Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Top Ten Wildlife Locations of 2015

I spent 2015 exploring every intriguing corner of South-east Queensland, from the NSW border, right up to the Noosa hinterland and west of the coastal ranges too. So imagine my surprise and hometown pride when some of the top-ranking natural places turned out to be just a short drive away through Brisbane's suburbs! I can't wait to get to know these wildlife hotspots better in 2016—maybe you'd like to join me?

1. Tamborine National Park (MacDonald Section), Eagle Heights.
Piccabeen palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) groves are particularly
stunning to walk through at Mount Tamborine.
Tamborine Mountain has long been the getaway of choice for many South-east Queenslanders, and yet for some reason, I've always overlooked it as a wildlife destination. My mistake, because an early morning stroll along the 1.4km rainforest circuit track in the MacDonald section is like wandering through a wildlife metropolis, full of local specialties like the land mullet (Egernia major) and pale yellow robin (Tregellasia capito). Even if your animal-spotting skills aren't all that crash hot, it is impossible not to be awed by the truly magnificent strangler figs (Ficus watkinsiana) growing throughout the park, though no touching—they grow alongside equally impressive giant stinging trees (Dendrocnide excelsa)!

The upper reaches of Tingalpa Creek are often dry or reduced to
a chain of small waterholes.
2. Venman Bushland National Park, Mount Cotton.
Featuring rolling hills full of eucalypt bushland and lush gullies that are home to wet forest animals and plants, this National Park protects exactly the kind of habitat that we have destroyed so much of elsewhere in Brisbane. Red-necked wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) often feed in the picnic ground, and down by the headwaters of Tingalpa Creek live eastern water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) and great barred frogs (Mixophyes fasciolatus), the latter best seen at night. For fitness enthusiasts, the 7.5km Venman circuit is a great trail through open forests of blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis), paperbarks and more.

3. Coombabah Lake Conservation Park, Arundel.
I was honoured to spend much of 2015 volunteering for Gecko, an environmental organisation on the Gold Coast. For this reason, I felt it was my duty to get to know the natural places of the Gold Coast better, a decision that I will reap the benefits from for a long time to come! The highlight for me was discovering this prime birdwatching spot located at the end of Tee Trees Boulevard, where gorgeous black swan (Cygnus atratus) families mingle with uncommon birds like the glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and white-necked heron (Ardea pacifica).

4. Sandy Creek Conservation Area, Mount Cotton.
Yes, this is the second Mount Cotton location to feature on this list, but what can I say? I love the place! This area has less variety to the forest structure than Venman Bushland National Park, but for my tastes, the birdwatching is even better here, and I was pleased to observe interesting species like the southern boobook (Ninox boobook), spotted pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) and white-bellied cuckoo-shrike (Coracina papuensis) on a morning walk in June.

5. Yandina Picnic Ground, Mansfield.
Wildlife abounds along Bulimba Creek, including koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), stony-creek frogs (Litoria wilcoxii) and fan-tailed cuckoos (Cacomantis flabelliformis).
I feel like I'm letting you in on a secret as far as this place is concerned, because it is a little tucked away with minimal signage! The easiest point to access it from is at the sportsfield carpark towards the end of Wecker Road; park there, then follow the footpath down to Bulimba Creek, where it turns into a sandy trail through a delightful rainforest. Take a moment to appreciate the towering blue quandong (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) on the creek banks, as well as all the hard work that the Bulimba Creek Catchment volunteers have put into maintaining the area.

6. Bribie Island National Park, Woorim.
Unless you're a keen four-wheel driver, the one third of Bribie Island that makes up the National Park might be a bit of a mystery to you. Earlier this year however, I found a gravel road at the end of McMahon Street that can be safely traversed on foot for some distance. The surrounding countryside is one that is unique to the coastal regions of South-east Queensland and Northern New South Wales—wallum swampland—and is home to many specialised bird, frog and plant species.

7. Dawn Road Reserve, Albany Creek.
Thickly-vegetated sections of the reserve are home to northern brown bandicoots (Isoodon macrourus), carpet pythons (Morelia spilota), razor grinders (Henicopsaltria eydouxii) and more.
Who knew there was a rainforest hidden in Brisbane's northern suburbs? Wild BNE fan Trina did, and I'll be forever grateful to her for showing me this wonderful location, best accessed by some humble trails off Jullyan Street. The closer you walk to the creek, the denser the vegetation becomes, showcasing rainforest trees like the murrogun (Cryptocarya microneura) and tree heath (Trochocarpa laurina). For more information, including species lists and community bushcare notices, check out the website.

8. Currimundi Lake Conservation Park, Wurtulla.
Also known as Kathleen McArthur Park, this nature spot is wonderful because a great bushwalk can be combined with a refreshing swim! Though the trails are short, in summer they can feel rather exposed to the sun thanks to the stunted wallum shrubland environment, so keep hydrated and slip-slop-slap as you look at yellow-tailed black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) and dwarf banksias (Banksia oblongifolia).

9. Pine Ridge Conservation Park, Hollywell.
Some of the low-lying trails in Pine Ridge may be impassable after heavy rain.
So much of the Gold Coast's natural landscape has been lost to the urban sprawl, so tiny gems protected by the likes of Pine Ridge Conservation Park have become all the more important. There are not many other places between Coomera and Coolangatta where you can meander through fields of swamp grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea fulva) while listening to the trills of rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) and white-cheeked honeyeaters (Phylidonyris niger).

10. King Island Conservation Park, Wellington Point.
A walk out to this tiny bay island at low tide is like a visit to a museum showing relics from an era long gone. Along the spit, the sand is littered with the clinking skeletons of coral colonies that once thrived in the surrounding waters, but now only just manage to eke out a precarious existence. The island itself, formerly home to a pioneering family and a rampant prickly pear (Opuntia stricta) infestation, provides refuge these days for majestic brahminy kites (Haliastur indus) and mangrove honeyeaters (Lichenostomus fasciogularis).


  1. You have highlighted some great spots, Christian! I am quite familiar with many of these.
    I was amazed at the roost of tiny Red-necked Stints, among other waders, out on King Island around October one year.
    I've been wanting to go bird watching in Venman National Park for quite sometime too.
    Great to see your blog up and running again!

    1. That's great to hear about King Island's waders, as I visited in May when there weren't any, so I will keep an eye out.

      See how you go at Venman, it's an incredibly beautiful place with lots of interesting wildlife and plants, but for birds I did find Sandy Creek Conservation Area (around the corner from it) a little better!