Summary: Excellent location for water birds, sea birds and raptors on Bribie Island
Dates of visit: Sep 21 and 22, 2020
Buckley’s Hole Conservation Park is a special little place on the very southern tip of Bribie Island in Moreton Bay. It’s a bit of a hike to get to, but well worth the trip: it contains an appealing mix of freshwater lagoon, woodland, open forest and beach habitat.
The first surprise (on my first visit, starting at about 9am) was that, for a reasonably well-known nature spot on a highly populated island, there’s no car park for Buckley’s Hole. Seems you just park on the side of the road (the street is named “The Blvd”).
I arrived at about 9am and thought I’d skirt the northern side of the little lagoon (the “Hole” of Buckley’s Hole, no doubt). I could see a few water birds in there – and there’s a nicely positioned bench seat to watch the action too – but I soon made towards the beach. Here on this soft sandy path was a dead tree filled with Welcome Swallows. Ibis and a Whistling Kite flew overhead. A couple of Red-Backed Fairywrens bounced about the leaves. It seemed like a pretty good place to be.
Things got a bit trickier when I got down to the beach. There were some thick fringing mangroves around and I didn’t want to impact any of the ecosystem by stomping through it, but I found a path of footprints through and followed them out to the open beach. It was an hour or so after low tide at this point. I’m not sure how much beach is exposed at high tide, so it would be wise to check the tides if you’re intending to explore here.
Here there was a mixture of Silver Gulls with Crested and Caspian Terns on the water’s edge, as well as a Pied Cormorant standing knee-dep in the surf. (I could tell it was a Pied Cormorant and not a Little Pied by the more ivory-coloured bill, and the “black trousers”). Further round was a decidedly not-shy Pied Oystercatcher, its vivid colours making what was surely Photo of the Day.
Sure, it’s just a beach. But not every beach has terns placidly resting on its shores or arrowing above the water in aerodynamic glory, and maybe because it was a weekday and there were few weekenders about, it felt miles away from the bustling streets of Bribie Island just up the road.
Walking further round I didn’t see many more birds, just a few crabs and seashells and the like, until I eventually neared the area known as “Red Beach”, where a couple of trails led back inland. Here I foolishly decided to go off-track for a little bit, as I saw what looked like some promising unofficial paths which I thought might be shortcuts back to the lagoon – particularly because of an area with some old stone structures…
I did see a lovely Olive-Backed Oriole in the denser brush, and a rather large Lace Monitor, but there weren’t really any trails that could be followed, and parts of it were quite boggy, so I ended up trudging back along the dirt road and around.
At the lagoon, the bird hide proved to be excellent – it is right in the middle of the water and commands at least a 180 degree view. There was also a good roster of water birds – a few Royal Spoonbills, Australasian Grebes, Little Black Cormorants, Black Swans, Dusky Moorhens and Swamphens.
But it was an encounter with a Willie Wagtail that stole the show – it had caught a dragonfly and landed with it on an exposed branch sticking out of the water right in front of the bird hide. Magic!
So what’s the only thing better than finding a wonderful new birding spot? Going back the next day and having an even finer time! Yes, I headed there much earlier – before 6am, in fact, and wandered down to the beach (clockwise around the edge of the lagoon, the same way as the day previous) noting a group of nine Grey Teals in the lagoon on my left as I made my way down. This morning showed up much more bird activity – a Gull-Billed Tern, a Pelican and a Whistling Kite all flew over quite near.
Then, just a few minutes later, an Osprey and a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle got into an aerial dogfight! It was a little further away but still amazing to see; the Osprey seemed to get the better of it, with the Sea-Eagle performing a “me surrender” move before flying off seemingly unharmed. Pretty awesome stuff.
Once I hit the sand I decided to explore. There were plenty of birds around – a Galah on a dead tree quite close by, a White-Faced Heron and Little Black Cormorant flying over, and in the tidal inlets were Royal Spoonbill, Little Egret, more Cormorants (both Little Black and Little Pied), White Ibis, and Striated Heron.
There were even some little Welcome Swallows using branches on the sand as their base. As this inlet area isn’t very large, it’s possible to get quite close to the Spoonbills and Egrets and Cormorants as they go about their foraging in its shallow waters at low tide.
The track (going north-west through bush/sand) isn’t marked on any official maps, but it certainly exists, and is worth a meander along. A Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo hung around here for quite a while, as did a Brown Honeyeater, which swooped a placid Sacred Kingfisher at one point. A Little Corella and some Bar-Shouldered Doves also posed too, and before I left that area to return to the lagoon I spotted a Brahminy Kite as well. Bear in mind that this section (at the top right of the map) backs onto regular suburban houses; not bad birding for a location that can’t really be considered “wilderness”.
Back at the bird hide there was plenty of action, with Pacific Black Ducks, a Black Swan, Dusky Moorhen and Grebes. And then when I got back to the car there were four Figbirds happily munching on a tree quite close – a happy little photographic bonus.
Buckley’s Hole is one of the premier birding locations on Moreton Bay. Although there is a lot of bush, most of it doesn’t have walking tracks, so birding is mainly confined to the few sandy tracks, lagoon/bird hide and beach – but this small accessible area is pleasant to wander around in and packs a big punch in terms of bird life. The lagoon is lovely and the bird hide and bench seats let you view it in a relaxed manner, while the low-tide beach-side birding is also excellent.
eBird hotspot: Buckleys Hole Conservation Park–Buckleys Hole (232 species)
(Note: the whole area actually has a few hotspots – “Sandbar Only”, “Red Beach Rd”, etc – I personally don’t see the point in having so many hotspots in near proximity, so I won’t enumerate them all here)
Notable nearby hotspots: Toorbul High Tide Roost (196 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Great mix of water birds, sea birds and raptors
+ Relatively small area with intense encounters
+ Excellent bird hide looking across a pleasant lagoon
– Much of the larger bush part is inaccessible (no tracks)
– Takes a while to drive to, with roadside parking only
– Walking a full circuit around the lagoon/beach/dirt road probably unrewarding