Summary: Country back road birding at its finest
Dates of visit: Jan 1, 2 and 10, 2021
Mosquito Creek Road lies off the Cunningham Highway directly north of Coolmunda Dam, around 3 hours west of Brisbane. At first glance it may appear like a regular, nondescript country road, but it has a well-deserved reputation as a top birding spot, and an all-time eBird species count (209) that easily eclipses anything in the region.
The birding starts as soon as you turn onto Mosquito Creek Road (sometimes known as MCR). On my first visit here on Jan 1, I saw a group of Grey-Crowned Babblers entertainingly foraging right near the corner, then soon after spotted an Emu in the nearby paddock. A top start!
A Crow, a few Little Corellas, a group of Apostlebirds, and some Galahs flying across all made it clear that this was going to be a good morning’s birding.
The road is unsealed and is long and straight, and best explored patiently on foot (unless you are madly twitching from a car window just to count species, I suppose…) There’s no official car parking or even any particularly decent spots to park, so just pull over where it seems best.
The road is lined with bushes and trees which is where many birds can be found (here I saw common species Crested Pigeon, Magpie-Lark, and both Noisy Miner and Common Myna), while the fenceline provides opportunities for Superb and Purple-Backed Fairywren, Plum-Headed Finch and other grass birds. (White-Winged Fairywren are also commonly seen here, but I did not see any, sadly).
On the ground I saw a few juvenile Magpies and a Pipit, then up in the trees again two Greater Bluebonnets – the latter seemed like hard birds to photograph, they were very skittish, but looked gorgeous with the blue on their heads and bright red bellies. It was the first time I had seen this bird, so it was a bit exciting…
Red-Rumped Parrots foraged on the ground and also perched on the fencelines.
The diversity of birds here is astounding; you never know what will show up next. A Speckled Warbler was a case in point! Gradually however, the sightings started to peter out as I walked further up the road. The morning light wasn’t super-conducive to good photography, as it shines in from the east right behind many trees and the most interesting fenceline.
I returned to the car, which was parked only a few hundred metres from the corner of the highway, and then slowly drove north, noting the iridescent plumage of a Straw-Necked Ibis in the fields.
A few kilometres up Mosquito Creek Road finds plenty of forest about, and I stopped for a little while at a random spot to see what I could find. Fencelines prevented exploration into the forest, so it was a case of waiting around on the road and listening. A Rainbow Bee-Eater, Brown Honeyeater and Rufous Whistler were present and the latter two quite vocal, but it was a glimpse of a Restless Flycatcher that stole the show, with its satiny plumage visible through the tangle of tree growth. I never managed completely unobscured shots of the bird, but good enough to get a look at it catching and devouring a moth.
At 8.3km from the highway, the road takes its second slight turn and this is a good place to stop as it is now the official Devine State Forest and on this little corner is a small waterhole. Like the Durikai State Forest waterholes, this draws birds looking for a drink, especially on the hotter days.
A male White-Winged Triller was among the first birds I spotted here; it seemed intent to hang around the waterhole as it was there the entire 40 minutes or so I lingered. The female, a lighter and browner bird, also showed up.
I admired a very well-constructed mud nest (possibly Magpie-Lark or Willie Wagtail), as well as a lovely male Leaden Flycatcher. Their heads are so shiny when they’re in the sun, just magical.
I don’t know how many four wheel drive vehicles frequent this forest but the road trail network around this waterhole looked pretty well used. Maybe it’s just the rangers; it’s not due to birders, that’s for sure, as there’s only a handful of eBird checklists from here… it’s well-kept secret.
Seeing a Striped Honeyeater as well as Yellow-Faced and a Scarlet (heard, at least) started to bring back positive honeyeater-related memories of the Durikai waterholes (which I’d been to just the day before).
A Black-Faced Cuckooshrike and some more Grey-Crowned Babblers were the last birds seen before finishing up for the morning.
On Jan 2 I was passing past Mosquito Creek Road on my way back to Brisbane, so stopped in again to see what was about. This proved to be a shorter visit (30 minutes) instead of the previous day’s luxurious two hour stay.
A Rufous Songlark was the first notable bird spotted, fortunately giving a look at its rust-coloured rump which helps distinguish the bird from Brown Songlark or female White-Winged Triller.
Grey-Crowned Babblers were also reliable, both in their presence and in their antics. Their black eye masks give them a serious look which is totally at odds with the jaunty way they gad about. I could watch them all day!
There were more Galahs here than yesterday, their blush pink standing out against the dry green fields.
The fencelines were also productive, with much better views of Plum-Headed Finch than the day before (and again a count of four of these birds).
Superb Fairywren sat obediently on the fence, while a Yellow-Rumped Thornbill made a very quick fence stop as well – a good thing too, because there may well have been many more of them in the grass beyond the fence, but it was difficult to spot them there.
The second visit – brief as it was – proved that Mosquito Creek Road was certainly no one-hit wonder.
On Jan 10 I returned again, and this time there were Cockatiels foraging on the ground near the corner of Mosquito Creek Road and the highway, both males and females (the males have a much more distinct yellow around their red cheek patch). I counted 10 in total, all very charming birds.
Red-Rumped Parrots were also present, and one of the pair of Bluebonnets was kind enough to land on the barbed wire fence for an eye-level photo opp (thanks, Bluebonnet!) The bright splashes of colour on this otherwise grey-ish bird are really quite something.
Having large grassy paddocks and fields around of course gives a chance of seeing other animals than birds, and one such was a cute Swamp Wallaby.
Fairywrens were found in groups up and down the road again, and the Plum-Headed Finches were similarly reliable. The fenceline photography of fairywrens and finches definitely puts one in mind of Oxley Cree Common.
I only recorded two Apostlebirds on this visit but others were probably about.
This visit also included another quick stop at the Devine State Forest waterhole, where the Striped Honeyeater was again foraging, and I even spotted its intricately-woven hanging nest, suspended above the water. Bird nests can be such fascinating things.
The White-Winged Trillers were there again too, as was Restless Flycatcher. Good to see some reliability in the sightings.
Mosquito Creek Road is well worth a visit; it is the premier birding hotspot in the region especially for forest and grassland birds. Water birds do fly over but are better observed at nearby Coolmunda Dam. Being a dry gravel road, it isn’t particularly inspiring natural scenery, though it has its moments when the glow of the sun strikes the golden fields just so… and you might fear for your life if a truck comes thundering past trailing plumes of dust behind it (as does happen). It really is just a boring old country road – except for the exceptional array of birds to be found.
Pluses and minuses:
+ Great selection of birds
+ Some good fenceline and photographic encounters possible
+ More to see further up the road at Devine State Forest
– Just a country road 🙂
– Very linear, private property on both sides restricts exploration