December 12, 2017

Pink robin plays hide and seek

Everyone was seeing pink robins except me. They are my favourite bird, and in past years I have watched them rear families every year. Spring was never complete without them.

This season, though, I had “lucked out’’, as birders describe missing a species that they should have seen.

It appeared pink robins were everywhere. Three overseas birdwatchers told me so. A man from Denmark said he had spotted them along the Fern Glade Track on kunanyi/ Mt Wellington and two American visitors from California said they had seen the beautiful robins in the same location, after first adding them to their life list of birds spotted on my own local patch, the Waterworks Reserve in South Hobart.

The robin is a must-see species for all birders, foreign or Australian, because it’s universally considered one of the most beautiful of all birds.

It might be called the “pink” robin but this tiny bird, a mere 12 cm long, is more magenta than pink, the colour on its breast contrasting with a sooty-black head and back.

It is a bird of the wet forest under-storey, of fern and thicket, and so is often difficult to see. Finding it in spring is made easier by the male’s gentle warble, which is sung with brief pauses.

I had been hearing the song from early spring, but never finding the robins, so one morning late last month I decided to hunt the Fern Glade Track out of Fern Tree to find a bird of my own.

I was pleased to find this popular track much wetter and lush than I had seen it earlier in the year, when a dry spell had given it a drought-stricken, tired and wan appearance. The wet forest birds at this time were giving it a miss and although conditions had improved I had no luck finding robins on my latest foray.  I didn’t even hear the male’s song so I pressed on higher up the mountain. The track eventually links with the Radford Track climbing to the Springs and, even though I had intended only a relatively short hike, I carried on through higher terrain.

After the cold snap at the start of spring, which had coated the mountain in snow, the sun now shone strong and hard and one of the first warm days of spring brought out several parties of walkers.

Climbing higher, stopping and starting, admiring the yellow blooms of silver wattle slower to make an appearance on the mountain than in the valleys down below, the robin still eluded me.

I was a little weary when I reached the Springs so I plonked myself down outside the Lost Freight take-away cabin erected there earlier this year. And by now I was really feeling miffed at missing the bird

“So you’re a birdwatcher,” said the proprietor, seeing my binoculars as she brought me coffee and a sausage roll. “I’ve just been watching this lovely little bird with a pink breast hopping about, right where you’re sitting.

“But he’s gone now.”

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