Kedron Brook Wetlands, Jan-Oct 2021

Summary: Bush, mangroves, grasses and lagoons provide a variety of birds in a location quite close to Brisbane city

Dates of visit: Jan 14, Mar 14, Oct 5 2021

Kedron Book Wetlands is a sprawling patchwork of wetlands, grasslands, creek and bush just 10km north-east of the Brisbane CBD. It lies wedged in between three major highways, with the eponymous Kedron Brook running through it.

The highways mean parking and access is something of an issue. One spot that is sometimes used is off the edge of the roundabout at the end of Toombul Road, where there is a grassy verge that can fit a couple of vehicles. It’s very unofficial, and I have avoided it. If you do use it, don’t block the gate that leads down to the wetlands.

The two main alternatives lie to the west of Kedron Brook Wetlands, in the area by the Virginia United Football Club just off Nudgee Road, which has plenty of capacity (though avoid game day!), as well as the parking bay at the very end of Hedley Avenue, which has space for a couple of dozen vehicles and is frequently used by cyclists. The club fields and surrounds is collectively called Albert Bishop Park, and is worth a birding stroll on a quiet day. The walk from either of these car parks to the main part of Kedron Brook Wetlands affords some good birding opportunities; see below. As alternatives to car transport, you could also go by bike (there are good bikeways providing access) or (if you’re willing to do extra walking) by train, with Northgate and Nundah stations a couple of kilometres away.

Speaking of cycling and biking… this whole area is something of a mecca for the two-wheelers. Where the Hedley Avenue car parking is, there is a bike loop called the Criterium Circuit, and every morning finds it full of riders whizzing around. Separately but close to that, the “Jim Soorley Bikeway” runs for quite a distance along the edge of Kedron Brook and forms the main thoroughfare for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s quite busy, so you’ll need to watch out if you happen to fall into a reverie watching a bird or two, and step off the path.

Jan 14 Visit

My first visit was three months after I rode through on my bike-birding expedition to Boondall Wetlands. I had promised myself to return, and return I did!

The stroll in from the west side of Kedron Brook was quite pleasant, with a few Little Corellas and Rainbow Lorikeets about, and the sounds of many Tawny Grassbirds floating over the tall grasses. A juvenile Chestnut Mannikin was glimpsed through the vegetation and I looked forward to getting a better look at these birds.

I started on the main loop (marked in orange, 2.5km around) that goes around the wetlands, adopting a clockwise direction. There are mangroves and trees on the left in this direction, and with much patience I eventually got some shots of one of the Mangrove Gerygones that were flitting about in that habitat. The map above also shows several side trails to the south-west of the main lagoon, but these are simply mown strips, that peter out into swamp and mud as they near the water. There is no fixed lagoon border, as it grows and shrinks with the seasons and rainfall. If you are determined to get close to the water birds (Pied Stilts being by far the most numerous, I counted 70!), be prepared to get your feet waterlogged or mud-logged.

The grassy strips are excellent habitats to find and photograph Tawny Grassbirds, Golden-Headed Cisticolas and Red-Backed Fairywren. There are also Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin about, but they can sometimes be difficult to get closer to. The best encounters I had this first visit were definitely with Tawny Grassbird.

Rounding the corner and making my way up the western edge of the wetlands, the highway traffic noise started to become annoying, but there were plenty of birds at least: Superb Fairywren, Willie Wagtail, and a close encounter with a female Leaden Flycatcher, while the Gerygones were still present too. This part of the loop is gravel and there are very few people or cyclists – they’re all on the paved path that runs along the eastern side of the wetlands.

This western side (near the roundabout and its unofficial parking mentioned above) is a good spot to get close to the water without getting muddy.

Here was a good chance to see Pied Stilts a bit nearer, with Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks and other water birds in small numbers too. Sandpipers, Grey Teal and Black Swan are also commonly reported on eBird. Aircraft from nearby Brisbane Airport can be seen taking off or landing across the water.

The top end of the orange walking loop featured Bar-Shouldered Doves and further around, in the smaller lagoons, more Pied Stilts and some Chestnut Teal. When I first started birding I assumed Chestnut Teals were quite common, being a standard kind of duck, but I’ve since found that – while I wouldn’t say they are rare – they are infrequently seen.

There is plenty of swampy mangrove-y tangles on this north-eastern corner of the orange loop, and if you have patience and luck there is a chance to see the more skulking birds (like rails and crakes). I was lucky enough to spy a Buff-Banded Rail.

The paved path is a bit of a slog along the eastern side without many side trails to explore. I kept an eye on the brook to my left but it wasn’t until almost completing the loop that I had more good bird encounters, finally getting shots of the adult Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin, while crows and Superb Fairywrens and more Tawny Grassbirds all reappeared.

