A dusky robin perched on one of the gate posts leading into the Waterworks Reserve near my home.
It stopped me in my tracks because I had spent the previous week searching for the species in the foothills of Mt Wellington after a friend who leads bird-watching tours of international birders had said it had been difficult to find for the “twitchers”.
During the spring and summer – when bird tours to Tasmania are at their peak – I always make a note of where I see Tasmania’s endemic species just in case any of the bird guides seek my advice. I hate to see the international birders – some of whom spend up to $13,000 for a birding trip to Australia – to go away disappointed.
Tasmania is a must for birding tourism because it has 12 species found nowhere else on earth – the largest number for any comparable area of Australia – and what is remarkable is that 11 of them can be found within the Hobart municipality, and the twelfth, the forty-spotted pardalote, a short distance away on Bruny Island.
As the hobby of birdwatching, and birding holidays, become more and more popular I plan to write over time about each endemic species and how to go about finding them, including the “jizz” – specific behaviours – that separate them from other similar species.
It was appropriate to finally find the robin – after searching for it for several days in its more familiar environment of dry woodland – perched on the gate post, like a symbol of the delights the Waterworks Reserve has to offer for the visiting birder.
In fact, all the endemic species, apart from the forty-spot, can be found in the reserve.
The 12 endemic species are: Tasmanian native-hen, green rosella, dusky robin, Tasmanian thornbill, scrubtit, Tasmanian scrubwren, yellow wattlebird, yellow-throated honeyeater, black-headed honeyeater, strong-billed honeyeater, black currawong, and forty-spotted pardalote.
The dusky robin, in fact, is not hard to find at the Waterworks Reserve. Any of the dry woodland areas on the south side of the reserve should reveal dusky robins or, failing this, a trip to the Ridgeway Reserve a little closer to Mt Wellington.
Among the endemic species, the scrubtit has always proved elusive at the Waterworks, but I frequently see them in the forest around the Springs on the mountain, especially on the first part of the Lenah Valley track to Sphinx Rock.
This location is also good for Tasmanian thornbills and two of the four honeyeater species exclusive to Tasmania, the strong-billed and yellow-throated honeyeaters. These birds are also found at the Waterworks Reserve, along with another family member, the black-headed honeyeater.
For the best of the honeyeater bunch, the striking yellow wattlebird, the Waterworks Valley leading to the reserve is best, where the wattlebirds feed year-round on the flowers of exotic vegetation in gardens.
Tasmanian native-hen is common in the Waterworks Reserve along with the Tasmanian currawong, but the mountain is best for the latter species. Green rosellas are also at the reserve, as they are in most other forested places in the Hobart area.
The Fern Gully Track starting at Fern Tree is often described as a “hotspot” for endemic species, particularly scrubtits, but I always find it disappointing, except for sightings of Tasmanian scrubwrens which I always see flitting across the trail, along with a bird that is not an endemic but a great find all the same, the pink robin.
Although I do most of my bird-watching in the Waterworks Reserve, the Lenah Valley Track to Sphinx Rock half-way up the mountain is the best spot in the Hobart area to see a large number of species at any given time, and to put them in the context of a Tasmanian environment equally as unique as the species that inhabit it.
There’s no greater sight in Tasmania than an endemic green rosella, perched an in endemic yellow gum, against a backdrop of the Derwent River and the city of Hobart far down below.