|Grey Fantail |
One of the first things you'll notice when you look at the woodland along Raysource Road is the barbed wire - there's lots of it! Situated in the rural Ipswich suburb of Haigslea, the area's bushland exists solely because private landowners allow it to. The farms here stock small numbers of Cattle, but several key blocks of land seem to hold nothing but wonderfully dense stands of old-growth woodland. Stay respectfully on the correct side of the barbed wire and you will experience a South-east Queensland 'secret' birding spot of excellent quality! To see what other
treasures exist behind the 'Good Fences' of the world, check out this collection of blog posts held weekly by Theresa in Texas, USA.
Part of the reason why smaller birds thrive in the area is the wealth of groundcover and under-storey vegetation still present. Prickly Pine (Bursaria spinosa) and Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) are prevalent along the Kamp Road track (see below), and an abundance of thorny shrubs provide nesting opportunities for birds like the Double-barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii).
|Rose Robin (female)|
On the more densely vegetated properties, Soap Trees (Alphitonia excelsa) and Acacia species comprise the mid-levels of the woodland. The uppermost canopy layers are dominated by eucalypts alone, especially the Gum-topped Box (Eucalyptus moluccana). The higher levels of these trees are home to birds like the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), Rose Robin (Petroica rosea), Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) and Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus). Two honeyeaters with patchy and localised Queensland distributions are found in these woodlands also: the Fuscous (Lichenostomus fuscus) and Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata), the former slightly outnumbering the latter. Circling just above the canopy, I was thrilled to see a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) remain undisturbed by the noise from nearby Amberley airforce base. If such sights give you as much joy as they do for me, I suggest a visit to The Bird D'Pot, a collection of bird photography blogs from around the world run by Anni in Texas, USA!
There are two locations for 'Raysource Road, Haigslea' on Google Maps. Featured here is the one joining busy Haigslea-Amberley Road, where I found its tiny signpost and gravel entrance barely distinguishable from the many rural driveways in the area. After parking almost immediately, I walked along Raysource Road for several hundred metres until I reached a crossroad with Haigslea Cemetary Road heading north, and Kamp Road going south. The latter is actually a narrow, uneven dirt-track, but it will lead you to where the vegetation is at its most pure and the bird-watching is best!
It was along this track that I began to notice unfamiliar bird calls. A few subtle ones turned out to be some of the afore-mentioned species, but in a thicket halfway down, I started to hear quite a cacophony! My honest mental description of the noise at the time was that it sounded like 'drunk Kookaburras trying on an accent,' but if I'd been more observant, I would have already noticed other identification clues. The species in question fills up its territory with football-shaped stick nests that are used as roosting shelters, and I did find these messy structures later when I returned to Raysource Road. Not to worry - everything became clear to me when I stared into the morning light, held my breath and watched three tumbling, clumsy birds ascend some distant branches. I had stumbled upon a 'happy family' of Grey-crowned Babblers!
|Grey-crowned Babblers (Pomatostomus temporalis)|
|Echidna excavations in a Termite mound|
It was also along the Kamp Road track that I began to realise what an incredible treasure these woodlands are. I think they would be a marvelous place to go spot-lighting at night, with excellent chances of seeing Gliders or even a Phascogale. As it was, Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) were a common sight that morning, and I noticed signs of Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) activity in a hollowed-out termite mound. I could also imagine a herpetological survey finding plenty of interesting frogs and reptiles when the right conditions prevail. I was even happy to walk through spiderweb after spiderweb on the hardly-used Kamp Road track, as they belonged to a colourful species I had never seen before.
|Bush Orb-Weaver (Araneus eburnus)|
|Raysource Road; Button-Quail site|
Back up on Raysource Road, I came across the last rarity for the day. I was walking west along the gravel road, close to where it becomes a rugged dirt track, when an explosion of wings in front of me almost made me cry out in surprise! I had but mere seconds to note the colourful dorsal pattern and spotted long wings of a Painted Button-Quail (Turnix varia) as it made a swift escape through the trees. I was equal parts annoyed that I didn't spot the bird before I startled it, and excited that I got to see one at all. Along with the Weebill and Fuscous Honeyeater, it was a 'life record' for the day, but I think I appreciated seeing the Grey-crowned Babblers most of all. Once a common bird around Brisbane - and indeed much of South-east Australia - they have become a rather rare sight, even just in my lifetime. Officially listed as endangered in Victoria and threatened in New South Wales, numbers remain stable only in the less-developed northern parts of the country, and South-east Queensland straddles that line. For this particular population of Babblers, the decision made by landholders to retain vegetation on their land is the difference between survival and local extinction.
This is definitely a woodland worth keeping an eye on!
|Red-backed Fairy-Wren (Malurus melanocephalus) male, with petal for courtship display.|