2009: Not Quite Freycinet, Tasmania

Friday the Thirteenth continued my run of bad bird luck with just eastern spinebill and white-bellied sea eagle of note right at the death. I’d drifted east to the Freycinet Peninsula by then via Oatlands and Campbell Town, the latter showing some interesting art and both being sort of old. The B34 across to Freycinet climbed past Lake Leake, only accessible by dirt track, and down to Moulting Lagoon, which defines the peninsula.

I was on the eastern seaboard Tasman Highway, heading north to Bicheno for the road down the other side of the lagoon. My target was the national park, where mid-afternoon might have been OK to find camping, but it was a Friday and the place had been booked solid for weeks. Rather than paying the entrance fee to Freycinet just for that evening, I checked out Coles Bay right next door. On the other side of the village BIG4 Iluka did have a pitch for me, and a convivial tavern.

That filled in the evening schedule. From the verandah I watched the sun sink over Great Oyster Bay, of which Moulting Lagoon is the northern extension. This was named for the swans and shelducks that shelter during their flightless late summer.

The general public is ignorant of this aspect of most wildfowl’s life cycle. Post-breeding adult birds replace all their flight feathers at once and so need a safe haven while they’re vulnerable. This is why the drakes also moult through an eclipse plumage that renders them as camouflaged as the females. Mid-February may have been a touch early to catch this spectacle but bushland in and around the campsite brought me back to native passerine species after the European domination of the central farming belt.

On Saturday morning I explored more of this bayside eucalypt scrub that stretched away north from the settlement. Spotted pardalotes joined the other Pardalotus species that had been so memorable at Tinderbox, but it was a couple of currawongs that got the heart racing. As at Mount Wellington, I was hopeful of black currawong but this time my view was lengthy enough to pick out white wing patches, which gave me clinking currawong. A great name, but only a subspecies of the widespread grey, which is almost black on Tasmania.

I didn’t retry the national park because the better idea of Maria Island had climbed my pecking order. This was some 40 miles south but 70 by road to the ferry at Triabunna, and I had to start off north past Moulting Lagoon again to get off the peninsula. This brought me Caspian tern and brown falcon to make a reasonable haul for the day already.

But before any further improvement to that list was the small matter of my ever-pressing flight out of Auckland. A detour even further north to Bicheno would take me to a wireless hotspot, I hoped. I had good reason to expect: it was listed on an Internet voucher I’d bought in the Hobart café. My luck happened to be in. That was nice. ⇐ ⇒

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