TAS: Hillend - Bob Elliston
"Hillend" is a 60 hectare property situated on North Bruny Island. It is a dedicated wildlife sanctuary and it is also a residence owned by Bob Elliston. It is Bob's intention to preserve most of the land for the conservation of the many species that naturally live there. At present a tourist operator takes day-tours on a circuit around the property. It is also a tentative hope that maybe, in the future, some modest and affordable visitor accommodation could be provided. It is also hoped that a small part of the land might be used to host the Bruny Island World Music Festival, which could be held at the end of March each year.
In the 1960's twenty acres of "Hillend" were given (from the middle of the property) to the people of Bruny Island for their use in perpetuity as an airstrip. As a consequence, the land is easy to find. The airstrip is beside the main road at the southern end of the north island and scenic flights are currently being held from here. The property is only a couple of kilometres north of the well-known isthmus of land called 'The Neck' which joins the two parts of the island and which contains the island's famous colony of fairy penguins. For international travellers wanting to gain an impression of Bruny Island, the two parts of the island are roughly the same size as the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Gozo put together.
"Hillend" also borders a tannin flavoured coastal lake called "Big Lagoon". (The tannin flavour is due to extensive patches of Button Grass on low-lying areas of the land.) The lake is separated from the surf-roaring ocean-beach (of greater Adventure Bay) by sand-dunes that are thickly covered with coastal wattle and other hardy plants. From the shores of the lake one can see many species of water-loving birds. These include: Black Swan, many species of duck, White-Faced Heron, Masked Lapwing, various terns, the Pied Oystercatcher, and rarely, a Cattle Egret.
The North-Eastern border of "Hillend" is marked by the very popular walking track which leads to the northern end of greater Adventure Bay, the Arch Rock, Moorina Bay and to Cape Queen Elizabeth where the colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Mutton birds) was once heavily predated by twentieth-century humans. "Hillend" also borders the National Parks controlled area known as the "Bruny Island Neck Game Reserve."
The vegetation on "Hillend" is mixed; some dry eucalypt forest with many extensive areas of Tea-Tree thickets and some low-lying woodland. The soils range from sandy-loam that supports heath, plus some peat areas and to isolated spots of heavy clay that accommodate some very old gum trees. The plants that are sought-after by enthusiasts include native orchids, many species of native heath and even Boronia. After a cool fire, if there is one, people from the Orchid Society can be found seeking the native orchids in bloom.
"Hillend" is host to at least two rare and hard-to-find-bird species, these are the Forty-spotted Pardalote and the Swift Parrot. That's to say, Bob is sure he has seen Swift Parrots, but who can tell – they fly so fast! From time to time a White-bellied Sea Eagle may be seen as these magnificent birds nest in the wider region. Birds seen more commonly include Quail, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Superb Fairy-wrens, Currawongs, Flame Robins, Dusky Robins, Kookaburras, Tree Martins and (in season) Welcome Swallows.
Other wildlife on the property include Bennett's [or Red-necked] wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) which are numerous and not too shy, seasonally Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), plentiful Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus), and the [somewhat unwelcome] Common Brushtail Possum, plus (elusively) the Little Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus lepidus), and many other small mammals which are hard to see, but which are almost certainly present.
There are many other species, of course, including skinks and snakes, but these are rarely seen. The creature that the human visitor will want avoid is the Jumper Ant, also known as the Jack-Jumper (Myrmecia pilosula). This ant can give a painful sting and about 3% of the human population are allergic to them. Anyone who is stung by this ant, or bitten by a snake, should seek medical help immediately. However, the danger of either is easily avoided by keeping a good lookout and always wearing long pants tucked into your socks.
Bob, the owner of "Hillend", can be contacted by potential visitors on Ph. No: 0429177105.
Grateful acknowledgements to Dave Watts for his two lovely books: Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds. (1999) and Tasmanian Mammals, A field guide. (1987).