Cape Bruny, Jan 2021

Summary: Some good birding options with scenery on South Bruny Island

Date of visit: Jan 31, 2021 [A stop on the Tasmania Trip, Jan-Feb 2021 trip]

Cape Bruny is at the far south-west of South Bruny Island in Tasmania and features a couple of sights of interest to birders (and tourists and bushwalkers): Cape Bruny Lighthouse, and a network of peninsula trails and a campground on the Labillardiere Peninsula. It all sits within the western section of South Bruny National Park, so you’ll need a valid parks pass to visit. Access to both sites is via Lighthouse Road and there is also a scenic lookout with views across to the lighthouse before the road splits.

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Cape Bruny Lighthouse, 13 metres high, was first lit in 1838. It lies at the end of the road on South Bruny – you can’t go any further south!

We arrived at 8:20am, seemingly a little before most other tourists, and a few small birds were about the car park and cottage and lightstation area. One of these was a White-Fronted Chat, which briefly landed on the rusty fence line, making for a great photo.

Dusky Robins are very prevalent in the southern parts of South Bruny and we saw a couple of these as well.

On the day we visited there were dry grass fields and short coastal bushes with a windy and moody atmosphere which I’m guessing is pretty typical for this spot.

Near the start of the path to the lighthouse, a Black Currawong alighted on one of the solar panel arrays. It was unmistakeably a Black Currawong with its white-tipped wings and tail and lack of white underparts (distinguishing from Grey Currawong) – a Tasmanian endemic species and a lifer bird for us! Not far away in the dry grass was a Pipit, though one has to be careful in this part of the world to differentiate this species from the quite similar Eurasian Skylark.

The moderately steep, paved path up from the car park to the base of the lighthouse cuts through some prickly coastal heath vegetation. I am not sure what those plants are, which grow to around head-height in places, but a few birds seemed quite enamoured with them, including more than a dozen Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos.

One of the treats of birding in Tasmania (and Australia’s south-east) are the beautiful colours of the robins found here: Pink Robin, Scarlet Robin and Flame Robin being the most vibrant. We were lucky enough to see a pair of Flame Robins on the walk up to the lighthouse.

New Holland Honeyeaters were (of course!) also about, their sociable antics well on display. These birds just have so much personality.

Once at the top it is all about the lighthouse and the dramatic cliff scenery. There are tours to climb the lighthouse available for a small fee, though we were more interested in the vistas and any birds that might be around.

The lighthouse area has some information panels which are quite interesting; one of the sections describes Eddystone Rock, a stone tower about 30km south of the cape, just visible on the horizon on a clear day if you have a decent camera. It is a magnet for seabirds and looks very dramatic.

Shearwaters and Gannets are commonly sighted around the cliffs especially over the summer months, and sometimes albatross. We didn’t spot any such birds (just Silver Gulls and Kelp Gulls), but we were pleasantly surprised by the 16 species we did see and called our little lighthouse expedition a great success.

Luggaboine Circuit and Jetty Beach

The Luggaboine Cricuit is a short loop option (4.5km) which can be undertaken if you want to do a hike but don’t have the time or energy to undertake the full day (18km) walk around the entire Labillardiere Peninsula. It starts at the Jetty Beach campground, and is well signed.

At the campground there are plenty of trees and there were a few small birds around – an Olive Whistler, a Dusky Woodswallow and a couple of Dusky Robins. Not a bad start, and apparently this is one of the most reliable (and easiest) places ever to find Dusky Robins.

The track starts off with plenty of trees and after a while eventually opens out into a wider road trail and some shorter coastal vegetation. There were less birds than we might have hoped – Welcome Swallows, a Green Rosella (always a pleasure to see this Tasmanian endemic), and a couple of Brown Thornbills.

A little light rain started to fall and a Tasmanian Scrubwen was then sighted, and after coming to the intersection that heads back east(ish) towards the beach, we had glimpses of more distant scenic views, and then a better Green Rosella encounter.

There were quiet a few flowering bushes and the sun had come out, and a pair of juvenile Eastern Spinebills flitting around lifted the spirits even further.

Scarlet Robin, more Brown Thornbills, a Grey Shrikethrush and a Superb Fairywren greeted us as we started to descend through the ferny bracken to the beach. This section has some very heavy undergrowth (see photo above).

More expansive views are finally afforded when the track gets down to the water, and there are a couple of small access points to the small sandy bays. Here we could see over a dozen Black-Faced Cormorants on a small rocky island.

There weren’t many birds along the shoreline, until we were back at Jetty Beach, where a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle made a flyover, and a Pacific Gull calmly strode through the waves.

The short and sandy trail back up to the campground area saw New Holland Honeyeaters again (and again with attitude!) and a final friendly Dusky Robin.

The circuit walk was pleasant enough, and passed through a couple of very different types of habitat – coastal heath and flowering bushes, heavy bracken and sandy beaches. The birdlife along the way was a little patchy; we picked up 17 species which we were coming to realise was fairly typical for a couple of hours at a Bruny Island site.

Hotspots: Cape Bruny (95 species), Luggaboine Circuit (76 species), Jetty Beach (78 species)
Checklists for these visits: Cape Bruny Jan 31 (15 species), Luggaboine Circuit Jan 31 (17 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Some good birds including reliable sightings of a few endemics like Dusky Robin
+ Great scenery and coastal atmosphere
– Birdlife was patchy at Luggaboine Circuit
– Weather very changeable

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