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  • Writer's pictureKaia Colestock

Day 71-73: Bruny Island

We capped off the trip with Bruny Island, a 140-square mile island off the southeast coast of Tasmania. We had to come and see what all the fuss was about, as it was another “don’t miss” spot in the travel guides.

The island is accessed via ferry across the d'Entrecastaux Channel. North and South Bruny Island are joined by a thread-like isthmus called ”The Neck.” With the exception of two long beaches, it is mostly rugged coastline with cliffs up to 660 feet high. Although the island has become overrun with tourism in spots, a large community of Aboriginal Tasmanians still live on the island in two main settlements.

Bruny Island was designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) based on its capacity to support the world's largest population of the endangered forty-spotted pardalote, up to a third of the world’s swift parrot population, all 12 Tasmanian endemic bird species, and up to 240,000 breeding pairs of the short-tailed shearwater. Not surprisingly, an introduced feral cat population is a problem, and current control measures are under investigation.

"The Neck" connecting thread between north and south islands.

It was imperative that we go back to "the Neck" of the island at sunset and wait for the short-shearwaters to fly in for the night. Any vocalizations would be captured just after sunset to a few hours after dark. Our goal was to record shearwater adults and chicks as they meet each other at burrows. Our best chance was to climb the famous staircase at the Neck lookout and wait. The first shearwater arrived about 15 minutes after sunset. A few minutes later, another. Then another. All of a sudden, a flock of 30-40 shearwaters appeared together on the horizon and filled the sky.

We didn't hear any sustained vocalizations this time - at least not like we did on Phillip Island in December - which was just madness. There were a couple of short greetings when chicks made contact with adults. It was worth seeing the moon take over the water.

Forty-spotted pardalotes are an endangered species in Tasmania. The best place to see this species was at the Inala Nature Reserve on Bruny Island, which is home to all of Tasmania's endemic. We made sure to spend a few days at Inala. The owners allow full access the reserve if you have an overnight reservation.

Forty-spotted pardalote (above)

Forty-spotted pardalote used to be widespread across Tasmania, but the population is declining fast - about 60% in the last 17 years. It's now estimated at 1500 +/- 300 individuals. Restoration at Inala brought the local population back from 12 birds in 1986 to now over 150 in 2022. This success is attributed to planting of its main food source, the manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) in areas that were cleared for agriculture in the 1840s. The "manna" is a sap exudate on which pardalotes feed, in part. They scar the leaf petiole with their hooked bill and revisit these wells to feed. This particular gum provides dense and actively-growing canopies for the birds.

Manna gum (above right)

(Left) Inala is also providing wooden nest boxes to compensate for the shortage of natural tree hollows in young manna gum stands. A two-story blind was built to allow birders to climb higher toward the canopy and getting better viewings.

We can't recommend Inala Nature Reserve enough. It was a magical place. The owner put a lot of work into creating trails. It is designed by birders, for birders. We stayed in the Nairana cabin with a pond out front, a wrap-around porch, and forest on all sides. Tasmanian boobook owls called each night. The proceeds for all reservations and tours go towards preserving habitat for all the species on site. For more info on how to visit and support Inala, go to:

Scroll the slideshow below to see 11 of the 12 Tasmanian endemics.

Left to right: black currawong, green rosella, dusky robin, black-headed honeyeater, yellow-throated honeyeater, Tasmanian thornbill, forty-spotted pardalote, scrubtit, Tasmanian scrubwren, yellow wattlebird, and Tasmanian nativehen. We also saw the strong-billed honeyeater - the 12th endemic - but did not capture a photo.

On our last evening, the pademelons (native Tasmanian mammal restricted to the island) came up to the cabin. Pademelons are one of the smallest macropods, next to their larger relatives, the wallabies and kangaroos. "Pademelon" comes from the Aboriginal word badimaliyan.

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