Lake Samsonvale, also known as the North Pine Dam, is a reservoir that covers over 2,000 hectares and supplies water to north Brisbane and the Moreton Bay region. In this post, I’d like to share some of the photos I’ve taken of the many species of birds than can be seen on, and around the lake.
These birds where photographed over the past 12 months, more or less, and can be seen at most times throughout the year. I assume this means they are non-migratory, although I welcome any information about this in the comments section.
The site ebird.org lists Lake Samsonvale as having 257 different bird species observed, at the time of writing. So this collection is only a very small sample of the diverse birds to be seen.
There are a few hiking trails near the lake. They are relatively flat, with easy terrain to cover. Early mornings and late afternoons are usually the best times for bird-spotting, although many birds can be seen throughout the day. I have encountered red-bellied black snakes and pythons along the trails, so it pays to be cautious and remain aware of your surroundings.
I recently took a coastal walk along Kings Beach at Caloundra, Queensland, searching for a pair of ospreys which I had been told were resident in the area. After a couple of hours searching, they presented themselves and I was able to get some nice pics of these majestic birds passing overhead.
Their diet is mainly fish, and it’s a photography goal of mine to get a picture of an osprey catching a fish from the water. I didn’t get that particular shot this time, but I noticed that one of them had in fact caught a fish and was flying with it, still in its talons.
As it happened, the osprey wasn’t the only fish-catching bird I encountered on this walk. I also saw this cormorant, who had successfully caught a fish for lunch. I’ve not been able to identify the type of fish it’s holding, so I welcome any suggestions in the comments.
After the osprey-spotting outing, I managed one final shot of a beautiful blue faced honey-eater.
I’m very pleased to see that the coastal ecology here remains healthy enough to sustain such wonderful birdlife.
Approximately 200km northwest of Brisbane is the beautiful Bunya Mountains National Park. This park has spectacular views from an elevation of 1,100 metres. The Bunya Mountains were and are culturally significant to Indigenous Australians, who gathered to feast on the bountiful nuts of the bunya pine. 1902 was the final known gathering. The traditional owners have continued cultural and spiritual connections to the Bunya Mountains to this day. We visited the park in November 2020.
The park has a glorious abundance of bird species. We were visited by currawongs, parrots, bower birds, kookaburras, honey-eaters, wrens and galahs – all without leaving our holiday cabin.
As well seeing as the satin bower bird, I was especially delighted to see the striking yellow and black regent bower bird. This was the first time I’d seen, let alone photograph, one of these beautiful birds.
The lawns around the holiday houses and cabins make perfect grazing sites for hundreds of wallabies and paddymelons which, while slightly shy, are accustomed to the presence of people. There were many young joeys, some still in the pouch, so I assumed we’d arrived at the end of the breeding season.
There are many fine walking trails throughout the park, with sweeping views east and west, and a chance to see some of the other wildlife found in the region.
There’s a lot to explore in this wonderful national park. I’m keen to visit again soon.
Girraween National Park is an area of the Granite Belt in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia reserved as a national park. Girraween is known for its spectacular flowers, dramatic landscapes and unique wildlife. At the time of this visit (October 2020), this area had been in a prolonged drought, with the nearby town of Stanthorpe having completely run out of water for almost a year. Sadly, this has continued into 2021.
Despite this, there were still many opportunities to enjoy the wildlife and scenery. The terrain in Girraween in drastically different to the coastal region where I live, with its huge expanses of exposed granite, and weather-carved boulders.
The number of birds and mammals was fewer than expected, but this was likely due to the dry conditions, as they may have moved elsewhere in search of water. Nevertheless, there were still many species to be seen.
The park’s reptiles of course, have less opportunity to move on in search of water, and mostly just have to make do as best they can in the dry conditions. Bald Rock Creek, which runs through the park, is home to the Bald Rock Creek Turtle, also called the Short Necked Turtle. This turtle is rare and its conservation status is Vulnerable. It is found only in stretches of Bald Rock Creek. Very little is known about these turtles, some have had their back legs tagged as part of an ongoing research project. I was lucky enough to photograph one sunning itself in a shallow part of the creek.
Girraween National Park is a strikingly beautiful place, and one I hope to visit again once the drought has ended. I expect the wildlife will quickly return to its former abundance when the rains finally come.
Point Perry Lookout at Coolum, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is a great spot to watch the migration of humpback whales. Especially in the September/October period as they move south to Antarctica. But there’s also a lot of resident wildlife that can be seen there all year round.
Most striking of all is a pair of Brahminy Kites, which are also known as Red-Backed Sea-Eagles. These stunningly beautiful birds can be seen early morning and late afternoon, gliding along their coastal territory.
Watching the kites’ apparently effortless flight is mesmerising. They cruise long distances, at great speed, with hardly a flap of their wings. The sea-breeze that travels up the cliff face supports them as they search for prey and carrion.
Nestled among the shrubs around the lookout was another pair of birds, much smaller but just as delightful. These were two red-backed fairy wrens. The male is pictured below.
He is not quite fully grown, and is going through a moulting phase. When he reaches the adult stage, he will be a sleek black, but still with his splash of crimson on his back.
