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.
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.
It has been an unseasonably warm start to March, so KJ and I took advantage of the perfect weather to have a cycling trip to Mudjimba Beach.
Taking the train to Beerwah Station, we set out along the forestry trails, aiming to reach Caloundra by midday. We did so – more or less. A couple of shortcuts, suggested by me, turned out to be not so short after all.
What began as a promising shady alternative route, ended up being blocked by some minor flooding on the trail, which was probably caused by the recent impact of Cyclone Marcia. I thought that by unloading the panniers I would be able to carry the bikes around the water, but it wasn’t meant to be. We returned to the sunny, but dry track and continued to Caloundra.
Back on the trail, we continued with the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains visible in the distance.
After a few hours of occasionally challenging riding – the cyclone had caused a lot of damage to some sections of the trail – we reached the seaside just north of Caloundra, near Currimumdi. A short rest, a bite to eat, and then onto lovely Mudjimba.
Having rested after a long day’s ride, we spent the following two days exploring the area by bike. It’s a liberating experience, leaving the car behind and travelling under one’s own ‘steam’. We weren’t limited in any way, and we even brought fishing rods with us on our bikes. As it happened, the fish weren’t biting this week, although it may have had something to do with the skills of the fisher-persons! Just a bit. KJ did hook a garfish at one point but it skipped off the line at the last minute.
We took a trip to nearby Peregian Beach, passing through a lovely area called Yaroomba. There is a strong protest movement underway there at the moment, hoping to reject the council’s intention to alter the local town plan and permit high rise development. It would be heartbreaking to see the character of this relaxed and peaceful region undone by the construction of high rise resort buildings. Hundreds of home that we rode past had signs out rejecting the high rise plan. We thought this one with the sea turtle was particularly arty and original.
Continuing on to Peregian Beach, we found a cafe for the dedicated cyclist where, if you wanted a coffee but didn’t want to stop pedaling, you could pedal along while getting your dose of caffeine, and not spill a drop.
Walking along the sand near Peregian, we noticed hundreds, possibly thousands, of jellyfish that had been washed ashore. The local newspapers reported that a bloom of Catostylus mosaicus jellyfish, aka ‘blue blubbers’ or, as we affectionately called them as kids, ‘snotties’, had been caused by the warm weather. They do have a mild sting but are not regarded as particularly harmful to humans.
And then there are the lorikeets. As noisy as they are colourful. These attractive birds are common all over the coast, and are especially vocal in the early morning (no sleeping in for us) and late afternoon.
We adored Mudjimba. It’s peaceful, picturesque and has great cycling all around. The Mooloolaba Triathlon was about to start and many of the locals asked us if that’s what we were there for. It was flattering, but we didn’t much resemble the speedy lycra-clad athletes zooming around the area on their bikes, in preparation for the big day. We were perfectly happy to just roll along at our relaxed pace and take in the glorious sights and sounds of the coast. This is a definite do-again trip.
Day five – 26 September, Tin Can Bay to Lake Cootharaba (70km)
Having found Cooloola Way a bit too challenging, I was keen to take an alternative route back to Lake Cootharaba. Some helpful locals suggested I take the (only) road out of TCB and then look for Counter Rd, a long straight dirt road running south which meets up with the Kin-Kin Pomona road.
From TCB to the Rainbow Beach turnoff, the road has a reasonably wide shoulder, making it safe enough to cycle on. However, past that point there is no shoulder at all and the road is quite narrow. Safe cycling on the road was out of the question, as the trucks take all the available room and don’t seem very patient with other road users. Fortunately there is a forestry track running parallel with the road so I opted for that as a safer – but slower and bumpier – option.
After a few kms I turned off into the forestry, taking the Toolara-Como road hoping to find my way to Counter Rd. I got a little lost, but realised I was heading in the right direction when I came to the crossing at Coondoo Creek. This was a nice shady spot to take a break.
Soon after, I found Counter Rd and headed south. There was still a long way to go, but I knew that navigation wouldn’t be a problem from here on. Counter Rd is a long, long road with a few steep hills. But nowhere near as tough as Cooloola Way.
Eventually I reached the bitumen at Kin-Kin Pomona road, then turned off towards Harry’s Hut Rd. From here I could retrace my original route along the Boronia Trail, crossing Kin Kin Creek and through Elanda Point to Lake Cootharaba.
Riding back through the lush grassland near Elanda Point, I came across the now familiar sight of kangaroos grazing in the cool of the afternoon.
Day six – 27 September, Lake Cootharaba to Coolum (56km)
Slept like the dead after yesterday’s long ride.
My host at Cootharaba lives alongside a large area of forest, and the wildlife often walks, flies, slithers or hops in to visit. This morning a very large kangaroo bounded into the vegie garden to inspect what was on offer.
After breakfast I headed for Tewantin, and got the only puncture of the entire trip on a smooth stretch of bitumen. All that distance on tough, stony dirt roads and rocky forestry tracks and my only flat tire was on a “proper” road! No problem though – I was carrying spare tubes and was on my way again soon.
Another perfect Spring day, with lots of great ocean views along the cycleway.
Arriving at Coolum, I stopped for a break at one of my favourite ocean viewing spots. Soon after, a Little Pied Cormorant flew into a tree beside me and proceeded to dry and preen its wings. This is a different species to the Little Black Cormorants I saw at Tin Can Bay.
Day seven – 28 September, Coolum to home (69km)
The last day of my first bike tour and it was a glorious sunny morning in Coolum. A quick dash to the seaside in case there were any whales to be seen (nope, still none) then onto Mudjimba for a big breakfast.
This final leg of the trip was roughly in two halves – bikeway from Coolum to south of Caloundra, then the forest road to Beerwah station. The construction in the photo above is at Alexandra Headland, it’s the HMAS Brisbane Mast Memorial. In 2005 the ex-HMAS Brisbane was scuttled off the coast here to create an artificial reef and is now a diving site.
Back in the Beerwah State Forest again, on the home stretch to Beerwah Station and then on the train to Brisbane. The Glasshouse Mountains can be seen in the distance.
And after a grand total of 405km and a week on the bike, finally home again. This had been a wonderful experience, with plenty of challenges as well as relaxation and tranquillity. Travelling in this way gives you a great sense of freedom and independence. And to have gone all that way without burning up fossil fuel in a car is doubly rewarding. I hope this will be just the first of many bike tours in the days ahead. Thanks for reading my blog everyone!
Feeling well rested after a quiet night at the motel, I had a day of gentle cycling around the bay, seeing the sights and enjoying the perfect weather.
One of the most popular things to do here is see the dolphins. Tin Can Bay is one of the few places in the world where wild dolphins regularly visit the shore to interact with people. Most mornings, two or three Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins come into the shore near the Snapper Creek boat ramp. Tourists can feed the dolphins and get up close and personal with them, albeit under close supervision from wildlife volunteers.
These dolphins are smaller than the bottlenose and are a coastal species, generally staying close to shore. There are sharks in the bay and in Snapper Creek, and the dolphins have visible scars from their encounters with them.
Though they aren’t bottlenose dolphins, one had decided to pretend he was by carrying a discarded bottle on his snout, which he’d retrieved from the seabed. It was amusing to see, although I despaired at the mentality of the knuckleheads who throw their rubbish into the water.
Tin Can bay has a lot of bird-life to see. At this time of year, the flowering trees are full of nectar, and attract lots of hungry and very noisy lorikeets. And of course, there are lots of water birds – pelicans, cormorants and herons.
This was a relaxing day, with beautiful Spring weather. Just what I needed to be refreshed for the journey home.