Saintys Creek and Cloudy Bay, Jan 2021

Summary: Good place for endemic honeyeaters and coastal birds on South Bruny Island

Dates of visits: Jan 29-31, 2021 [A stop on the Tasmania Trip, Jan-Feb 2021 trip]

Saintys Creek and Cloudy Bay lie at the south end of South Bruny Island in Tasmania. It’s rather a long way south, with not much standing in the way between the beach at Cloudy Bay and Antarctica.

We stayed at one of the small accommodation options here, a rustic-style (but perfectly comfortable) cabin in woodland called Saintys Creek Cottage. This provided a great opportunity to see what birds were in this part of Tasmania, and the coastline of Cloudy Bay was only a short drive away.

An early morning walk around our cottage and the few trails through the trees around it found a few honeyeaters around including New Holland and a juvenile Crescent Honeyeater.

Though it was only my first morning birding in Tasmania, amazingly enough the Green Rosella I saw was not the first one I had seen (I met one the previous afternoon in Alonnah), but it was still awesome to observe. A flitty Tasmanian Scrubwren is also a Tassie endemic and looks much like the mainland’s White-Browed Scrubwren (which does not occur down here).

A Satin Flycatcher was also briefly seen in trees above the creek, while nearby were Silvereyes, a Grey Fantail and a Brown Thornbill. A Strong-Billed Honeyeater, another endemic, was also in the dense foliage but much better photos of this bird would come on the following afternoon’s stroll around the property.

Speaking of that afternoon, I also saw another bird which was a first for me – an Olive Whistler. Theoretically these are at the very north of their range in South-East Queensland (typically found in rainforest such as Lamington National Park), but I had certainly never seen one there.

The Whistler was active with a few other smaller birds including a Striated Pardalote (though looking at the photo now, I wonder if it is perhaps a Spotted Pardalote…) and a few Silvereyes.

Another endemic honeyeater came as a surprise that same afternoon – a Black-Headed Honeyeater, which was literally hanging out by itself in the high eucalypts.

Because I birded from a private property, I can’t comment on what the birding would be like from the road, which runs north-south parallel to the creek for quite a while; I’m sure you’d be able to observe a lot of these species that way though. One unexpected sighting at the end of the afternoon was a seal in the creek; it is at least 6km to the ocean from here!

On Jan 30 we headed down to Cloudy Bay proper. Cloudy Bay Road basically ends at a little car park, then there is a long beach to the left (east) and a walking track to the right (west). We opted for the walking track, noting that there were a few people heading off to the east – there is a network of longer hiking tracks in that direction and a huge reserve called Mount Bruny Forest Reserve. Note there are a couple of accommodation options almost right on the beach here (Cloudy Bay Villa and Cloudy Bay Beach House, for example), and a campground on the far south-east of the “eastern” beach.

The walking track is only 800 metres and offers views across the two modest rocky headlands that separate the eastern beach from the beach to the west. Here we saw a Sooty Oystercatcher or two (and a couple of Pied Oystercatchers, too, actually).

The larger gulls are very prevalent in Tasmania (much more so than in Queensland!), and both Kelp Gulls and Pacific Gulls (with their huge red-tipped bills) were present here at Cloudy Bay. Swimming and diving in the water was another southern-state bird (though not a Tasmania endemic), a Black-Faced cormorant. I only spotted one of these.

I knew to be on the lookout for a Forest Raven while in Tasmania (it would be another lifer bird), as it is the only resident crow/raven here, and wasn’t sure how much luck would be involved finding one. Turned out, not much luck needed, as I saw three!

We were very lucky with the weather for our visit to Cloudy Bay. Although it was cold at first, the sun was out and conditions were generally terrific for bird-watching and hiking. We actually only checklisted 7 species in the hour and a half we spent there, but they were quality bird encounters, and you can’t complain when every second bird you see is a lifer!

Saintys Creek and Cloudy Bay offer birding which feels like it’s quite off the beaten track. There is some non-trivial effort required to get here (getting to Tasmania, in the first place, then a ferry to Bruny Island, then an hour-long drive), but then it’s a case of relishing the relative isolation and enjoying the nature and wildlife. We found plenty of Tassie’s endemic birds at Saintys Creek, especially the honeyeaters, and a small range of coastal birds at Cloudy Bay.

Hotspots: Cloudy Bay Rd at Saintys Creek (30 species), Cloudy Bay (94 species)
Nearby: Inala Reserve (101 species), Cloudy Corner Campground (47 species)
Checklists for these visits: Jan 30 – Saintys Creek(13 species), Jan 31 – Saintys Creek (10 species), Jan 30 – Cloudy Bay (7 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Great place to find many of Tasmania’s endemic birds
+ Plenty of hiking tracks around Cloudy Bay
+ Isolation and nature
– Only a handful of accommodation options in the area
– Requires some determination to get there 🙂

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