Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Rosenthal Scrub EP: Small Reserve On A Hill

Nine kilometres south-west of the town of Warwick a small woodland reserve known as Rosenthal Scrub Environmental Park sits atop a hill. Little visited by birders, it is no more than 7.05 hectares in size and it would take no longer than fifteen minutes to walk its entire boundary. Much of it is crisscrossed here and there with narrow paths; even these tracks are traversed by a grey, chestnut and dark-bay, three horses that had been present for some time. Now meat ants maintain these tracks, and doing a surprisingly good job they are.  

Despite these seemingly destructive forces, the park is in surprisingly good condition and diverse in terms of its flora, something even more surprising given that there is very little similar habitat nearby. Somehow, it seems to thrive on its own. 

My association with the park has only been over a relatively short period, but it hasn't taken too long during that time to learn that a good variety of bird species call this place home. And, because of its diminutive size, it means that all those birds present are packed into the limited space available and "relatively easy" to see. For, it is somewhat sad, but they have nowhere else to go.

Speckled Warbler -male
Without trying too hard, most visits to the location can unearth close to forty bird species in a little over an hour. Some of these can be rather nice birds, too. A family of Speckled Warbler (male pictured right) are resident and seen on just about every visit. Often the adults will alert one to their presence by a distinctive churring noise, belted out reasonably loudly and disapprovingly when they first notice you and then subsequently whenever one strays too close to the foraging birds -they almost always are the first bird in a feeding party to alert others to potential danger. And the first sign that they have young ones among them comes in the form of a short, sharp, high-pitched note, similar to an immature red-capped robin for those that are familiar with them. Like the Grey Fantail, which also occurs here, speckled warblers are great company and are always worth spending some time searching for.

White-browed Scrubwren
Sometimes hard-to-see birds like thornbills can be seen at close range, usually best after they have become accustomed to one's presence. Yellow Thornbills, surprisingly numerous, are often foraging with or near the odd Weebill, whilst inevitably not too far away are Yellow-rumped Thornbills and the rather angry-looking and cantankerous White-browed Scrubwren (pictured left), a bird that almost always seems to have something to complain about. The northern, dark-headed form of Varied Sittella can be seen quite regularly at the location; they seem to quite like searching the deeply-fissured ironbarks for insects, although for the most part they will take whatever tree-type they can get.

Further on, one is a good chance to come across an Eastern Yellow Robin (below right), or two, often flying in silently, perching sideways on a trunk, to see what is responsible for the disturbance in their patch. Other times their piping call will alert one to their presence; sometimes this regular and monotonous call can continue for what seems a life-time and the bird's never seem to get tired of it. And, because they often come in and perch nearby, this can allow some nice photographs to be taken.

Eastern Yellow Robin
A pair of Brown Goshawk have a nest in the park, or at least they did so. As a result, they could be seen often if a visit coincided with their nesting, as on one particular visit of mine. On this occasion, as I walked through the woodland, without warning, a bird big enough to be a female came straight towards me at break-neck speed through the trees and then peeled off only at the very last moment. As she did so, I noticed that she appeared to have something in her talons. Once she had passed and found a nearby perch to reload from, I looked down at my feet and noticed what appeared to be a decapitated and quite dead, hairless animal. Who could be certain, though. She had presented me with and offering. But I resisted the urge to touch it, as on a previous occasion many years ago something similar happened when I picked up and was carrying about a bull's testicle for much of the day, not knowing what it was.

Smaller residents such as Silvereyes and Double-barred Finches (pictured below left) also do well at the location, their numbers far-out-weighing what one might have thought the reserve capable of hosting. The latter breed here and frequently one finds dirty-looking young birds (that's the best way to describe them) among the much cleaner adults. 

Double-barred Finch
Due to the exposed setting, the winds from the surrounding countryside collect and funnel over and around the knoll, no doubt bringing with them all manner of weed seeds -although, strangely, there is no great physical evidence of this in the park. For, as with many such landmarks, it often blows. For a bird species that relies on its prey insects being dislodged from their arboreal roost, this can be a blessing. And perhaps that's one of the main reasons that, given the right time of year, Oriental Dollarbirds are almost always to be found at this site. The birds sit patiently on a prominent roost, waiting for a gust of wind and then, without warning, slide gracefully off their perch, momentarily dip, then gain some more height and snatch at their prey, usually very successfully. They seem to be particularly keen on cicadas... and there is no shortage of those.

Variegated Fairy-Wren can be seen at the reserve in a couple of small groups, or at least that's how it seems -it's not always easy to determine whether one has come across the same group of birds on multiple occasions, and at a different parts of the reserve, or not. But I suspect there is a small group at the eastern end and then another at the western. Here, on the flanks of the hill, there remains a small amount of remnant vine scrub, which they seem to be particularly keen on, and where often any wayward migrants might turn up on their way through the area south or north.

Striated Pardalote -male
Rosenthal Scrub really is quite the relaxing little spot, so much so that a Southern Boobook has seen fit to set up a daytime roost here, a species very adept at locating quiet, shaded spots for its diurnal roosts. One bird was located roosting on the verge of one of the tracks, which is no doubt a good strategy as any potential danger is more easily identified and any subsequent evasive action more readily taken, evidenced by its sudden and explosive departure on my approach. But, rather than disappearing further off, out of sight, the bird on this occasion fled a short distance further into the woodland just off the track, no more than fifteen metres away and where it continued to be visible. Unfortunately, they can be a little difficult to get good shots of in such situations, though; with a dense screen of branches, twigs and foliage between, it was best to leave the bird alone.  


Common Myna, Silvereye, Mistletoebird, Double-barred Finch, Tawny Grassbird, Torresian Crow, Pied Currawong, Australian Magpie, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Black-faced Monarch, Leaden Flycatcher, Magpie-lark, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrikethush, Eastern Yellow Robin, Scarlet Myzomela, Brown Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Weebill, White-browed Scrubwren, Speckled Warbler, Superb Fairywren, Variegated Fairywren, Striated Pardalote, Spotted Pardalote, Varied Sittella, Oriental Dollarbird, Laughing Kookaburra, Southern Boobook, Pheasant Coucal, Pacific Koel, Eastern Rosella, Australian King Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Bar-shouldered Dove, Crested Pigeon, Spotted Dove, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Goshawk, Brown Quail 

Based on Australian_IOC_Checklist


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