Summary: Lovely lesser-known botanic gardens with a few birds
Date of visit: Sep 30, 2020
There are plenty of great birding spots in the “near west” of Brisbane: Anstead Bushland and SES Depot come to mind; Lake Manchester; Prior’s Pocket and Colleges Crossing, just to name a few! Kholo Gardens is possibly easily overlooked in this august company, but bears consideration as it has more of a riverside “gardens” feel to it, with some decent bird life.
The gardens are 40 hectares in size and were established in 1988; the Queenslander-style function centre is popular for weddings. There is even a little historic wooden church (1904) that was relocated to the grounds in 1990.
When I arrived early on a weekday morning and parked in the excellent, spacious car park, the first thing I noticed were some shrieking lorikeets quite up high; peering through the camera lens showed them to be Scaly-Breasted Lorikeets. Their call is a little less stringent than the more common Rainbow Lorikeet.
The other immediate impression I got was the glorious view over Brisbane River with the morning sun streaming in, and I couldn’t help but be drawn across to it. Here a Willie Wagtail was typically being all territorial, displaying busily along the fenceline. Some unimpressed Noisy Friarbirds looked on, and I also soon saw a Kookaburra.
Ambling north on the “Brisbane River Trail” showed up some Bar-Shouldered Doves as well as a Sacred Kingfisher, both species resplendent in the so-called “golden hour” (it was 6:30am at this point).
As I went closer to the northern end of the gardens the bush became a little less tame, and there were even some unofficial side trails to explore. A workman with a noisy machine somewhat spoiled the serenity, but they have to maintain the garden some time, right?
Towards the northernmost lookout – which requires a short but moderately steep climb up the path – there was some promising bush and a couple of nice outlooks to the west (as well as the ever-present views out across the river to the east). Here I saw a juvenile Red-Browed Finch, completely lacking the red brow and beak, and having a black beak instead – the first time I’d seen a young one. Brown Thornbills were present but more exciting was the elegant form of a Varied Triller, who even demonstrated how to catch an insect. Cool!
A few Silvereyes flittered around the bushes but I was intrigued by a weird scratching/dirt tumbling noise, which I eventually tracked down to a Brushturkey industriously digging. It was quite loud!
On an unofficial trail on the south side of Coal Creek where the bush was quite dense, I found an Eastern Yellow Robin, Scarlet and Lewin’s Honeyeaters. I then spent a while tracking a Whipbird, but couldn’t get it quite clear for an unobstructed photo. Such is the nature of Whipbirds, they love the undergrowth and hardly ever seem to come out. But that is their perogative, and they are amazing birds nonetheless.
Back nearer the carpark there is a little pond where I saw a turtle and a couple of Water Dragons. No water birds though. A little rest on a nearby picnic table overlooking the river proved that the Noisy Friarbird was still present as was the Willie Wagtail, which wasn’t at all timid about chasing off a Magpie who intruded onto its patch.
I then walked up the road (at the very south of the gardens) to the church and function centre, which has more of a formal feel with various flowerbeds, nice enough but not very good for birding. Wandering back towards the car park yielded one final interesting bird sighting, in a pair of Galahs in a gum tree, one of which was hell-bent on tearing up as much loose material as he could (I knew it was a male because of the dark brown eye – females have a pink-coloured eye!)
As a small-sized botanic gardens (with free entry) this location has good facilities such as BBQ areas, picnic tables, gazebos and very good paths and maps. And while I didn’t see anything too spectacular – the Varied Triller was probably the biggest highlight – it felt like the place had good potential for birds, with a mix of different habitats, both formal and of the “messy bush” variety. The proximity of the river with the morning sun makes it a pleasant spot to do some relaxed birding.
Ipswich Council brochure for the gardens.
Checklist for this visit (24 species)
Hotspot: Kholo Gardens (168 species)
Nearby: Colleges Crossing (154 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Mix of habitats and paths
+ Good facilities
+ Fairly quiet riverside vibe
– Not a huge area
– No water birds or raptors
– Didn’t feel like it lived up to its potential on this visit