On the way back to Albert Bishop Park I found a Willie Wagtail swooping a Great Egret (at close quarters, I might add).

Within the park there was a Little Friarbird, probably in the most urban of environments I’ve seen this bird, and soon after I came across a pair of magpies, not quite in adult colours, which were behaving very strangely. One was lying on the ground and the other was attending to it, fussing around and prodding it in what I took to be a non-aggressive manner. My first thought was that the magpie on the ground was injured; neither of them moved off when I approached. When I moved away again, the lying-down magpie got up and walked off. Most peculiar.

While exploring the (largely devoid of people) nooks and crannies of Albert Bishop Park (which has a small cemetery), I found a Sacred Kingfisher, and more magpies. I took a portrait shot of one of the maggies, which has subsequently become my favourite magpie photo, due to showing a little feather sheen on the back, an almost “painted on” look behind the head, and of course showcasing that hefty beak.

The last bird I saw was a Noisy Miner having a sand-and-sun bath in the dry grit at the side of the car park. Overall it was a good visit with a nice spread of birds and 25 species counted in the main Kedron Brook Wetlands area, with some bonuses at Albert Bishop Park (another good reason to park there).

Mar 14: A Quick Black-Necked Stork Diversion

On occasion the mighty Black-Necked Stork visits Brisbane; the most common areas to find it are the larger wetlands of Tinchi Tamba, Eagleby Wetlands (or nearby), and here at Kedron Brook Wetlands. This bird, Australia’s only stork species, truly towers over most other birds, and is often called a Jabiru, which is actually a Brazilian name referring to a totally different species occurring in South and Central America. Go figure.

On March 14 a birding buddy and I dropped in to see one at midday, having heard reports it was in the area. Sure enough the Black-Necked Stork was foraging actively in the main lagoon, but also getting severely hassled by some of the 135 Pied Stilts we counted.

A Chestnut Teal pair and Whistling Kite were the other highlights of this whirlwind stop.

Oct 5 Visit

My next major visit to Kedron Brook Wetlands was the same kind of classic loop: park at the Hedley Avenue car park, walk under the highway and follow the orange loop clockwise. This time a pair of Pacific Baza were seen in isolated trees along the paved cycleway: a good and slightly unexpected start!

Golden-Headed Cisticolas seemed much more numerous than the Tawny Grassbirds this time (though not as ubiquitous as at Atkinson Damthat would be quite a feat), and Chestnut-Breasted Mannikin were in similar small numbers as before in the grasses.

A handsome-looking Pipit was a nice surprise in the drier shorter grass areas.

At this time of year – at the end of the dry winter months – the main lagoon had shrunk quite a lot so I fancied my chances of getting some close-up shots of Pied Stilts and the half dozen or so Red-Capped Plovers I could see in the distance. After traversing one of the “mown strips” towards the main lagoon, the ground underfoot became dry mud, but before I could get too close to the Plovers the mud became sticky and wet, so I aborted. I did however gain a wide mirror shot of the Pied Stilts which I was happy with.

I am not sure what attracts raptors to this area, especially Ospreys (perhaps the wide nearby brook rather than the half-dry lagoon), but there were two majestically flying in tandem.

The mangrove-lined creek at the top end of the orange loop yielded Mangrove Honeyeater, while alongside the brook a Rufous Whistler called out to another whistler on the other side of the river.

Shortly after a small flock of Fairy Martins swooped over the brook, and then I watched a couple of guys going through what looked like a crab net by the creek, not realising until the last minute that a Brahminy Kite was literally right above me.

This second major visit provided 43 species, a very respectable total, and somehow I had whiled away nearly 5 hours there.

All in all, Kedron Brook Wetlands is a decent place to go birding. It is not an especially serene location, with three highways and the airport all bordering it, and there’s no creature comforts in the way of bench seats, bird hides or any such shelters. (A bird hide here would make a lot of sense!). Nevertheless, it is remarkable to be able to find such avian variety – including Black-Necked Stork – in this proximity to Brisbane city. The paths provide easy walking giving access to the perimeter, with the going getting a bit dodgy (depending on time of year) if you venture closer in to the swampy water areas.

Hotspot: Kedron Brook Wetlands (207 species), Albert Bishop Park (112 species)
Nearby: Boondall Wetlands (204 species)
Checklists for these visits: Jan 14 2021(25 species), Oct 5 2021 (43 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Bush, mangroves, grasses and lagoons provide a variety of birds
+ Good for Pied Stilt, Black-Necked Stork, Mangrove Gerygone and Mangrove Honeyeater, and grass birds
+ Easy 2.5km loop track plus some dodgier side trails for the adventurous
– Traffic noise from nearby highway and airport
– Have to watch out for cyclists and foot traffic
– No bird hide, seats, shelters etc
– Can be difficult to get close to the main lagoon

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