There is an abundance of wildlife on the Freycinet Peninsula ranging from wombats, wallabies and quolls to sea eagles, black swans, whales and dolphins. Sadly our population of Tasmanian Devils has been severely reduced by Devil Facial Tumour Disease. Unfortunately as much of the wildlife is nocturnal, there is a high risk of encountering animals on the roads at night, and visitors travelling the Coles Bay Road are asked to keep their speed under 65kph from dusk to dawn to help reduce the risk of injury to animals.
Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula has more than its fair share of birds, with a number being endemic to the area. There are a number of spots to see birds.Honeymoon Bay is in the National Park. This tiny bay is immediately after Freycinet Lodge and on the Wineglass Bay walk – a complete bird list for the National Park is available from the NP Information office or on the National Parks website. A cruise around Great Oyster Bay and on and around Refuge Island and Promise Rock is a great way to spot sea birds, including some pelagic species. If a little penguin isn’t fishing right near the jetty you may find one further out. Other regulars include pelicans, cormorants, Pacific and silver gulls, Caspian, crested and white-fronted terns, gannets, white-bellied sea eagles and sometimes a wedge-tailed eagle.
Moulting Lagoon is a Ramsar site and there are a couple of spots worth exploring. One is off the Coles Bay Road heading for Bicheno, 10 km from Swanwick Road. There’s a car park, its entrance marked by a small triangular green and white sign indicating a Greening Australia project. In winter this can be boggy. If so, park on the road side. From the car park, a track runs down to the water. Here you may find thousands of birds, or again you may not, as being wild birds their presence can’t be guaranteed. Moulting Lagoon is home to 8000 black swans, more when most of the rest of Tasmania’s swan population arrive to moult. In spring there are often hundreds of cygnets.
There is usually a good selection of ducks – black, musk, mountain, wood and chestnut and grey teal. Cormorants, terns, pelicans, grebes, and in summer migratory waders, are also to be found. Good binoculars or a scope will be a big help if the birds are all over the other side as happens on windy days.
A closer entry point is down River and Rocks Road. Heading towards Bicheno this is the first road after Swanwick Rd. It ends in a T junction. If you turn left the road ends in a couple of hundred metres at a free camping area. Lots of shells are embedded in the sandy edges of the track down to the water. This is an Aboriginal midden. As you can imagine, Moulting Lagoon was a popular hunting spot with local Aborigines. What a pleasant sheltered place this must have been for them to over winter. The shells indicate the presence nearby of extensive shellfish beds. In fact at low tide you can still gather pipis (clams) without even getting your feet wet. On the little beach you will often find sooty and pied oystercatchers, Pacific gulls and white-faced herons. Some nearby rocks are a favourite perch for several types of cormorants while a raft of pelicans is likely to be sailing round just off shore.
If you drive to the right at the T junction you will reach Meredith Point, named after an early settler. Drive slowly as Bennett’s wallabies often dash across this road. You may be fortunate and see a pair of white-bellied sea eagles perched in a large dead tree half way along. Meredith Point is another spot where you may or may not see lots of birds and it is especially good for waders at low tide in summer.
The final entry point to this side of Moulting Lagoon is down Flacks Rd. – the second road on your left after Swanwick Road. The road is unmade and corrugated. Drive slowly as again wallabies often dash across. The road ends at a car park. Climb the stile and follow the fence down to the water. If it’s low tide and the migratory waders have arrived from the northern hemisphere this is a good place to see them. Failing that there are almost certain to be pelicans, (the rocks here are actually called Pelican Rocks) black swans, chestnut breasted shelducks, oystercatchers and cormorants.
From late Winter into Spring the Peninsula is a blaze with wildflowers. After the early wattles, the gold turns to white with Wedding Bush and then the heavy scent of Kunzea. From August to December, orchid enthusiasts can enjoy the hunt for any of the area’s native ground orchids, mosquito, spider, duck, helmet, leek, greenhood, waxlip and the rest.
Don’t forget to keep an ocean eye out for seals and dolphins. Have a whale of a time!