Enoggera Reservoir, Nov-Dec 2021

Summary: Very good bird sightings possible on a shorter walking track, and even better if you can slog the dirt roads out to the western section.

Dates of visit: Nov 23 and Dec 2, 2021

I hadn’t visited Enoggera Reservoir since starting birding, not because it’s a bad spot, but for a more childish reason altogether: I was annoyed at people constantly saying “Oh, you’ve go to go to Enoggera Reservoir, it’s so great” when they heard that I’d taken up birdwatching. Yeah, yeah, I get it, I thought belligerently: everyone loves Enoggera Reservoir.

I needed to discover it for myself, on my own terms.

The reservoir is Brisbane’s oldest water storage, dating from 1866. The best access is via Waterworks Road, where there is the Walkabout Creek information centre and cafe. Kayaking and canoeing and swimming are popular in the lovely blue waters, especially on a summer’s weekend, leading to contention for spaces in the not-big-enough car park.

There are several walking tracks and several mountain bike trails/dirt access roads, but most hikers and birders will want to stick close to the water, where there are two main trails: the full 10km around the entire reservoir (“Reservoir Break”, marked in dark green on the map), or the much shorter Araucaria track (about 5km depending how you walk it), which is the big headland-looking thing sticking out into the water on the eastern edge and is popular with walkers and joggers.

On my November 23 visit, I walked the full 10km circuit anti-clockwise, starting at 6:15am. At this time of morning the bird noise was really getting going; a constant which would continue throughout the day was the buzzsaw of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, who seem to be very active in this area. Common species like Masked Lapwing, Noisy Miner and Brushturkey were seen until rounding the first little inlet (“First Inlet” on the map), where a Pale-Headed Rosella flitted through the high branches, and the whipcrack of a Whipbird resonated. The Whipbird in question – bearing the fearlessness sometimes seen in juvenile birds – showed up well soon after, as did an Eastern Yellow Robin. On subsequent visits I’ve confirmed this little spot as very good for birding, with Variegated Fairywren, Lewin’s Honeyeater and more seen in the dense foliage around here.

In general, the reservoir is a great place to see White-Throated Treecreepers, which methodically spiral their way up the tree trunks before swiftly moving to the base of the next tree.

One needs to keep half an eye on the water when visiting Enoggera Reservoir, lest there be an interesting water bird to see; I’ve seen Swamphens, Dusky Moorhens, Little Pied Cormorants, Hardhead and a Comb-Crested Jacana at various times, which aren’t particularly exotic species. Other locations are no doubt better for crakes, rails, snipes and the like.

If you’re keen to go further than the Araucaria area, be prepared for a tough slog on the dirt roads of Reservoir Break, often with minimal views of the enticing cool waters nearby. There are a couple of steep sections on this road which can really take it out of you particularly on a hot day, and not especially much bird life (treecreepers, a few honeyeaters, the odd Black-Faced Cuckooshrike and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo) to keep things interesting. Also there’s no signage so it’s best to know where you’re going beforehand, and keep to the path closest to the water (which will be on your left if travelling anti-clockwise).

On my Nov 23 visit, I did find a huge Lace Monitor industriously flinging material out of a termite nest mid-way up one of the trees on the side of the track, which made for an entertaining spectacle – it was really getting its head right in there.

Once getting into the western section of the reservoir, the vegetation becomes much more dense and lush, and one’s persistence is rewarded. There is a creek line (marked as “rainforest creek” on the map) which can be followed if you’re so inclined – on my November visit, I found a pair of Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo by exploring just a little way up the stony creek bed. This creek line can actually be followed for a long while to the west, and can get very steamy on a warm day, but is notably home to Spectacled Monarchs. There is sort-of a track, though it’s overgrown, and it’s easier to clamber along the creek bed where possible.

Around the corner (from the rainforest creek crossing), there are Rufous Shrikethrush, Red-Browed Finch, more fairywrens, more honeyeaters and even a section which seems home to a group of pinging Bell Miners. One gets the feeling the variety and richness of different trees and bushes is a bit of a bird magnet. Photography isn’t particularly easy here due to the tangles of vegetation; for example, I tried mightily on my Nov 23 visit to photo a Rufous Shrikethrush but still ended up with poor images.

I’ve seen raptors here too: a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle, Pacific Baza, and even a Grey Goshawk, which isn’t a bird you tend to see much.

On my December 2 visit I saw Brown Cuckoo-Dove, a juvenile Fan-Tailed Cuckoo and a Varied Triller in this western section. The cuckoo was a particular highlight, as cuckoo sightings often are.

There is some rainforest here too, particularly along that creek line, and a forest recovery/bushcare program in place. Certainly the western section is a great area to find birds, though – apart from the creekline – opportunities to leave the trail are very limited. The trails that do lead away from the water – which I have explored a little – generally climb up ridge lines, and tend to put you into dry gum forest.

The section of Reservoir Break along the southern edge of the water has terrain which again reverts to undulating dirt road in drier eucalypt forest, and the birding similarly becomes a little less interesting. On my November visit, the biggest highlight along here was a Pacific Emerald Dove, uncommon in Brisbane in my experience, which – like many doves and pigeons – wasn’t keen to be too near and flew off quite quickly once it had seen me. I silently offered it a pact: let me take a half-decent photo and I’ll leave you alone, and it must have read my mind, because I dutifully got my photo through the thick trees and retreated.

At the end of the circuit, just south of the dam wall, things get a bit weird. You can return to the roads (some official websites name Payne Rd as the exit point, which leaves you quite inconveniently far from Walkabout Creek car park); the other better option is to press through, skirt a wire fence and somehow end up sort of inside that SEQ Water property before exiting its gate and passing through the bus interchange and up into the car park and Walkabout Creek building again. There is a lofty viewing spot along this last section where you can look out onto the dam wall, which is about the only place where you can see it up close.

It took me altogether too long to visit Enoggera Reservoir, but my two visits cemented it in my mind as a worthy location to see interesting birds in Brisbane. As the crow flies it’s actually only 3.5km from the prestigious hotspot of Gold Creek Reservoir (and in theory you could actually hike between them, though I’m not sure how practical that actually is…). The mostly flat Araucaria track is heavily visited by both birders and recreational walkers and runners, and is well worth your time (I even saw a Spectacled Monarch here in a mid-2021 visit); it also has great signage and a few seats to plonk down on. Then, if you have the endurance (or a bicycle, perhaps), the slog out to the western end of the reservoir hosts many birding delights.

Hotspots: Enoggera Reservoir (154 species), Araucaria Circuit (196 species)
Nearby: Bellbird Grove (152 species)
Checklists for these visits: Nov 23 (35 species), Dec 2 (36 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ All sorts of bird species are possible to find here
+ Walking is pleasant on the flat parts, with accompanying azure blue waters
+ Good facilities at and near the Walkabout Creek area
– Hard slog on steep dirt roads to get to the western side
– Can get very busy especially on weekends
– No facilities or signage outside the eastern section

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