Day 5: Tasmania birding tour: Cradle Mountain critters, Tasmanian Devils

It was our last day at our lodge near Cradle Mountain. 

A Wallaby mom and joey were foraging on the grounds in the early morning:



The joey would stick its head in mom's pouch at times.

Some scratching:






I walked to the other side of the duo for better lighting's sake:




A Brushtail Possum shyly walked to one of the porches to investigate:



It was a big fellah, bigger than your average house cat.






It was time for our group to take a walk on a trail behind the lodge.

One of the many beautiful and bewitching trees:


Wallaby and joey near our path:






A foraging Pademelon:





Wallaby:


Deep into our walk:



Scrubtit:



Wombat den:



Tasmanian Scrubwren (one of twelve Tasmanian endemics):




A Pink Robin approached us inquisitively:




More trail enchantment:









We finished our walk and returned to the main grounds.

A resident Platypus in the pond:






We took a drive to get closer to Cradle Mountain and enjoy the views:















We returned to our Cradle Mountain lodge to have a break then pack up and leave for good.

I was happy to see one last Wallaby was foraging right outside my cabin:



A Tasmanian Native Hen came out of the pond water:



On the road again:




Laughing Kookaburra:





Flame Robin:






A bird whose name escapes me at the moment (I'll research this and update this post with its name should I find it):


Two Welcome Swallows nesting in the rafters of a park structure:


Dusky Robin:


A quick, curious Superb Fairy Wren checked me out:





We had lunch in a quiet local town and saw a pretty big bees nest in an old tree by the parking area:



Striated Pardalotes were cavorting on the same tree:



An Echidna appeared and sauntered deeper into the brush:



A couple of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos hanging out on a horse and sheep farm:



A Fan-tailed Cuckoo above the road:



What looked like a Black Tiger Snake made its way along the road:



We finally arrived at our destination, Mountain Valley Wilderness Reserve. The reserve has been run by a couple for decades. They rent out private cottages on the land for those wanting to explore the local forest, river, and mountain (either alone or by guided tour). One of the highlights of the reserve is the evening feeding of the local wild Tasmanian Devils. Seeing the Devils was the main reason for our stay.

Len (the host) and his lovely wife Pat were warmly welcoming and shared a lot of knowledge about the area and the animals. It was obvious that their retreat was not just a business but a lifestyle for them.

To attract the Tasmanian Devils to the cabin porches at night, Len leaves large chunks of fresh meat and chicken out for them around dusk. The chunks are neatly lined up on the edge of the porch and outside the large window overlooking the grounds. The Devils usually arrive around 10:30PM to eat.

Below is a shot of the porch from my cabin:


It was still early in the day so our group explored the grounds for a little while and did some birding.



Tiger Snake resting near an old fallen log (its regular haunt as of late):






Fiddle heads along a country road by the retreat:






Tasmania is host to some of the largest ferns in the world. The fern in the photo below was probably about six or seven feet tall:




Olive Whistler:



Dusky Robin:






Laughing Kookaburras nearby were the loudest sound makers in the area:











It started to lightly rain.

A Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo was singing in a tree outside my cabin:


Another bird was perched above it, hopping about from branch to branch around it.





Hello:






Fog lifted from the hill and smoke from our cabin fireplaces:



A few of us visited the nearby river as it was getting dark. Len led the way and pointed out the few Platypuses swimming along from time to time:


Our trusty van:


We bid each other good night and settled into our respective cabins to rest and wait for the Tasmanian Devils.

I stayed up until 1:00AM with the lights out (as Len suggested so as not to deter the already shy Devils from approaching the porch food). I sat on the carpet near my window and waited, stoking my  fireplace from time to time. The only animals I saw during this vigil were grazing pademelons. 


You can see some of the meat and chicken on the porch.


Unfortunately, Tasmanian Devils are now threatened by a fatal facial disease.  The disease has an unknown cause. It is spread from one animal to the other most often as they fight each other for food. Devils transmit the illness as they scratch and bite each other. We were told to prepare ourselves in the event we may see evidence of this disease in our visiting Devils.

I went to bed around 1:00AM, pretty sure I'd miss seeing a Devil. I inexplicably snapped awake around 2:00AM. The fire was low so I got up to stoke it and throw another log on. I glanced out the window as I was working on my fire and saw a Tasmanian Devil was eating on my porch!


I moved slowly to get my camera and stayed as still as I could so as not to spook the animal. I saw two Devils over the course of the next hour. One looked like an adult and the other its baby (staying close to the adult). The Devils did not fight each other for the food and looked great; no sign of any facial disease.

The adult Devil visited my and my neighbors' cabin porch a few times. I had only one small chunk of chicken left on my porch by the end of the visit. The chunk may have been too close to my window for the Devils' comfort because they did not approach it to eat it.



The last time I saw one of the Devils was when the larger of the two ran from the direction of my neighbors' porch into the woods with a huge chunk of meat in its jaws. I went to bed absolutely giddy and delighted to have seen these amazing animals. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!


Tasmania Birding tour days 4, 3, 2, 1.