Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Myrtle Forest, Wellington Park

I am rather a creature of habit, and anyone regularly reading this blog will be aware that I often visit the same places, but occasionally, I break out. Lying in bed the other morning and knowing that the forecast was for one of those idyllic Tasmanian Autumn days, I racked my brains for a 'new' place to visit that wasn't too far away. Going back in my mind over the last 30 years or so, I recalled birding a spot in the foothills of Mt. Wellington, near Collinsvale, about 30 minutes drive away. A quick look on the internet confirmed there was a reserve there, named as "The Myrtle Forest", and I headed for the hills.
Arriving, I realised that the area had changed out of all recognition from my last visit, it sported a formal car park, and a formal road in, and I set off down the track with high hopes. I passed the picnic hut and started the climb and shortly came across a trio fungi hunting, one of whom was David Ratkovsky, a birder from way back, whom some of the long time birders will recall. He co-authored 2 papers on the birds of the Mt Wellington Range. After a chat, I decided that I'd take one of the side tracks that I'd passed earlier, which, apart from anything else, gave more
chance of photography than the heavier rainforest. That proved a good move!
At first I thought the track was probably an old, now overgrown, fire trail, but debris along the track suggests it was probably an early logging access road. Much of this area was destroyed in the 1967 bushfires that ravaged much of what is now, the Wellington Park. The climb took me away from the manfern-lined creek, into more open forest, with a thick understory of shrubs and cutting grass. The predominant birds were Crescent Honeyeaters, noisy as ever, Eastern Spinebills, Tasmanian Scrubwrens, and small parties of passing Tasmanian Thornbills, one individual briefly posing for me, (pictured at top right). Overhead, there were numerous flocks of Strong-billed Honeyeaters feeding in the tops of the eucalypts, several Green Rosellas, not to mention the noisy flocks of Black Currawong, flighting down the mountainside.
As the track narrowed, largely with encroaching cutting grass, and the bush either side became denser and wetter, I saw the first of several Olive Whistlers, feeding on the track. I stopped to photograph it, a female. As I stood there, I became aware of first one, then a flock of perhaps 10-12, Scrubtits feeding among this dense scrub. I think this is the largest flock that I've
ever sighted. A few ventured to the edge of the scrub, enabling me to get a shot or two, one of which is shown at left. They were gleaning insects from both the trunks and leaves, and in a short while, had moved on. Perhaps, as their name suggests, this is their true habitat, but it's not the habitat that I usually associate them with. Perhaps I've been looking in the wrong place! I also saw and photographed the first of several Pink Robins that I recorded along the track, mostly males. It was interesting to notice the difference in their calls, one had a call that had a 'fault' in it, sounding rather like a vinyl record that had been badly scratched! I tried, unsuccessfully, to photograph the Tasmanian Scrubwrens, of which there were many ensconced in the thick scrub, but they were quite content to stay there and scold me as I passed. While having one last try at photographing them, I was 'rewarded' by having a solitary Yellow-throated Honeyeater, alight on the underside of an overhanging branch just above my head, and feed by pulling the bark back to expose insects, (bottom image), and in case you're wondering, it is the right way round! Like all of the Tasmanian endemic honeyeaters, and somewhat in contradiction of their name, they spend much of their time searching for insects under the bark of trees, displaying great agility in the process.
All in all, a great morning, and I managed to 'shoot' a number of other species in the process, which I hope to blog soon. In the right conditions, this is a great area to bird.


Tabib said...


Beautiful birds and very good birding blog.

Best regards,
/Tabib/. from Malaysia.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Tabib,
Thanks for your comments. I only wish that we had the range of beautiful birds that you have in Malaysia.

John Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
sounds like a very productive visit to Myrtle Forest! My only time there was about 4 or 5 years ago, and I recall being impressed with the forest birds we saw, especially in the damper gully. Unfortunately, I didn't have my digital camera then - and it struggles in low light, anyway.

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
It was rather more productive than I expected, but I avoided the wet gullies! It's not the realm of your average digital camera, being seriously 'dark', photographically speaking. I was using 1/15th second exposure on some shots--lot of failures!

John Tongue said...

I agree! I'm yet to get a decent shot of a Scrubtit, Tas Scrubwren or Tas Thornbill. The darkness, coupled with their general activity, is not a good photographic combination.

Murray Lord said...

Very interesting Alan. Thinking of all the birders who visit Tasmania and go away mumbling about "those @#!%$&* Scrubtits that are supposed to be at Fern Tree", you may have come across what could be a good back up site.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Murray,
If my first visit is any guide, I'd say that if I had the choice of the 2 venues for Scrubtit sightings, the Myrtle Forest would win easily. I recorded them at 2 spots, and I wasn't really on the lookout for them. In fact, as I mentioned in the blog, it wasn't the type of habitat that I would normally seek them--no manferns or large eucalypts. Didn't look in the creek edges where there are plenty of manferns.