Priors Pocket, Oct 2020

Summary: Delightful spot with river and lagoon views plus excellent birdlife

Date of visit: Oct 30, 2020

Priors Pocket in the suburb of Moggill lies in a sharp bend of the Brisbane River. Its 196 species puts it in the top dozen birding hotspots in Brisbane, an exalted list indeed.

There’s only one way to get there, which is to go all the way to the end of Priors Pocket Road. It’s a long way down that road, which narrows quite a bit but remains sealed all the way. At the end, there’s a little turnaround spot and a verge which serves as something of a car park.

Despite the weather forecast predicting a sunny day, when I arrived I was surrounded by fog.

Hoping it would eventually disperse, I set off into “Priors Pocket Road Park” and soon came across a few Blue-Faced Honeyeaters, one of which looked very photogenic (if a little damp) in the foliage of a flowering Jacaranda tree.

I spotted a female Figbird in the same area, little realising it would be the first of many; then a playful Corella, while above a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle and a Crow flew by in some sort of military formation. A juvenile Pied Butcherbird and a Little Friarbird rounded out the group of birds I saw in that first spacious area (this section actually has its own specific hotspot, called “Priors Pocket Road Park” in eBird).

Basically you follow the wide, grassy (but mown) avenue (marked as “Wide Avenue” on the map) as it meanders west towards where there is a large tidal lake that is connected to the Brisbane River by a small waterway.

There’s plenty of longer grass on both sides of the path, tending to reeds on the river side, and I was lucky enough to see three Brown Quail scurrying through the grass, as well as a Golden-Headed Cisticola. Some Red-Backed Fairywren were present, too.

I had views of the lake by now, and the clouds and fog had started to lift. That was when things got a bit crazy on the Figbird front, with a large group foraging on the trees and bushes that dot the sides of the path. I counted around 15 for the whole visit, though I do tend to count conservatively (I like to be careful not to accidentally double-count), so there may well have been more.

It was great fun watching the Figbirds and being able to get decent photos of them to boot.

Scanning the lagoon shoreline, I spied a Striated Heron in full stealth-hunting mode, and there were a bunch of Pelicans (well, seven) on the water. A White-Faced Heron flew across as well.

I then saw a Tawny Grassbird and a few Superb Fairywrens, without being able to get good snaps of them, but then I spent a while watching a Blue-Faced Honeyeater that had captured a large worm thing and was thrashing it around, Kookaburra-style, presumably to try and subdue it. That was interesting!

The sun was fully out by now, in fact the day was turning into the glorious blue-sky day the bureau had predicted. Sweet!

At the end of the “wide avenue”, I arrived where the river feeds into the lagoon, and that’s as far as one can go. It’s a very nice spot, and I had an extended encounter with a brightly-coloured Mistletoebird. However, because the sun was behind the bird’s tree, there was no angle I could get that lit up the bird’s front. Alas; sometimes you have to accept a good encounter without an equally treasure-able photo.

On the way back to the road I had another Golden-Headed Cisticola moment, and also saw a Double-Barred Finch and some Red-Backed Fairywrens.

Another birder I chatted to briefly that morning (he mentioned he’d heard Lewin’s Rails…!) had said something about how he also birds outside of the “wide avenue” path. So I wandered up the road a little to see if there were any other trails around; there wasn’t anything remotely official-looking, so I decided (as I usually do) to avoid bush-bashing or trespassing on farmland. I did see a Pelican or two circling high above, which I find an intriguing sight – such big birds, soaring like eagles…

Priors Pocket packs a big punch for a fairly small area, and I had a pretty good time there. According to eBird some birders can see 60 or more species in one session, which is nothing to sneeze at – and this at a location with really not that many trees! There aren’t any facilities (there is a proposed future development in the works which would add some), and it’s a little one-dimensional (single wide grassy pathway), but it’s definitely worth at least one visit.

Checklist for this visit (28 species)
Hotspot: Priors Pocket (Moggill) – 196 species
Nearby: Anstead SES Depot (170 species), Anstead Bushland Reserve (197 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Lovely spot with river views and huge lagoon
+ Good mix of bush/grass birds, water birds and raptors
– Single wide path, no opportunity to explore side-trails
– No facilities

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