27 November 2011

A Devil of a time...TASMANIA (7 Nov)

After finishing the tour on Tasmania (and happily realizing that Susan Myers, myself and the group had cracked over 430 Australian birds in 19 days!), I had 2 days to spare. At the last minute I found out an opening had come up at King's Run in northwestern Tasmania to view Tasmanian Devils that night. The problem was I was in Hobart (southeast Tasmania), and it was already 11am! The temptation of devils, along with the enthusiasm of Joe King, who runs the operation up there, made this an easy decision; I hit the road again! 7 hours later (and more than a few Red Bulls) I arrived to be greeted by Joe, and a very welcome cup of tea. The afternoon was sunny and bright, and the Tasmanian coastline was simply magnificent. This was my first time in this part of Tassie, and it was truly spectacular to see. Joe and I were also joined by Holly Faithful, another fellow English person who had also recently finished touring in Australia. Joe transferred us to his "shack" on the beach, the place where devils roam under the cover of darkness. We took a walk with a group of visiting Canadians along the shore, admiring Red-capped Plovers, hearing tales of aboriginal sites in the area, and watching more than a few Bennett's Wallabies, before we all settled in the shack for a marvelous supper of abalone in Thai sauce, (seriously tasty). After dinner, and with prime devil time approaching, the lights were dimmed, and we moved our chairs close to the large double-glazed window that overlooked a carcass cleared from the road earlier in the day. We were hoping this hapless wallaby carcass (actually a Tasmanian Pademelon) would be too good to resist for the local Tasmanian Devils that scavenge in this area regularly. The peak hours for them are an hour after sunset. This hour approached and then passed with not a sight nor sound of them. Then at 22.55pm a large head appeared suddenly, and nervously in front of the window. I was incredulous, this was my first Tasmanian Devil, and it was close. Very, very close. However, it was looking jumpy and it soon vanished again leaving me with an impressive memory but a lack of photographic evidence. Not to worry though, Joe was calm and explained this was typical when they first venture into the carcass. Within the next ten minutes it reappeared, brought with another individual, and before we knew it they were gorging (rather gruesomely) on the pademelon. Once settled we enjoyed them at length, as they tucked in to the feast and regularly fought with one another, often baring their considerable teeth, and making amusing growling noises in the process. A fantastic animal, within a great setting, and a great, great wildlife experience thanks to Joe King, whose head full of facts, (and considerable culinary talents), made this a very memorable evening indeed. I hope to return soon.

A quick footnote to say that the devils have recently been in a lot of trouble through a facial tumor disease (leading to a 90% decline in some parts of their range), which thankfully, so far. has not reached this population. And long may that continue.


RW Bathurst said...

Fantastic! You should think about offering this as an extension option for the basic Tasmania trip - who wouldn't want to see a Devil??!

Hilke Breder said...

How thrilling! I read an article in the NYTimes about the plight of the animal; it's a facial tumor that spreads like an infection from animal to animal. Here is the link if you are interested: http://tinyurl.com/7lsrs9o