Wellington Park, Feb 2021

Summary: Mixture of forest types right on Hobart’s doorstep with some good birding

Dates of visit: Feb 10 & 13, 2021 [A stop on the Tasmania, Jan-Feb 2021 trip]

It’s got to be quite special having bird-rich patches of dense forest right on the edge of your state’s capital city. Brisbane has the rainforest of D’Aguilar National Park (Thylogale Track and Maiala Tracks coming to mind), Darwin has plenty of dense and monsoon forest (East Point and Holmes Jungle for example), and Hobart has its own impressive equivalent in Wellington Park, mere minutes from the CBD.

We had a specific target bird for our visits this time – the Pink Robin male, one of the most spectacularly coloured of the 49 species in the Petroicidae family (often called the Australasian robins). We were particularly intrigued by photos and videos posted of a male at Wellington Park obsessing over its own reflection in car windows and side mirrors only a few months earlier.

Our first foray to the Mt Wellington area was on Feb 10, where we started at the Fern Glade car park (via Huon Road), which is just around the corner from the turn-off to the summit, and has space for about 10 cars. At about 9km from the centre of Hobart, it’s really not a far distance to go to see quality bird life and enjoy cool green forest!

Well, the forest was green and cool alright – and quite dim. Shutter speeds were very low and my ISO was in the thousands, so it was a struggle gaining good photos of the Tasmanian Scrubwren and Thornbills we found. (What type of thornbill? Tasmanian or Brown? I know, I know, it’s too hard to distinguish…)

We could certainly hear plenty of birds higher up in the canopy but it was dashedly difficult to get a good look at any of them, and we eventually emerged from the dense forest into drier bush…

…and ultimately up to “The Springs”, a rocky bluff with a pleasant little loop track and a lookout. Here we saw a Crescent Honeyeater and a few Superb Fairywren, and some tasty views across the city.

Green Rosella, a Tasmanian endemic and the largest of Australia’s six rosella species, was a fixture of many of our Tasmanian birding ventures and today was no different. Always a pleasure to see this bird!

We made our way back down towards the Fern Glade car park via the Reds Track and Silver Falls Track, not seeing many birds. Some of these trails are for mountain bikes too and it shows. We also passed a few dog-walkers and fitness junkies.

Once back at the car park we decided to make the most of the sunny day and drive right up to the summit, some 11km up around the mountain side. There are some serious switchbacks and although driving this road is perfectly do-able, it is a tad nerve-wracking; I wouldn’t want to attempt it in poor weather.

At the top there is a ton of parking space with plenty of people enjoying the incredible views and the otherworldly atmosphere. In fact the views were already astounding a third or a quarter of the way up, and just kept getting more amazing the further up you went. On a fine day like this day, we could see for a very, very long way.

We returned to Fern Glade on Feb 13, this time armed a little better having researched the calls that Pink Robins make and hoping that would help us find this elusive bird. Would a second visit and more determination help our quest?

A Bassian Thrush (and noting the very similar Russet-Tailed Thrush along parts of Australia’s east coast) is a bird that I see infrequently enough that it is quite exciting to find one. Still more so when there are three, and one comes out of the low light and right onto the track to pose for a photo! If we weren’t to find the Pink Robin, this encounter would be a good consolation prize.

Once again there were Tasmanian Scrubwrens and Thornbills, in fact plenty, as well as a few Golden Whistlers and a Grey Fantail.

We were really taking our time this time and sussing out every small bird sighting as well as keeping our ears wide open, until we were rewarded with the unmistakeable Pink Robin call. The challenge was on to find the bird, which proved to be elusively flitting about through the mid-to-upper canopy. We kept tracking it and eventually managed the worst photo you could imagine, but there was no mistaking that rosy pink belly. Soon after the bird vanished and that was that, leaving us with an “oh well, at least we found it” shrug.

The sheer vastness of the track network here and the variety of forests and lookouts make this a prime location if you want to enjoy some “nature therapy” near Hobart. Some of the denser forest around Fern Glade makes for challenging birding, but rewards are there in terms of birds like Pink Robin and Bassian Thrush.

Note there are a bunch of eBird hotspots for this area, almost one for each distinct track. I have included only the Fern Glade Track hotspot link here.
Hotspots: Wellington Park–Fern Glade Track (58 species)
Checklist for Feb 13 visit (5 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Reliable spot for interesting dense-forest birds, like Bassian Thrush and Pink Robin
+ Impressively close to Hobart
+ Many diverse tracks and lookouts
– Very densely forested areas make bird spotting and photography challenging
– Some tracks shared with mountain bikers and others

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