Thylogale Track, Dec 2020-Feb 2021

Summary: Lovely 8km track with decent rainforest birds and occasional scenic views

Dates of visit: Dec 19, 2020 and Feb 28, 2021

Like Maiala Track at Mt Glorious, the Thylogale Track, which runs between Jolly’s Lookout and the Boombana picnic ground, offers very good rainforest birding. It has the advantage of being much less trafficked than Maiala Track, and depending where you live, it may be closer for you to get to.

Not that it is all that easy. You’ll still have to drive up 15km of windy roads from The Gap, being careful to avoid keen lycra-clad early morning bike riders. There is a reasonably-sized car park at Jolly’s Lookout which is where you should aim to park.

The main track is 8km return and starts down the road from the car park (where the Jolly’s Lookout turn off is); from here is also a smaller loop you can do called the Egernia Circuit which is only 1.5km. It is all well sign-posted.

On my first visit on Dec 19, I had left Brisbane with the promise of blue skies and warm hiking; upon ascending to the track start point, though, it was clear it was going to be very foggy for a while. Nevertheless it added to the atmosphere; I would have to wait until I returned to see what the view was like from Jolly’s Lookout, several hours later.

The first hundred metres of the Thylogale Track had me thinking “Oh no – blanket Bell Miner territory”, with their characteristic sonar-pinging echoing through the trees, but their dominion isn’t really that large, and they have plenty of competition from other birds in the area, like thornbills and robins. There is also occasional human-made noise competition (mainly on weekends) when the harsh growl of motorbikes can be heard on the nearby road – the dim roar diminishes as you proceed deeper into the track.

Soon after the Bell Miner thicket, I saw a juvenile Whipbird, a Rufous Fantail and a couple of other small birds being very vocal low down on the edge of the track, and I caught a tiny glimpse of a snake tail disappearing into the brush. They paid absolutely no heed to me, so intent were they on driving the snake away. It was an interesting example of different species colluding for a common goal.

Just like Mt Glorious, there are Red-Necked Pademelons here. Unlike Mt Glorious, there are fewer Whipbirds, and very few logrunners and thrushes. But there are a lot of other rainforest/dense forest birds, like Large-Billed Scrubwren, Golden Whistlers and even Black-Faced Monarch and Paradise Riflebird.

The long stretch of more-or-less rainforest track, which traverses along the broad hillside, has a couple of excellent points where it opens a little to reveal the view; the fog had mostly dissipated by then. I saw Wompoo Fruit Dove and a male Satin Bowerbird here.

After that, the forest dries up a little and on my Dec 19 visit, the buzz of cicadas became louder and louder, until it was reaching industrial, ear-splitting levels. It really was quite something, but fortunately was reasonably localised to one section.

Once through that section, I found a White-Headed Pigeon, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo and a Brown Cuckoo-Dove.

The ridge then curves inward and returns to its “traversing a ridge” feel, with some larger darker green trees (not sure of what they are… maybe Hoop Pines), and it was here I found a female Paradise Riflebird.

After watching that bird for a while and seeing another Pademelon and a few Rainbow Lorikeets (there were still plenty of Golden Whistler calls happening too), I then observed a Lewin’s Honeyeater get itself wrapped up in a spiderweb that it was rummaging through, which was pretty amusing. You can’t fault Lewin’s Honeyeater for putting all its energy into everything they do; I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen them chase each other at speed through the forest.

At the other end of the track, in the Boombana section of the National Park, is the “Pitta Circuit”, named after the Noisy Pitta bird that you’d count yourself very lucky to see (anywhere, let alone here!). I didn’t see or hear one.

The circuit features a huge Strangler Fig tree which a wooden boardwalk encircles. There’s also a minimal picnic ground setting, good for a short drink and snack stop.

On the way back, I had a couple of very memorable encounters. The first was a White-Browed Scrubwren, who hopped up on a branch on the side of the track for an awesome photo; I knew as I was snapping it that it would be good, so close and clear was the bird, with the background far enough away to blur out nicely. I’m always filled with gratitude when these small flitty birds alight long enough for a cracker photo – if only they knew! Soon after that, I spied a skink that had nabbed a rather large spider – another very obliging and very different photographic subject.

The birds sightings kept coming at a steady pace, despite that it was after 10am, with the vivid colour of a Crimson Rosella next to be seen.

Now, there are a few Rufous Fantails to be seen on Thylogale Track, but I made a short side-track exploration down “South Boundary Road”, the only intersection with any other trail or road along here, and I swear I saw at least half a dozen more Rufous Fantails down there. Being a simple dirt “fire trail”-style road (and quite steep), it isn’t perhaps as appealing as the main track, but I found it worth a peek for the birds.

One of the nicest things about my Dec 19 visit to this area was finding more birds – and of different species, at that – on the return half of the trail. Oftentimes I find as the morning draws on at a birding site, the bird calls and sightings tend to lessen; this is perhaps less true of rainforest. In any case, I managed to see a beautiful King Parrot, a Green Catbird with a berry in its bill, and I even glimpsed a Pacific Emerald Dove on the ground as I ambled back towards Jolly’s Lookout. The sight of two mating Bell Miners (on a branch right out in the open, oh the shamelessness!) was the icing on the cake at the very end.

For the Feb 28, 2021 visit, I had a couple of birding friends in tow and I was keen (well, hoping a lot, actually, as I had talked up the site!) to see if this trip would live up to the previous one. Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robin, Spangled Drongo, and Rainbow Lorikeets were all in attendance, but the morning kicked into a higher gear at about 8am with a good sighting of a juvenile Black-Faced Monarch, and then a Wompoo Fruit Dove in all its colourful glory.

A Brown Cuckoo-Dove followed soon after, then the birding nirvana continued as a female Paradise Riflebird and a couple of Regent Bowerbirds (one juvenile) flew in to start madly feeding on berries in the same section of track. They weren’t bothered by us in the slightest. A Crested Shriketit also appeared in join in the mayhem.

We didn’t quite end up hiking the full track this time, but all and sundry were well satisfied with the morning’s birding. Being a weekend, there were a few more people walking the trail, but it was not so busy as to be any sort of problem.

Thylogale Track, along with the bonus Egernia and Pitta Circuits at either end, offer a substantial morning’s walking and birding in the serenity of the rainforest. Most rainforest bird species that you might see in South-East Queensland are present here though a little patience and persistence might be required to find some of them compared to, say, Maiala Track at Mt Glorious. But it is less busy than that location, and for most Brisbanites, easier to reach.

Hotspot: Thylogale Track (111 species), Boombana (122 species)
Nearby: Mt Nebo (110 species), Manorina Track (106 species)
Checklists for these visits: 19 Dec 2020 (27 species), 28 Feb 2021 (34 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Great selection of rainforest birds
+ Excellent alternative to the busy Maiala Tracks at Mt Glorious
+ Pleasant lush track with occasional scenic views
– Single there-and-back track only with few possibilities for side tracks
– Some desirable rainforest birds might be missing

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