This November Curious Traveller rolls up its sleeves for another of its renowned scientific expeditions: a journey along Tasmania’s shining east coast to assist researchers who are studying and protecting the bewitching hooded plover,Thinornis rubricollis.
‘Hoodies’ are small cheerful shorebirds that nest in sand hollows on picturesque sandy beaches; about 40 per cent of Tasmania’s hoodie population occurs in just four locations along the east coast. Unfortunately, hoodies’ favoured habitat is also prized by humans for beach visits in four-wheel-drives and dog walking, and it’s activities such as these that are contributing to the species’ decline. Hoodies are thought to be at risk from “blink” extinction: a species that seems numerous only to vanish in a single season. It’s all about breeding success – individuals can live for up to 16 years, but if breeding fails over that period, it’s hard to notice they’re going till they’re gone. A 2015 breeding-season study reported limited success for many pairs, with one laying 16 eggs, but producing no chicks.
The aim of the expedition is to physically fence active breeding areas to measure the effect on nesting and chick numbers. We’ll also contribute to the knowledge of hoodie behaviour by observing them during breeding season. Among things yet unknown are which partner takes primary responsibility for the nest, and how long each bird’s “incubation shift” lasts.
The expedition’s lead scientist is ecologist Dr Eric Woehler, Birdlife Tasmania convenor and a research associate at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and University of Tasmania. Eric has studied Tasmanian shorebirds and lobbied for their protection for 30 years. His numerous field trips have provided essential data for shorebird management and care, and his knowledge and passion for them is both entertaining and inspiring.
The trip will take in some of Tasmania’s most beautiful east-coast landmarks, including Great Oyster Bay, which flanks Freycinet Peninsula, Maria Island’s Reidle Bay, and Marion Bay – one of only two places the Abel Tasman expedition in 1642 came ashore. Guests will also get the opportunity to visit the hidden lagoons and beaches that Eric monitors and which are essential to the hooded plover’s survival.
Guests will have the chance to see a lot of birdlife, including endemics such as the Tasmanian native hen, Tasmanian thornbill and yellow-throated honeyeater, as well as shorebirds such as fairy terns, red-necked stints, sooty and pied oystercatchers and black-fronted dotterels. Close encounters with mammals such as wombats and forester kangaroos have been a feature of Maria Island for decades. Now, it’s also possible to see wild and healthy Tasmanian devils there.
Guests need no special skills: just a willingness to carry survey gear and an interest in learning more about hoodies. They’ll be given training by scientists and will spend time learning about the region’s plants and birds, and the work that’s being done to protect them.
The trip is aimed at curious people who
- Would like to assist with genuine wildlife conservation and research, and through their participation to donate to ongoing work.
- Have a particular interest in nature, ecology and conservation.
- Are interested to see and experience Tasmania’s east coast, including Maria Island National Park
Cost and booking info
$3400 per person, twin share. Maximum group size 12 people.
(Previous CT expeditioners or Birdlife members $3100).
All delicious ‘Tasmanian’ inspired meals are included and accommodation will be enjoyed via a number of local comfortable cottages close to the sites. Special dietary needs are happily catered for.
Call 03 6234 4918
About Curious Traveller’s founders and expert hosts
Ian Connellan’s past jobs include ski sharpener, bicycle and ski magazine editor and Lonely Planet writer and photographer. Before co-founding Curious Traveller he worked at Australian Geographic for more than a decade – writing stories, publishing books, as an editor and ultimately as group editor-in-chief. As a photographer and writer Ian has explored, told stories about and taken others to visit some of the most unusual and interesting places in the world. He loves to share his knowledge and experience, whether on the best knot for myriad occasions, or the sneaky tricks for framing the perfect photo on your phone.
Gail MacCallum has spent nearly two decades as a book and magazine editor and publisher, in which capacity she’s worked with noted writers such as Les Murray, Peter Robb, John Birmingham, Ashley Hay and Tony Wright. More recently Gail’s written about and photographed various out-of-the-way places, including some to which she and Ian now lead guests. She was raised and educated in Canberra, which may in part explain her lifelong devotion to politics, design and mathematics. Her current obsession is temperate-climate botany, and she’s the woman most likely to have a cocktail shaker and deck of cards handy if you’re stuck by bad weather in, say, the flood-drenched Kimberley.