Summary: Pleasant easy walk with really good birds
Date of visit: Feb 2, 201 [A stop on the Tasmania, Jan-Feb 2021 trip]
Cape Queen Elizabeth Track is an out-and-back 12km day walk on North Bruny Island, just north of The Neck which separates North Bruny from South Bruny. We only did the 2.5km from the main road car park to the ocean shoreline (about 5km return; the iconic “Arch” is located just a little further), so this post covers just that section. Here, though, we found some great birds.
Finding the trailhead and car park is dead simple, as it’s just on the edge of Bruny Island Main Road.
The first bird sighting for us was a flock of a few hundred Common Starlings, foraging in the grasses, then flying about and landing on the wire fences. Pretty impressive stuff.
A Blackbird or two added to the “introduced species” count, along with a few House Sparrows. Where were the native birds? A New Holland Honeyeater was the only one we could see. It would take a good 10 minutes or more to find Tasmanian Nativehen, then a further half hour for a Yellow Wattlebird to appear, clutching its morning insect prize.
The first half kilometre of track runs parallel to the Bruny Island airstrip and is straight and flat, basically an unused sandy 4WD road. We also found a Scarlet Robin along this stretch.
About an hour and twenty minutes into the track, Big Lagoon came into view on the right. It featured Black Swans, Pacific Black Ducks, Grey Teals, Masked Lapwings and Welcome Swallows. We wandered a little closer to the water, which is bordered by terrain which is sometimes hard sand and sometimes soft. It was quite windy.
On the other side of the track one can make out Little Lagoon, though it is a much drier affair than Big Lagoon, with large swathes of short dry grass. This area featured more Welcome Swallows, and a bunch of smaller ground birds darting in and out from the reed clumps which we eventually identified as White-Fronted Chats.
A Green Rosella was next up, looking very friendly as it posed for the keen photographers. The track had narrowed and the sand become softer, and we then came across an enormous White Gum. After a few moments of standing underneath it we realised the tree was full of birds – a pair of Flame Robins, for starters! After a couple of days birding in Tasmania we were now more adept at differentiating Scarlet from Flame Robins – the latter have red colouring on the throat up to the bottom of their bills.
Some Black-Headed Honeyeaters foraged about in the branches too.
As we were peering through our lenses a small group of backpackers/hikers passed through, and what I’m guessing was their leader mentioned this was a good place for Forty-Spotted Pardalotes (White Gums being their favourite tree). Incredibly, just a few minutes later at least three such pardalotes flew excitedly into the tree. We couldn’t click our shutter buttons quick enough! It was the second (and it would prove to be the last) time we would see Forty-Spotted Pardalotes on our Tasmanian adventure.
The next hour or so passed without much to remark upon; we followed the well-signed trail through the dense coastal heath to Neck Beach, where it was overcast and moody and there were virtually no birds to be seen. There is an iconic spot nearby called The Arch which lies just below Mars Bluff, a headland that breaks up the beach. The Arch can be reached from the beach on low tide only.
We turned back (we had to get to the ferry and all the way across to Eaglehawk Neck!) and headed back to the car park. The faster walking pace and dreary (almost rain-threatening) conditions meant we didn’t stop much for birds, except towards the end (back near the trailhead), where we spotted a Common Bronzewing and a Fan-Tailed Cuckoo – two birds that were nowhere to be seen when we had passed through a couple of hours earlier.
A couple more Scarlet Robins wrapped up the walk and provided a cute ending to our Cape Queen Elizabeth Track experience. It was a very worthwhile short walk for us, and though it was a shame we didn’t have time to walk the full 12km track and explore the coastline section more thoroughly, we still had some very memorable moments with several of the 22 bird species we encountered.
Hotspot: Cape Queen Elizabeth Track (110 species)
Checklist for this visit: Feb 2, 2021 (22 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Possibility of quality bird sightings, including Forty-Spotted Pardalotes
+ Pleasant, easy well-signed walk (though longer and more involved if hiking all the way to the cape)
– No official tracks available to explore the lagoons
– Coastal heath and beach sections curiously devoid of birds