Toohey Forest, Jul/Aug 2020

Large dry sandstone bushland 10km from Brisbane CBD with loads of good paths and reasonable bird action depending on time of year.

Dates of visit: July 29, Aug 12, 13, 18 2020

Toohey Forest is a fairly large tract (260 hectares) of bushland in Tarragindi, around 10km from Brisbane CBD. Theres a few different types of track to enjoy, and when taken together these tracks encompass all of the sections of the forest.

This post covers a three week period in July/August 2020 where I made several forays into Toohey Forest. I found one of the best places to enter (and hence to park a car) is the end of Cheval St, where one can rip straight up the Grass Tree Track to access both Toohey Ridge and Nathan Ridge tracks. Nathan Ridge track is a paved path which runs roughly north-south and sees the majority of foot traffic – walkers, runners and bike riders; but it does often yield good bird sightings. Toohey Ridge spans east-west and is a wide gravel path, and has some good areas for birds as well as accessing several excellent side trails – Bloodwood and Tallowood to the north, and down into Planchoniana and into Mimosa and Pultenaea south.

Noisy Miners tend to have domain over the perimeter of the forest – ie. nearest the surrounding houses – I found I needed to walk right in to see other more interesting birds.

During this period Glossy Black Cockatoos were active (in fact remained so right through till October), munching on the Casuarina seeds, and they were found generally close to the Nathan Ridge or Toohey Ridge tracks – you can hear the crunching sound before you see them (it sounds like a continuous crackling sound – you’ll need to stop and listen now and again especially if on a gravel path). These birds tend to not worry about being watched, even at close range. I’ve seen up to five birds in one spot all munching away merrily.

Because this was winter, the Grass Trees were flowering and this brought about many honeyeaters – Scarlet, Brown, Yellow-Faced, Blue-Faced and White-Throated, as well as Eastern Spinebills. Spangled Drongos, Olive-Backed Orioles and Noisy Friarbirds also got in on the easy-nectar action. It made for great photography as the birds are lower down, easy to see and shoot on the exposed spikes.

One good spot I found is what I like to call “The Grove”, nestled in the intersection of the Nathan and Toohey Ridge tracks and accessible from either by narrow (but well-formed) tracks. Here there is plenty of understorey for fairywrens and finches as well as Grass Trees for the honeyeaters. I’ve stood in one spot for well over an hour once just watching all the action in this little area – which is also where I saw my very first Olive-Backed Oriole.

In all my forays I saw fairywrens nearly everywhere in Toohey Forest, most always Variegated and Red-Backed. One reliable spot for them and other smaller bush birds (White-Browed Scrubwren, Grey Fantail, Red-Browed Finch, Eastern Yellow Robin) is at the top (northern) end of the Pultenaea track, which runs alongside a small creek which has lots of wetter undergrowth and ferns.

Continuing past this spot, south-west on the Pultenaea Track, there’s a little side-path off to the right which leads to what I call “Whistler Grove”, as I saw Rufous Whistlers there very reliably for a few weeks; the Glossy Black Cockatoos also made an appearance there in the Casuarinas once too, and Red-Browed Finches and Grey Fantails as well.

Detail hotspot-style map showing some good places to explore

To the south-west (bottom left of the map) is what eBird calls Toohey Forest’s “western tracks”. The main paths here are the Hibertia and Wilcox tracks, though again there are a few unofficial but obvious narrower tracks branching off (one of which leads down into a boulder-strewn creek bed). Near the piece of track linking Hibertia and Nathan Ridge (not sure what its official designation is) lies a waterhole, the main drinking spot when the creeks dry up (as they inevitably seem to do).

If you head towards the highway – you can’t miss it, as three or four tracks converge near it – you’ll find an underpass across to Griffith University which eventually leads to the Mt Gravatt summit trails. That’s a post for another day though – but note that I’ve heard Lorikeet and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo calls getting more intense as you go further east.

On the other side of Toohey Road is what eBird calls “Toohey Mountain”, again with some good trails, but of less interest to birders. Though the featured Variegated Fairywren and Grey Butcherbird photos were taken in this area.

Other animals regularly seen include koalas, lace monitors and echidnas – I’ve seen all three, though the koala was at night!

I usually went into Toohey Forest within the two or three hours after sunrise; I’ve walked through during the middle of the day and barely heard a bird noise then.

A final note – the above observations were very much based on winter visits; I found the mix of birds changed quite a lot after winter/spring.

eBird hotspots:

Notable species seen in these visits:

  • Glossy Black Cockatoo
  • Honeyeaters – Scarlet, Brown, Yellow-Faced, Blue-Faced and White-Throated
  • Eastern Spinebill
  • Red-Browed Finch
  • Rufous (and less commonly Golden) Whistlers
  • Grey Shrikethrush
  • Olive-Backed Oriole
  • Regulars: Noisy Friarbird, Kookaburra, Pied Currawong, Pied and Grey Butcherbird, Grey Fantail, Rainbow Lorikeet, Striated Pardalotes
  • Very occasionally: Rainbow Bee-eater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Scaly-Breasted Lorikeet, Leaden Flycatcher

Pluses and minuses:

+ Grass trees make it great particularly for honeyeaters and spinebills in winter
+ Reliable spot for Glossy Black Cockatoo (at least it was in 2020!)
+ Good paths, well-marked and signed, and a picnic area and lookout
+ Connection across to Mt Gravatt Summit trails
– Not as many birds or species as elsewhere
– High canopy and some dense areas makes it hard to spot birds
+/- Mainly bush birds – very few water birds or raptors

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