Cliveden Reserve, Jan 2021

Summary: Decent enough for birds, but no comparison to adjacent Oxley Creek Common

Dates of visit: Jan 26, 2021

Cliveden Reserve lies in Corinda on Brisbane’s south side. Its northern end is adjacent to (and across the creek from) the Secret Forest section of the illustrious birding mega-post Oxley Creek Common… so it should be pretty good, you’d think, right?

There is a 2km flat grass/dirt walking circuit containing remnant bushland (well cared for by a local bushcare group) which is best accessed from the end of Cliveden Ave (off the main north-south drag of Oxley Rd). There isn’t much at the start of the walking trail, just a sign and a little gazebo – in fact it can be hard to spot where the circuit actually begins. Once found, though, the vibe is basically fenceline on one side and bush (and nearby creek) on the other. I set off at 6:20am.

A Grey Butcherbird and a Channel-Billed Cuckoo were among the first birds I saw (the latter flying overhead), then I got onto a Cattle Egret strutting fabulously through the grass. Cattle Egrets are a truly global bird and were first found in Australia in 1948, having spread down from Asia. This one was in full breeding colour, with orange-brown covering its head – out of season they are all snowy white.

A tad more exciting was the next sighting, a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle sitting serenely on one of the trees along the creek. It didn’t move much while I watched it, admiring its sheer size and imperious demeanour.

I saw another Cattle Egret accompanying a horse (some of the paddocks that the track curls around are part of a pony club), and some Wood Ducks. In fact I saw two dozen Wood Ducks all up.

A female Figbird and a White Ibis chilling out on a bare branch were next.

Rounding the circuit into the northern half of the reserve, I saw a few more birds: Lewin’s Honeyeaters, Bar-Shouldered Doves, a White-Browed Scrubwren, a Red-Browed Finch and a Brown Honeyeater. Nothing earth-shattering, but the main problem was the morning light: when facing the bush line or creek along most of the circuit, you’re almost always looking into the sun, and it’s hard to make out birds from silhouettes and hence even more challenging to get good photos or make ready identifications.

I found a bit more interest along the north-west latter part of the loop, with more promising fenceline and trees, and I was treated to a close encounter with one of four Double-Barred Finches who chose to merrily forage around on the ground for a while under the trees – in full sunlight. This encounter definitely rescued what was fast becoming a hum-drum birding expedition. Dare I say it, it was a rather Oxley Creek Common Moment.

Variegated and Red-Backed Fairywrens as well as Black-Faced Cuckooshrike rounded out this area and I was perilously close to getting a neat photo of the male Variegated Fairywren – I think of them as the hardest to capture, as they tend to prefer more dense foliage than the other fairywrens.

The last good encounter on the main circuit was a Spangled Drongo almost right above me; its feathers looked a little worn.

I eventually returned to my starting point at the end of Cliveden Ave, to find that the Channel-Billed Cuckoo from earlier (presumably the same bird) was perched and calling from a high gum tree, so I spent some time watching it. I had picked up a total of 30 species in just under two and a half hours.

The patch of open ground here also leads out to a pontoon on the creek, and is also adjacent to Corinda golf course. With the full summer sun now out in force I didn’t linger too long, though it was pleasant enough back in the open starting area again.

Cliveden Reserve has a good number of the ingredients to be a decent birding location, but it definitely lacks the pizzazz of nearby Oxley Creek Common, which I couldn’t help mentally comparing it to. There aren’t any facilities except a couple of bits and pieces at the start, and most of it feels like you’re sandwiched between unkempt bushland and cattle/horse-rich farmland. This location is a classic case of “pretty good for birds” but not much good for “great photographic opportunities” or “really interesting scenery”.

Hotspot: Cliveden Reserve (149 species)
Checklist for this visit: Jan 26 (30 species)
Nearby: Sherwood Arboretum (167 species), Oxley Creek Common (224 species), Archerfield Wetlands (137 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Pretty good birds
+ Less visitors than nearby Oxley Creek Common
+ Has a kayak pontoon (though so does OCC!)
– Hard to see birds through thick vegetation which is typically backlit by morning sun
– Generally unremarkable scenery and trail
– Single track, no side trails or exploration possibilities

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