Inala Reserve – Jurassic Garden, Jan 2021

Summary: Renowned private conservation reserve with amazing birdlife

Date of visit: Jan 30, 2021 [A stop on the Tasmania Trip, Jan-Feb 2021 trip]

I only spent an hour and a half at Inala Reserve on Bruny Island, but it was one of the best short birding sessions I’ve ever had. And little wonder: the site boasts 95 species of bird, including all 12 Tasmanian endemic species.

The reserve has a day area called the Jurassic Gardens and Nature Museum, accessible for a small entry fee; to access the other areas (that include a raptor hide and elevated viewing platforms), you need to stay there in one of the cottages.

With that in mind, we weren’t sure what sort of experience we would have just wandering around the modest Jurassic Gardens. There seemed to be no other birders or tourists around (it was about 9:15am on a heavily clouded Saturday morning). A New Holland Honeyeater was the first bird we saw, perched on a metal fence at the car park, and we were to see several more. Those birds are nothing unusual in Tasmania, that’s for sure.

The encounter of the day (and the whole trip… and probably the entire year!) happened soon after, when we wandered across a patch of grassed lawn towards the south-east corner of the reserve. Two small birds alighted on old exposed fence posts in the middle of this meadow and we recognised them as Forty-Spotted Pardalotes, one of Australia’s rarest birds and a much sought-after Tassie endemic. They didn’t stay on the posts long – just enough time for us to fire off two or three photos – then they were gone. We were incredibly exhilarated not just to see them but to come away with the best photos we could imagine. Like all of Australia’s four pardalote species, they are real little rock stars when you’re able to see them up close.

As we walked along the fence line, we did notice the pair again in the trees, though again the birds didn’t linger.

Soon after we were treated to sights of both Shining Bronze-Cuckoo and a Fan-Tailed Cuckoo.

Another familiar bird (prominent in places like Girraween National Park, for example) that we saw was Dusky Woodswallow, including a juvenile in more mottled interesting colours.

I’m no flower or plant expert, but the flowers they have in these gardens are very, very cool-looking indeed.

We saw Green Rosellas and a Dusky Robin (both Tasmanian endemics), and far-off on the power lines near the street, a Grey Shrikethrush and a few Black-Faced Cuckooshrikes. While perusing the plants and flowers there were a couple of European Goldfinches for company (an introduced species, with a very striking look), and around the bases of the bushes a fairly tame Tasmanian Scrubwren pottered about.

A Common Blackbird was spotted, as well as a couple of Superb Fairywrens with attitude.

New Holland Honeyeaters were still quite active and I was in the mood to keep attempting more photos of their nectar-hunting antics.

I wish I could comment more comprehensively on Inala Conservation Reserve, but as I was not staying there I had access only to the small area of their Jurassic Gardens. Even so, I had a fantastic time and had some incredibly memorable bird encounters, most especially with the Forty-Spotted Pardalote. Obviously it is not guaranteed you will see one here, but there’s definitely a chance, and it seemed plenty of other birds were drawn to the gardens as well.

Hotspot: Inala (101 species)
Nearby: Cloudy Bay (94 species)
Checklist for this visit: Jan 30 (14 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Compact gardens with tons of interesting plants and birds
+ Famous refuge for the endangered Forty-Spotted Pardalote
– Gardens area is quite small
– Have to pay to enter or stay (don’t let that deter you though!)

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