Target Species: Rose Robin
We crawled into Mulgoa Nature Reserve fresh off a cheeky Maccas brekkie. It was my birthday and, to be perfectly honest, I love my birthday. It was going to be a good day, regardless. We were following up on some Instagram spam, Rose Robin was trending and we wanted a glimpse!
The conditions were perfect, little breeze, crisp morning, clear. Perfect. My convoy today consisted of my mate Matt, who saved my leg from a Barren Grounds serpent and another mate, Liam. He was jealous of our last few trips. Mr FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And he felt left out.
Mulgoa Nature Reserve is approx. 213 hectares of reasonably in-tact bushland in Western Sydney. It houses the remnants of an old farm property but is primarily dominated by Cumberland Plain Woodland, a critically Endangered Ecological Community which was once widespread across Western Sydney. The Cumberland Plain Land Snail lives here, a highly endangered, well… land snail. Declared endangered in 1997, it was once widespread throughout this mighty woodland system. Today, it is no longer widespread, simply confined to fragmented pockets of already fragmented Cumberland Plain Woodland. I think the snail is betoken for the interaction of humans and the environment of the Sydney basin.
The day began promising. We wandered west down the Dillwynia track. Almost immediately, a small, feeding flock of Thornbills were seen living up to their gregarious habits. We saw Brown Thornbill, Buff-Rumped Thornbill and Yellow Thornbill feeding high in the canopy. Too high for my 300mm lens. We also came across Spotted Pardalote, White-Browed Scrubwren, Golden Whistler, Crested Shrike Tit and a beautiful Restless Flycatcher, all within the first ten minutes! Great start. Good vibes.
But we wanted to see robins, so we persevered. Cumberland Plain Woodland is a clay rich soil and is dominated by big, tall and, if left to develop and mature, immensely sized Grey Box (Eucalytpus molucana), Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) and Cabbage Gum (Eucalyptus amplifolia). Its mid storey is typically sparse, dominated by Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa). Cumberland Plain Woodland can be classified as somewhat boring, but I would disagree. You could say that it is like a well-made rug, the closer you look, the more impressed you are!
But back to the robins. About 1 hour into our walk we encountered our first Rose Robin. Perched high in the canopy, it was camera shy and although we tried to coerce is down with some well-spoken pleasantries, it failed to come into camera shot. Onward.
The rose robin was in Greater Sydney because of its migratory habits. In the cooler months, they move north, judicially moving from the less frigid temperatures of Victoria, a move any self-respecting thing would make. They are mainly arboreal, but during the Winter will be attracted to more lowland woodland and open forest; exactly where we were. Maybe it is the weather, maybe it is the hipsters drinking coffee out of an avocado skin (sorry an avolatte), but all I know is that in the cooler months, a number of the robins will miss the AFL GF and head north. In the Summer months, they are attracted back toward Victoria, perhaps after they’ve had enough of the poor Sydney coffee and traffic.
Luckily for us, after a couple more hours searching we encountered some more rose robins, maybe 3 or 4 hanging about a waterway. They are an earnestly beautiful bird, emblazoned with their striking pink breast and abdomen. Unlike their other robin friends, the rose robin is rather jittery, kind of like the nervous jitters on a first date, or maybe more like an addict missing their fix. They were darting around, rapid from branch to branch. Fortunately for us, we could anticipate their movements and got our shots. Job done. What a great way to spend my birthday morning!