Bar tailed godwits are a large wader who arrive in Australia in August each year after having traveled from the northern hemisphere. They settle along the east coast of Australia and can be seen at coastal estuaries, beaches and mudflats.
They will leave Australia during April and May to return to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Scandinavia. The bar tailed godwit undertakes the longest non stop migration of any bird, taking 7 or more days to fly without a stop over and their wings are flapping constantly, 24 hours a day!
Here are some interesting facts about bar tailed godwits –
They can live for 30 years
They eat aquatic insects, molluscs, worms, and berries
Their top flight speed is about 60km/h
They are social birds and are often seen hanging out with other shorebirds
A group of bar tailed godwits is called an omniscience, a pantheon, or a prayer
These birds are special to me because my very first sighting of a bar tailed godwit is what got me into birdwatching many years ago. At the age of 14, I was on holidays with my family at Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales, and one day I spied some strange looking birds feeding along the beach at low tide. I remember asking my Dad what they were and he told me he thought they were a godwit. I remember thinking it was a funny name for a bird and thought he was joking, as my Dad often enjoyed tricking me with things like that. So for the time we were there on holidays, I borrowed my Dad’s binoculars and spent ages watching these birds from the beach front house we were staying in. For Christmas that year, my Dad bought me a small paperback book on identifying Australian birds (and therefore proved that my Dad was telling the truth about them being a godwit!) and also my very own pair of binoculars (which I still have today!). And that’s where it all began 40 years ago!
Rubicon Reserve is a small lot of bush land which can be found at the northern end of Freers Beach next to the surf club at Shearwater, Tasmania.
Dirt trails meander their way around the area among coastal native trees and shrubs.
If you venture through the bush here early in the morning or of an evening, you are sure to see some pademelons out for their grassy meal and hear them bounding through the scrub off in the distance as you approach. You may even see some bunnies. Once I spotted a bandicoot!
But if you take careful note as you wander through this parcel of land, you will start to see fairy doors on the trees.
These miniature doors are set onto trees with the idea being that people can leave notes and gifts for the fairies that live there. I don’t know who put these doors up, or when, as I can’t find any information about this reserve, so it was just nice to enjoy the scenery as I followed the paths, wondering if perhaps I was being watched by more than just the pademelons!
Most of the fairy doors can be sighted from the trail, but I came upon two that were hidden away, so have a good look around if you’re visiting.
Have you seen fairy doors in your local park or reserve?
Freers Beach is located at Shearwater, Tasmania. It’s a long, wide sheltered beach with shallow waters perfect for paddling, and dogs love it too. The water is clear and usually calm and at low tide the water goes way, way out. You can even walk across to some little islands and seawalls.
The area is popular for many water sports and there is a surf club that has an outdoor exercise/gym station and playground. There is a shared pathway for walkers, runners, cyclists and dog walkers that goes along the foreshore from the surf club all the way to the boat ramp, about 2km one way. It’s a scenic walk with occasional bench seats for you to take a moment to enjoy the views.
Usually in the early mornings or in the evenings, you can spot pademelons and rabbits, and there are various birds to see too – silver gulls, pacific gulls, masked winged plovers, galahs, blue wrens, blackbirds, sparrows, little wattlebirds, pied and sooty oyster catchers, and some mysterious tiny birds hiding in some of the coastal shrubs that refuse to be properly seen or have their photo taken!
Here are some of my favorite photos I’ve taken on my many walks along the foreshore.
At Shearwater Park you will find some mosaics lining both sides of the pathway. This was an art project by some local school students. There are 80 mosaics all in a beach theme. Here is just a small selection of some of my favourite ones.
Located 30 minutes drive west of Burnie in Tasmania, Boat Harbour is a locality with a population of about 400 people.
A beautiful and unspoilt beach, Boat Harbour is well known for its powder white sand, clear blue water and rocky headland.
First settled by Europeans in the 1830s, the town was originally called Jacob’s Boat Harbour, named after Captain John Jacob who regularly sailed along the north coast for the Van Dieman Land Company.
For a good nature walk, head left of the main beach and behind the toilet block you will find a trail that goes out to the point and back, giving you great views of the coast. We spotted cormorants, gulls and a new holland honeyeater.
There is an excellent lookout spot just as you come into the village, giving you clear views over Boat Harbour and out to the ocean, it’s definitely worth a stop. And the fish and chips are good at the cafe on the beach too!
Warrawee Forest Reserve is located at Latrobe, Tasmania. There you can go camping, walking, picnicking, kayaking, spot flora and fauna and enjoy the mountain bike trails.
We followed the bush walking track alongside the river that starts at the right hand side of the car park and walked down to the bridge and back.
The walking path was quite overgrown but manageable.
Some of the gum trees were incredibly tall!
We could hear lots of different birds around us and sometimes caught a glimpse of a bird on a tree branch before it flew off. We spotted blue wrens, fantails, a pink robin, and some pacific black ducks swimming in the river.
At one point we saw two white faced herons fly over the river side by side making a racket, and then shortly after we came upon them on the opposite side of the river, in the progress of what appeared to be a courtship ritual. It was fascinating to watch for several minutes until they went their separate ways.
And I managed to get a quick photo of a bird I had never seen before, a spotted pardelote!
And finally, we were pleasantly surprised to be able to catch glimpses of two platypus in the river! Here is a compilation of some footage. When you get to 0.18 in the video, watch closely around the top right and you will see the platypus foraging in the water, he can be difficult to see.
So if you want to spot a platypus in the wild, visit Warrawee Forest Reserve and you are sure to see one, just look for the bubbles!