A few weeks ago I joined with Isaac Clarey for a typical weekend away in Tasmania – a double header pelagic with a little sprinkling of spotlighting and other wildlife watching thrown in. Arrived down mid afternoon on the Friday and had a bit of time to kill before Isaac landed so poked around some bush around the airport with a few nice birds. We headed straight down to the Lufra hotel and checked in and grabbed dinner and a beer as custom demands. We joined up with Nick afterwards for a bit of a spotlight – it was very quiet but eventually picked up a Masked Owl in thermal which obliged us with a nice photo opportunity. It turns out I had photographed the exact same male bird almost two years ago to the day a few km away – good to know its still around. Later we found a Tasmanian Boobook around the Blowholes but not much else going on.
Up early and on the Pauletta for what turned out to be a very pleasant day at sea. Lots of birds with the highlight being a single Westland Petrel and always good to be out in the Southern Ocean with friends.
I have done the Weilangta Forest Drive a number of times birding during the day but never at night so we decided to change that. It is a dirt road just out of Copping which travels through wet forest that I always thought should be good for spotlighting. In farmland near the start of the drive we found a dark morph Eastern Quoll which we chased around with thermal for a bit but were unable to get close enough for decent photos – a very good start. We ended up finding good numbers of Eastern Quoll of both dark and fawn morphs including in the middle of the wet forest which was very exciting. Its a species I have only seen a few times away from Bruny Island.
We continued on stopping for the occasional quoll and eventually came across a very freshly dead Brush-tailed Possum in the middle of the road which was still warm to the thermal despite no cars having passed on the two hours we had been there. Near the disemboweled corpse was a quoll scat so we stopped and searched hoping for a Spot-tailed. As we searched Isaac found an unidentified rodent in thermal which was fossicking around the understory. Watching it in thermal it looked and behaved like a Pseudomys which is a native mouse and here the only possibility would be the Tasmanian endemic Long-tailed Mouse – Pseudomys higginsi. However the animal was very light shy so it took some time to get some decent views as it would keep retreating under light. When I did get binocular views I could clearly see the diagnostic bicoloured tail, relatively large size and rounded Pseudomys face. Very much reminded me of a Plains Mouse with a long tail. Having safely ruled out Black Rat as the only other real possibility we were able to celebrate with some high fives – it was a new mammal for both of us and high on my most wanted list. We ended up watching it via thermal and the occasional burst of light for about 45 minutes before we moved on. Isaac managed some decent photos but I failed dismally! The habitat was wet forest regrowth that had probably been logged in the last 20 years or so. The animal spent most of the time fossicking around and grooming and feeding – I am disappointed I didn’t use the thermal video feature to document this behaviour. While we were watching the mouse an Eastern Quoll sauntered up to check out the dead possum until it noticed us. Unfortunately we had to turn and head back to the Lufra soon after.
Up early again the next morning and the weather definitely felt colder. All in all a more exciting day at sea in still relatively pleasant conditions with the highlights being Sooty and Salvin’s Albatross and about five Westland Petrels which really seem to be a reliable May special from this port. All in all a great, if rather too short weekend. Thanks to Isaac for the company and for sharing a few mouse pics.