howell



After disembarking the ship and making our way to the Melbourne airport, we had plenty of time for lunch and then plenty more time to hang around the airport…finally arriving in Launceston, delayed, in the early evening and making our way towards Leven Canyon. Phew…a long day, but it felt good to finally arrive in Tasmania!

The next morning, we were all well-rested and ready to start enjoying the lovely habitats and birds right around the lodge! Our local guide, Cat, was exceptionally knowledgeable and pointed out many ferns, trees, and flowers in addition to birds. We started out with smashing views of Gray Currawong, Scarlet Robin, Tasmanian Thornbill, Australasian Pipit, and Superb Fairywren in short order, and some were even lucky enough to glimpse a Platypus in the river. Before long, it was time to head towards Cradle Mountain, with a stop at the spectacular Leven Canyon overlook on the way. Up to Cradle Mountain itself, where Black Currawong (a Tassie endemic) nearly took our heads off around the picnic table and we struggled to glimpse a male Pink Robin zipping around the subcanopy. And who could forget the strange Echidna feeding right in front of us?!

Our picnic lunch was spent overlooking a gorgeous alpine valley, complete with a close-up Wombat waddling past us, Bennett’s Wallaby in the distance, and more Pink Robins in the forest! In the “heat” of the day, we headed up to the far viewpoint looking over a glassy-calm lake and Cradle Mountain beyond, simply stunning…and we couldn’t resist an ice cream stop on the way back to Mountain Valley Wilderness Lodge.

One of the primary reasons for staying at this lodge is the chance to look for Tasmanian Devil. This is an independent venture: each cabin is provided with a pile of chicken on the front lawn, and each can choose to stay up into the wee hours of the night and hope for a glimpse of a devil! It takes a lot of patience and dedication, but a few of our group lucked out with sightings between 1 and 3am!

Given the general lack of sleep the night before, we started at 8:00 the next morning and embarked on the long drive south. Our first stop was the Tasmanian Arboretum, with our primary goal the bizarre egg-laying Platypus. Thankfully, Cat knew just where to go, and we were rewarded with great views of up to three animals swimming in the ponds. Some of the group opted for an additional walk through the woods, which I hear was good for Dusky Robin and Green Rosella (Tasmanian endemics), but a few of us stayed behind and soaked in prolonged close views of Platypus. Wow!

We ascended into the mountains for our picnic lunch at the scenic Pine Lake, where Striated Fieldwren performed well and Crescent Honeyeaters…well, not so much, at least initially. These loud, ventriloqual honeyeaters zipped around at lightning speed, but eventually everyone was satisfied with this stunning bird. We then continued on towards the beautiful Curringa Farm for delicious dinner and comfortable beds, with a few stops on the way (female Flame Robin, Yellow-throated Honeyeater). And who knew we’d be regaled with so much knowledge about sheep farming?

The next day saw us continuing our drive south, but first we spent the morning exploring a few trails at Mount Field National Park. We were particularly listening for Scrubtit, which did not materialize, but we were rewarded with a great consolation: simply smashing views of Pink Robins, including a male feeding a begging juvenile, just a few meters away!  Many photos later, we descended towards Hobart, and we were impressed by the numbers of Black Swans (over 1000) and other waterbirds in the lagoons. We made a quick stop at a park and enjoyed the antics of Musk Lorikeets, along with great views of Australasian Swamphen and Chestnut Teal, and then stopped for a picnic lunch at another park with attendant Eastern Rosellas keeping us company.

Finally to Bruny Island, one of the highlights of the whole tour. This wonderful spot holds all of the Tasmanian endemic birds, plus a whole host of other birds and mammals. Our full day here, with half-days on either end, couldn’t possibly do Bruny justice…but we did our best! Cat knows the island so well, and we thoroughly enjoyed poking around. We spent some time at the world-famous Inala reserve, which is home to perhaps 10% of the world population of Forty-spotted Pardalote. This adorable bird performed well on our first morning, with a supporting cast including Black-headed and Strong-billed Honeyeaters and a few Swift Parrots zipping by at lightning speed. We then traveled to the far southern tip of the island, with spectacular views of the Southern Ocean plus Flame Robins and White-fronted Chats on the lawn. And then back to Adventure Bay, where Hooded Plovers rested on the beach and flowering blue gums still didn’t hold any perched Swift Parrots (for now!).

After a delicious dinner, we made a special dusk visit to the Neck, a narrow sand spit connecting the north and south parts of Bruny Island. Here, we waited for Short-tailed Shearwaters to come back to their burrows, and we were not disappointed. As darkness fell, we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of shearwaters flying around our heads, often in well-coordinated pairs. The musty scent of the colony hit our noses, and the growling of shearwaters in their burrows graced our ears. All this to a backdrop of a spectacular sunset…it was simply magic, and gave us full-circle peek into the lives of these special birds…what a contrast from just a few days prior, when we were watching them from a cruise ship in the middle of the Tasman Sea!

All too soon, it was time to head back to “mainland” Tasmania, but not without an unfinished project…better views of Swift Parrot! We decided to make a pre-breakfast attempt in the Inala garden, and we were quickly successful! Brilliant views of this rare (~600 individuals remaining) parrot sneaking around in a low flowering tree. And then it was back across on the ferry and up to Fern Gully, on the slopes of Mount Wellington/kunanyi, where our final endemic awaited. We walked slowly up the trail and were soon excited to hear the high-pitched calls of Scrubtit, followed by excellent views of a pair with a juvenile. We spent quite some time watching them feed, sometimes in close comparison with Tasmanian Scrubwren (not that similar, really!).

One last picnic lunch with attendant Black Currawongs and a last-minute addition of Musk Dusk to our lists, and we found ourselves at the hotel near the airport, a final stop for some…

…while most of the group continued on for one last hurrah, a spectacular flight to Melaleuca, in the far southwest corner of Tasmania. The primary purpose of this extension on the extension is to look for the critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot, and to that end we were quite successful. Population estimates of this stunning parrot are currently hovering somewhere fewer than 80 individuals, and we think we saw around 20 of them…sobering, exciting, sad, inspiring, all at the same time. We were treated to many excellent views, at the feeding stations and on more natural perches, including up to ten perched together in a bare tree. And although bird diversity here is otherwise quite low, it was quality over quantity, with several stunning Beautiful Firetails throughout the day, a couple Striated Fieldwren, and even the tiny Southern Emuwren “performing” as much as they ever do!

And if the birds weren’t enough, the flight to and from Melaleuca was simply breathtaking, with dramatic oceanside cliffs and windswept mountains. It was a perfect way to end an excellent tour. Thank you, all, for making these few weeks so enjoyable. And special thanks to our local guide, Cat, and the whole Inala team for making the Tasmania extension such a success!

- Luke Seitz

Updated: January 2023