Saturday, March 14, 2020

Tasmania Day 5 - Bruny Island

We actually had a pretty early morning wake up today since our airport transfer left at 7AM.  Our flight from Melbourne to Hobart on Jetstar was uneventful.  We had read horror stories about Jetstar and strict carry on weight limits so I had purchased extra baggage weight with our tickets.  But, they didn't even weigh our bags so that was money not well spent as it turns out.

We were met at Hobart airport by Karen who was our guide from Inala and would be with us for our 4 days on Bruny Island.  We decided to go with a guided trip on Bruny because we felt we would get a lot more out of the rest of our time on Tasmania if we learned from an expert in the beginning.  Plus, this saved us from having to deal with the ferry hassle to and from Bruny Island and gave me even more time to get used to driving on the left.

As it turned out, this was a great choice because we hit it off with Karen immediately.  Besides her awesome first name, we shared the same passions and ethics.  So, it was a great match.  For the sake of this report though I will have to refer to her as "Inala Karen" so as not to get her confused with the "old ball and chain".

Ow!...darn my editor has sharp elbows...

Anyway, the original plan was to drive to Mount Wellington to do some birding but we didn't get that far before we all yelled "echidna!" at the same time.  Inala Karen stopped the car and we hustled out to spend some time with this amazing little animal. We spent hours looking for one in Victoria and here we found one less than an hour after landing in Tasmania.


They are primarily eaters of ants and this one would dig its face in the dirt to hunt around for some every now and then which made it a bit dirty.
A Short-beaked Echidna to be precise

You can see why they are great diggers:
Digging up ants

As some people know, the echidna is one of only two egg-laying mammals (the platypus is the other).  On this trip we learned that the echidna on Tasmania looks different than the echidna on the mainland since the ones in Tasmania grow more fur to protect them from the cold.  So, while they both have about the same number of quills, the one on Tasmania appears to have less when in fact it's just their extra hair covering the quills.  Those quills are fantastic by the way...

One of only two egg laying mammals

This echidna was really focused on finding food and couldn't be bothered by us at all.  But, every now and then it would look up.


What a great welcome to Tasmania that was!

We ended up passing on Mount Wellington because the normal parking lots were all closed due to road construction.  So, Inala Karen took us to a nearby park instead to look for some birds.  We found a bunch.

Black Swans:
Black Swans

Silver Gull:
Silver Gull

Pacific Black Duck:
Pacific Black Duck

Kelp Gulls:
Kelp Gull Feeding Time

Tasmanian native hen which is endemic:
Tasmanian Native Hen

We stopped at a Banjo's Bakery to grab some lunch to go and got introduced to a few more great Australian eats.  First off were "toasties" which are just toasted sandwiches but are really good.  Second was smashed avocado on the sandwich.  This is something we never do at home but loved it so much that we have already done it more than once since returning.

Inala Karen insisted we get some dessert too so we got some hot-crossed buns (which were delicious) and she even slipped in a peppermint treat the Karen had been eyeing.

We drove to Drew Point where we enjoyed our lunch and did a bit more birding but only one picture is really worth sharing.

Australian pelican which has the longest bill of any bird in the world:
Australian Pelican

The ferry ride to Bruny Island is only 15 minutes but the drive from our landing point to the Inala grounds where we were spending 3 nights would be about 90 minutes.  Along the way we stopped for some scenery and a lot of wildlife...

The Neck is the area between north and south Bruny Island and is worth a stop.  This is also the place to see fairy penguins and shearwaters at night:

Not far after getting to south Bruny, we had another echidna sighting.

Another Echidna

Once again, this one was just wandering along the side of the road. We later learned that this is the best place to spot echidna since ants seem to nest more in the looser soil along the sides of roads which then attract the echidnas.

Our next sight was a true Bruny Island special.  It is only here that they have the albino version of the red-necked wallaby (AKA bennett's wallaby).  Locally, they are just known as a white wallaby and we got very lucky to spot one in a field not too far off the road.

A White Wallaby (Albino Red-necked Wallaby)

We were welcomed at Inala by lots of wildlife.  All these pictures were taken right around our cottage there.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos:
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo Close-up

Tasmanian Scrubwren (another endemic):
Tasmanian Scrubwren (Tasmania endemic)

Red-bellied Pademelon.  No, that is not a earring:
Red-bellied Pademelon

Another Pademelon

These guys are really cute!

A Close-up

Scarlet Robin:
Scarlet Robin

Bruny Island has few options when it comes to food.  Your choices are the Bruny Hotel or...the Bruny Hotel.  So, after a pretty quick debate, we headed to the Bruny Hotel.  Now, there are two things you should know about this place.

One, we had 3 meals here and they were all VERY good.

Two, they are extremely unorganized and under-staffed so you WILL have a LONG wait for your food.

Tonight, it took about an hour to get our food and Inala Karen was pretty sure they forgot to put in our order until she went up 30 minutes to ask about our meals.  But, since we weren't going anywhere until dark, the wait really didn't eat into any wildlife watching time.

After dinner, we ended up doing a night drive the full length of Bruny Island and back from 8:30PM to 12:30AM.  It was the most action packed night drive we have ever had. Of course, since it was a night drive, I don't have a lot of pictures to share but I will share everything that we saw which included:

- Our 3rd echidna of the day/trip.  It was also only the 3rd time Inala Karen had ever seen an echidna at night since they are typically diurnal.
- 1 tawny frogmouth and 6 non-native european hares
- "Stella" the named white wallaby
- We stopped at The Neck to look for fairy penguins and finally found one near a burrow
- 30+ brushies.  I mean we had to stop counting there were so many everywhere.
- 30+ eastern quolls.  They too were everywhere.  We saw plenty of both light and dark morphs

The highlights of the drive were a close encounter with an eastern quoll that actually posed for a grainy picture:
Eastern Quoll (dark morph)

And, another Bruny Island special...  a "golden possum" which is just an albino brushie.

A Golden Possum (Albino

The only negative of this drive, and Bruny Island in general, is that there is so much wildlife around road kills are prevalent.  Inala Karen would drive very slowly but the same can't be said for the few cars that we encountered.  Road kill is a huge problem because not only does it kill one animal but if the carcass stays on the road, secondary kills can happen when scavengers come to eat the carcass.

So, Inala Karen (and I am sure other guides on the island) stop and move roadkill to reduce the chances of secondary kills.  We ended up stopping 6 times on this drive to move roadkill which is pretty sad.  But, as morbid a task as that is Inala Karen probably saved some animal lives that night by moving those carcasses.

Over all, we had a fantastic first day in Tasmania.  In fact, it might be hard to top this one.

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