Mount Wellington

landscape with rocks and alpine heath
The peak of Mt Wellington is a low ridge on the edge of a high rocky plain covered in low alpine vegetation

Mount Wellington dominates Hobart’s skyline as Castle Hill dominates Townsville’s, but more so. It is also an extension of wilderness into the city, since the city face of the mountain is the Eastern tip of the vast South-western wilderness, as this map shows. Here are two sets of photos I took on the mountain on my recent holiday in Tasmania.

Waterworks Reserve

Waterworks reserve, looking over the upper dam towards Mount Wellington
Waterworks reserve, looking over the upper dam towards Mount Wellington

The Waterworks Reserve was a key part of Hobart’s water supply in the early years. A stream running down from the mountain feeds two dams, and the reserve comprises the dams and the valley in which they nestle. Most of the valley is forest, as seen above, but there are walking/cycling trails, picnic areas and the necessary access roads and pumping stations.

Waterworks reserve, looking over the lower dam towards Hobart
Waterworks reserve, looking over the lower dam towards Hobart

Waterbirds love the dams and a visitor is sure to see gulls (they fly in from the Derwent estuary over the ridge), several species of ducks and a scattering of other birds. On this occasion I saw White-faced Herons, a dark cormorant which I think was a Great Cormorant rather than the Little Black Cormorant I am more familiar with, and a pair of cute little Australian Wood Ducks, Chenonetta jubata. 

grey duck with chestnut head
Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata, male

The Summit

Rocks and a beautiful sky
Rocks and a beautiful sky
Cloud drifting up the gully which is the top end of the Zig-zag track
Cloud drifting up the gully which is the top end of the Zig-zag track
shrubs and rocks
Misty moody landscape

The summit is above the tree-line and is a world of rocks and low scrubby alpine vegetation. It is always ten degrees colder than the city, and clouds can sweep across in minutes even on a day which looks bright and sunny. This visit was in late January and it was, rarely for the mountain, shirt-sleeves weather and with many of the plants in full bloom it was as pretty as it ever gets – but “pretty” is not a word that comes to mind up here. “Beautiful”, yes; “awesome” if you like; often “harsh”, “bleak” or “raw”; but not “pretty”.

At this point, however, I will own up to misleading you (just once!) with my camera: my misty moody landscape has not been photoshopped but was taken from ground level and the trees and boulders in the foreground are actually only knee high. Here are some more of the plants, shot from a more familiar viewpoint:

grass clump and small tree
Alpine vegetation
Shrub in full flower
Shrub in full flower

I took a lot of photos of insects, as my regular readers will have expected, and the best of them are on my flickr photostream – click here and scroll through the set to see craneflies, a black cicada and more. (The birds and other wildlife I’ve added since then are also Tasmanian but not from Mt Wellington.)

Wildlife in a South Hobart garden

View of Hobart over the trees
Looking over Hobart

Just after Easter I stayed for a week in a house which is technically in South Hobart but to me feels more like halfway up Mount Wellington. The view from its front deck (above) is wonderful but I was also interested in comparing its wildlife with what we have in Townsville. It could only be a snapshot, of course, with not much idea of seasonal variation, but still …


black and white honeyeater on red flowers
New Holland Honeyeaters, Phylidonyris novaehollandiae, on bottlebrush

The birds were mostly different and most of the common ones were smaller than ours but numbers were comparable. The commonest residents were the wrens, robins, New Holland honeyeaters and willie-wagtails, in about that order. A family of Kookaburras was around for the first few days of my stay, then disappeared; I saw Silvereyes in the shrubs a few times; and I saw one currawong land in the garden.

small brown wren
Superb Fairy-wren, Malurus cyaneus. This is a female or a non-breeding male; males put on beautiful blue plumage for the breeding season.

The house was near the flight path from the coast to a pair of dams in the nearby Waterworks reserve so there was a constant stream of gulls (Pacific and silver) and other waterbirds in the middle distance. Crows followed the same path and frequently perched in trees not too far from the house.

Insects and other invertebrates

I looked quite hard for insects and spiders. I had to, to find any, since both numbers and variety were a long way below what we have here. Only one species of butterfly in a week? Yes, and only a couple of sightings. One species of spider, the Black House Spider, was doing well in the exterior timber-work of the house but I only found one individual spider of any other species – this little green one, so far unidentified.

My respect for the patience of Tony (aka servitude) and Kristi (aka zosterops) skyrocketed: they somehow come up with a steady stream of Tasmanian bugs for the Field Guide to Australian Insects group. My own meagre harvest is here. My prize discovery was the first scorpion I have seen for some years – they are known to live in the tropics but I have never seen one around my house.

Scorpion 9192


The commonest large mammals were, as usual, people. But wallabies could be seen around dusk, and rabbits visited the lawn when it was quiet enough – I surprised one browsing early one morning. It was an easter bunny but not, of course, the easter bunny.