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.
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.
After much planning and preparation, the time had come for me to attempt my first bike tour. This was to be a week long journey from my home in Brisbane, to the quiet fishing village of Tin Can Bay, and home again. The plan was for 3 days cycling there, stopping at Coolum then Lake Cootharaba, a rest day, then 3 days cycling back. I had cycled most of the route before, although not as part of a continuous ride. And the section between Lake Cootharaba and Tin Can Bay was new to me. This was to prove the hardest part of the ride by far.
Day one – 22 September, Brisbane to Coolum (75km)
With my fully loaded bike, I took the train to Beerwah Station where I set off through the Beerwah State Forest, heading for the district just south of Caloundra. After only a few minutes riding, I saw a flock of about 8 Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos, noisily making their way through the pine trees.
The road surface was pretty good, and in a couple of hours I had made my way through the forest and into Caloundra. Right beside the cycle path I saw galahs and a corella, peacefully feeding on the grass and quite unperturbed by my presence.
I reached the coast just before lunch, arriving near the Currimundi area.
The weather was comfortably cool, with just a little rain. But this cleared to clear blue sky and bright sunshine as I approached Coolum. I stopped at one of the many coastal lookout points along the way, hoping to see a whale, as this is their southern migratory season. The view was spectacular, but no whales were to be seen.
At about 4pm I reached my accommodation, a little weary as it had been a while since I’d ridden that distance. And I’d never ridden with a fully loaded bike before. But it felt great to have got my first day’s travel in.
Day two – 23 September, Coolum to Lake Cootharaba (65km)
My second day’s riding was almost all along the coast. There is a coastal pathway that runs 95km from the southern end of Caloundra all the way to Noosa. For anyone interested in seeing the Sunshine Coast by bike, this is a must-do ride. Lots of terrific riding by the sea, like this spot near Marcus Beach.
Enjoying another great day of clear sky and sunshine’ I made my way through Noosa and Tewantin, and onto Lake Cootharaba, arriving at about 3pm.
Day three – 24 September, Lake Cootharaba to Tin Can Bay (56km)
On day three I set out early as this was the section of the ride I’d never been on before. And unlike the previous two days, I was not going to be in any populated area – the whole day was going to be spent in the Toolara State Forest. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make it to Tin Can Bay. My host at Cootharaba has a house surrounded by bushland and wildlife and as I was setting off, a butcher bird settled on the back stair to partake of a few scraps that had been left out.
I set off through the Elanda Point grasslands, and then walked the bike through the 2.5km of the Boronia Trail, leading to Harry’s Hut Rd.
Along the trails, I saw an enormous rainforest tree that had toppled over, exposing the trunk and root system. I placed the bike nearby so as to give an idea of scale.
Coming off the trail, and onto Harry’s Hut Rd in the area called Como, I was very surprised to see a group of three deer grazing beside the road. One very large buck with a magnificent set of antlers, and two smaller deer. They ran away quickly but I did manage to get a photo of on of the smaller ones, whose curiosity about this strange person on a bicycle, must have outweighed the desire to hide in the bush.
After Harry’s Hut Rd, I turned onto the dirt road of Cooloola Way, which would take me almost all the way to TCB. It was at that point that my ride turned from a pleasant exploration to a grueling struggle. The heavens opened and it poured with rain for hours. Cooloola Way turned out to be five and a half hours of bicycle hell. The surface was either so muddy and sticky that it was like riding through glue – or it was rocky and stony and utterly bone-jarring. I left my camera safely stashed in the waterproof pannier, so I don’t have any pictures of that part of the journey. For anyone planning on taking the Cooloola Way as part of a bike trek, I strongly suggest you think otherwise. But eventually I made my way to the edge of the forest, found the bitumen road, and wearily cycled into Tin Can Bay.
As I arrived, the weather cleared as if to welcome me and assure me that the toughest part of my trip was over. I had a rest day to look forward to, and plenty of time to plot an alternative route back to Lake Cootharaba. 196km all up and I had completed the first half of my bike tour.
