Summary: Sprawling wetlands/bush that is a bit hit and miss
Date of visit: Sep 17, 2020
Boondall Wetlands: it’s one of the more well-known nature areas in Brisbane. But how good is it for the serious birder? Can it be covered by bicycle? Will our intrepid birds-spots blogger ever recover from the swarms of midges? These are not rhetorical questions, folks, as we discover the joys of trying to cover a vast bushland area by bike, carrying 2kg of Nikon camera equipment around the neck.
Boondall Wetlands Reserve consists of more than 1100 hectares, and was created in 1990. It features two bird hides, and an Environment Centre which opened in 1996. It’s a big area, and the tracks really only go around the outside of it. I suppose you could see a fair bit by canoeing along Nundah Creek, if you had a canoe…
Given the very long pathways, my plan for visiting the area was to bike… all the way from Tarragindi. To reach Boondall by just after sunrise required leaving very early – around 5:15am, and cycling to the Story Bridge and through Newstead, eventually to reach the bikeway alongside Kedron Brook. I also used the MagpieAlert website to skirt around a nasty looking Magpie-swooping spot near Doomben Racecourse.
It was a long ride, starting in the cold and dark, but the sun was rising in golden magnificence over Kedron Brook when I arrived there. I suppressed the urge to stop every 10 metres for birds along here (swearing to return some day) and pushed on to Nudgee Road and the eastern entrance to the Boondall bikeway, just past the Transfer Station. You could park here if you were going by car. So far, so good.
I readied my camera, cycling slowly with it swinging awkwardly around my neck. I didn’t see any birds of note until well over a kilometre into the bike path, by which time I had realised that stopping and taking photos was rather cumbersome, and I always had to be on the lookout for fitness-based cyclists rushing past. The birding started to get more rewarding when entering the casuarina-dense areas as the path neared the highway, and I was able to spot a Sacred Kingfisher including seeing it returning into its nest in a termite mound up a tree. Soon after, two Mangrove Honeyeaters appeared. Otherwise it was fairly quiet… except for the constant nearby highway noise.
I eventually arrived at the Environment Centre, parked the bike, and set out on the Billai dhagun circuit (anti-clockwise). This was sedate for a while – with only Noisy Miners around – until deeper into the circuit where I found Striated Pardalote, a Spangled Drongo, and a Black-Faced Cuckooshrike. This area was rather nice, quieter and more peaceful with the morning sun streaming in.
The short spur out to the bird hide unfortunately did not yield any birds, but it is a nice enough bird hide in any case and gives a good view across Nundah Creek before it empties out into the bay and even across to Shorncliffe.
Continuing the circuit found Brown Honeyeaters and a few Mangrove Gerygones, then the bird action amped up considerably, with good encounters with a Rufous Whistler pair and a superb photo opp with another Sacred Kingfisher. More Mangrove Gerygones hopped around and then a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle circled close by, and I hastily grabbed some photos of it through an overhead gap in the brush. This section felt alive with birds, the brush was fairly dense with vine covering but that didn’t stop me also seeing a Forest Kingfisher and a cute Grey Shrikethrush.
Dousing myself in insect spray kept the unforgiving midges away a bit longer – they are nasty because you barely notice they’re on you, until it’s too late and you’ve been bitten (and you will have itchy little red spots on your skin for days afterwards…).
After getting back into the saddle and heading back along the bikeway the way I had come earlier, I saw a Magpie-Lark quite close, and then had a nice encounter with some Superb Fairywrens. I was stopping every 40 or 50 metres due to birds, which was getting really tricky, finding somewhere to ease the bike off track and stand astride it while trying to nab a photo before a bird disappeared into the brush (and putting up with ever-increasing numbers of cyclists, walkers and runners coming past). I did however spy a Rufous Fantail on its hanging nest, and then a pair of Sacred Kingfishers and a female Scarlet Honeyeater.
There was at least one very unofficial looking side track off the bikeway, no idea how far it would go into the wetlands. I thought it better to bike back and around to Nudgee Beach, whose creek and mangrove areas are technically also part of the Boondall Wetlands Reserve. On the way back to Nudgee Road I checked out the viewing platform set above an open area, which gives a decent look at how big this wetland area actually is.
Once at Nudgee Beach I parked the bike on the edge of a car park and started off on the Tabbil-ban dhagun boardwalk in an anti-clockwise direction, having a close meeting with a Blue-Faced Honeyeater straight off the bat. That was great, but that was about it for the boardwalk except for a few Brown Honeyeaters in the mangroves and an Egret stalking in the creek.
In typical fashion I saw nothing from the bird hide (the tide was high at that time of day), and then I got stuck behind a large group of schoolchildren also out on an excursion around the boardwalk. Oh well! It was good to check out this area of the world in any case; somehow I had never been to Nudgee Beach before, which is like a typical little Aussie seaside town lifted out and dropped onto the edge of Brisbane.
I had to bike all the way home, which I was decidedly NOT looking forward to. Overall I ended up doing least 80km of riding. Still, ya gotta try these things, right…?!
In summary, I found Boondall Wetlands a bit hit and miss. Due to highway noise, this is not a place to go if you want peace and quiet, except perhaps for the Nudgee Beach section or the northern bird hide. There are definitely a few good patches – the Billai dhagun circuit in particular – which suggests cherry-picking a small section is a better strategy than trying to canvas the whole place (which you can’t do on foot unless you have a lot of time…)
Checklist for this visit (29 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Some great patches with birdlife
+ Bird hides, tracks and boardwalks all in good condition
+ Very good birding areas nearby (Kedron Brook, Nudgee etc)
– Only a few official trails despite the vast area
– Hard to explore widely on foot
– Constant highway noise