At the water’s edge was a reef egret. These birds have a white and a dark grey variety. I initially thought that this one had caught its lunch, but on closer inspection it turned out to just be a leaf.
And a very relaxed and approachable kookaburra let me get up close for this pic!
Not to be outdone, reptiles can also be seen on or around the lookout. Swimming just off the rocks at the foot of the cliff was a loggerhead turtle, and in the trees nearby, a water-dragon.
And the last flying animal I saw was the smallest of all. A tint white butterfly feeding on the flowers of the coastal heath.
Also seen from the lookout on the same day, but sadly not caught on camera, was a manta-ray swimming northwards towards Noosa, and the larger cousin of the brahminy kite, the whistling kite, flying overhead.
It’s wonderful to see such a diversity of life all from this one location, so near to a busy coastal tourist patch.
The Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is an Australian bird which is often heard before it is seen. Their camouflage, along with their ability to be perfectly motionless, helps them blend almost invisibly into their surroundings. But their loud, eerie call is unmissable. They also seem to manage well in urban environments. This breeding pair was found in a narrow garden right beside a busy shopping centre carpark in Brisbane.
Curlews are a large bird, standing 510–590 mm tall. And when it comes to protecting their chicks, they are virtually fearless. Camouflage and stillness are their main protection, but they will aggressively attack anything that comes beyond their comfort zone.
I am perplexed as to why they would chose this particular location as a breeding site, given the hundreds of cars and people that would pass by, quite closely, each day. And the fact that fairly close to this shopping centre is a bushy, creekside area where they would be undisturbed. But whatever the reason, it seems a success. Their chick looks healthy and well-fed. Another example of the adaptability of native fauna to urban environments.
The last post included some of the wildlife that’s found right in our backyards, or at least very close by. Today’s pictures are from the Boondall Wetlands. Not quite in my own backyard, but just a short bicycle ride away. Above is the Golden Orb Weaver Spider, and her lunch. And I say “her” deliberately because the males are tiny in comparison, only a few millimetres across. I’m fairly sure the eight or so dots on her head are her eyes. I’m actually quite pleased this photo wasn’t taken in my backyard.
The tide was low, and the fiddler crabs were on the move. Without exception, they all appeared to be right-handed. Or at least that’s the side that the over-sized claw was on. Maybe lefties are in the minority with crabs, just like humans.
And lastly a couple of the water birds that are common around this area – a stilt and a heron. My Slater’s Field Guide to Australian Birds tells me the white-faced heron is probably the most common heron across Australia.
There are always interesting things to see in these wetlands. But it was disappointing to also see so much litter in the area. Especially plastics bottles. Take care people, and don’t ditch your rubbish carelessly. These places deserve to be looked after.
Though Brisbane is a city with a population of more than 2 million people, it’s not unusual to see many species of native fauna that adapt well to urban environments. Possums are a common sight, not only in suburban areas but even in the central business district. However they are most commonly seen at night, as they usually sleep in their nests through the day. But a few days ago we were visited at breakfast time by a ringtail possum, just outside our backdoor. He was obviously getting home late, and had caught the attention of a group of angry crows who were none too pleased to see this nocturnal visitor still in “their” trees in the morning. I managed to get a couple of photos before he scurried off into a neighbouring yard, presumably back to his nest.
Many reptiles and birds also make their homes quite comfortably amid the houses and industry of Brisbane. The Eastern Water Dragon and Purple Swamp Hen are often seen in and around streams and ponds across the city. While they are a common sight, I still enjoy seeing these animals when I walk or cycle around home.
Now that I seem to have my recalcitrant DSLR under control, I hope to get some more photos of our urban, and not-so-urban, wildlife to share on this blog.
There’s a lot of GFBD events on all around the world (http://allevents.in/events?q=Global%20Day&page=1#) but most of them seem to be in the northern hemisphere and will involve snow! I’m sure that would be a lot of fun, but I love our beaches in the summer and am very glad this day falls in the season (here) that it does. Some pics may follow in a later post.
In early October, the Antarctica-bound humpback whale migration is moving along the south Queensland coast. Their numbers continue to rise and by some estimates they are now reaching pre-whaling population levels. And while the whale-watching boat cruises do a brisk trade at this time of year, there are plenty of locations on the coast where you can get a great view of the whales from the shore. One of our favourites is Noosa National Park.
We hiked around the coastal perimeter of the park from the Sunshine Beach end, making our way to the cliffs at Hell’s Gates, the north-eastern point of the park, to see if we could spot some whales. To our great delight, we saw many whales passing by, and the view from the cliffs was clear and uninterrupted. One whale in particular was breaching close to the cliff just as we arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at the ready, so I learned a valuable lesson for wildlife photography – be prepared.
The whale photos shown here are somewhat grainy, as I had to enlarge them quite a bit to get the whale tails into view. I use a moderately powerful zoom lens, but I have yet to master the use of a DSLR. It’s a more complex beastie than I imagined it would be. However that took nothing away from the joy of watching these magnificent animals swimming by, in such a spectacular setting on a clear spring day.
As well as the whales, there are lots of sights to see around this coastline, and my inner bird-nerd enjoyed spotting what I later identified as an Australasian Figbird. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was – any corrections gratefully accepted. One more to mark as “seen” in my Slater’s Guide.