Winters in Brisbane are fairly mild, although if the temperature does drop into single digits we react as if it’s the next ice age. But last weekend it was almost like a balmy Spring day, even though we still have a few weeks of Winter left. KJ and I took our first combination train + bike trip, to enjoy a picnic at Lake Samsonvale. This lake was created by the damming of the North Pine River. It may be an artificial lake but it’s still a particularly lovely spot.
We took the train to Lawnton Station, and then rode west along Todds Rd, joining a cycle path at Youngs Crossing Rd which goes through Chandler Reserve and onto Forgan Rd and the lake itself. Todds Rd is an enjoyable, relaxed ride (on a Saturday at least) which is through a residential area to begin with but soon transforms into a semi-rural area, as you cycle alongside paddocks and parkland. There’s a decent cycle path for much of the way, but the road is wide with plenty of room for bikes and the occasional car passing alongside at a comfortable distance.
One pannier each was ample to carry lunch, drinks, camera, sunscreen etc, and we did our best to convert them to backpacks when we took a bushwalk around the lake. For ‘convert’ read ‘awkwardly thread arms through the straps and do one’s best not to look like a doofus’. This lead to a lightbulb moment where we thought we would invent panniers that could convert (properly) to backpacks, only to find there’s already heaps of such things on the market.
It was a superb outing, with KJ doing her first substantial road-riding stint, and enjoying the comfy ride on the Gazelle. Our next trip to the lake will be an early morning start, getting there in time to cook a hot breakfast lakeside.
Last Saturday night I joined my utterly awesome musical buddies for another Swing Rendezvous dance gig at the Wavell Heights Bowls Club. We enjoyed the company of a small, but enthusiastic audience of amazing swing dancers. I don’t have a photo from this particular gig, so to give you an idea of what we look like, I’ve posted one from earlier this year.
One of the pieces we played was ‘Golden Wedding’, which has a phenomenal drum solo by Mark (super-drummer). And it was during said solo that I decided I wasn’t getting enough attention, and thought I’d show off how clever I am with an impromptu display of hat-twirling on the end of my index finger. You know how some things seem like a good idea at the time? My hat (naturally) went sailing off onto the dance floor, so I give a thank you to the kind audience member who retrieved it and placed it back on my head with great finesse while I was still playing!
On the weekend, KJ took delivery of her new Gazelle eBike, a beautifully designed Dutch bike with electric pedal assist. After charging it up overnight, we took it out for a spin on Sunday. And I’m happy to report she’s even more thrilled with it than expected. We’ve often put our bikes in the car and then driven off to some departure point, but now it’s time to get serious and really start replacing car trips with bike trips. So this ride was bikes only. KJ on the Gazelle and me on my Specialized road bike.
Heading out on the Kedron Brook bikeway, we decided to give the Gazelle a decent test and take it up the Gateway Bridge. Yes, we’d done a bridge ride recently but that’s OK. And the new bike performed brilliantly. Of course, there’s still effort involved in scaling a climb as big as the Gateway. The Gazelle is not an electric motorbike, it’s a bicycle, and the motor doesn’t kick in if you’re not pedalling. There’s already plenty of reviews and tech information about Gazelles on the web, so I won’t go into detail about that here. But I can say it totally changes the dynamic of cycling, making it an even more viable form of transport than it already is. It’s not for racing, or mountain biking – it’s a vehicle for transport.
There was an interesting contrast between the Gazelle with another powered bike we saw going over the bridge. There was a guy on a bike which had a small two-stroke petrol motor fitted to it. What a noisy, and foul smelling thing it was! For me, part of the attraction of cycling is its quietness and the fact I’m not burning up fossil fuels. A petrol powered bike defeats the whole purpose if you ask me. And I have to say it again – it stinks! Whereas the Gazelle’s motor is virtually silent. Now I have to start the serious saving to get one for me.