I thought I knew all the best bird-watching spots around the city but recently I stumbled, literally, on a new one.
The combined Long and Nutgrove Beaches in lower Sandy Bay have made it an autumn to remember, a season when bird-watching tends to take a back seat because of a paucity of birds, with migrants returning to the mainland.
I’d never bothered to walk this section of the Derwent coastline before but it proved a convenient spot for rehabilitation walks after total knee-replacement surgery earlier in the year.
It just so happened my physiotherapist was based in the cluster of businesses and shops just back from the shoreline and my walks after treatment proved a tonic for both mind and body. Along with birds, there was a little history, too, because my gentle walks to Blinking Billy Point to the south also followed the trail which the father of evolutionary science, Charles Darwin, took along the Derwent foreshore on his visit to Tasmania in 1836.
Birds, though, were to hold my focus, as I soon discovered on my first walk in Darwin’s footsteps at this location. And again, it proved the point I often make about Hobart. Wherever you are – even in its built-up areas – from a wildlife point of view it always throws up surprises, and never disappoints.
The portents for some fine birding were in place when I saw crested terns hunting just off the shore, flying in fast, darting flight and then pausing when they spotted fish just below the surface. If they determined the fish were within striking distance, they would drop like a stone on closed wings, in a splash emerging with a shiny, silver minnow.
They were not the only fishermen just off-shore. Three species of cormorant plied the waters; black-faced, little pied and great cormorants out for a meal. When not fishing, the cormorants rested on the floating swimmers’ platform just off-shore, drying their outstretched wings.
On shore, sulphur-crested cockatoos, galahs, musk lorikeets and eastern and green rosellas kept me entertained. And in the blue gums on adjoining Sandown Park yellow-throated and black-headed honeyeaters – birds endemic to Tasmania – could be seen and heard feeding on invertebrates and in the trees’ upper reaches.
By coincidence, among the emails and letters I receive from readers was one detailing an “event” which had occurred along Nutgrove Beach during the same period.
A reader described how, while walking her dog, she had been distracted by a group of galahs shrieking a warning to other birds in the area. Looking up, she saw that they were being attacked by a white-bellied sea eagle.
“After a while they managed to get away and the next thing we knew, four plovers were attacking the eagle! I walked almost the full length of the beach watching this performance,” said the reader. “All the dog-walkers were entranced.”
Eventually the eagle gave up and flew away and, as the reader noted, it was a case of “Plovers 1, Eagle 0.”