Bellbird Grove, Feb 2021

Summary: Nice little spot with a few tracks and decent variety of birds

Dates of visit: Feb 26, 2021

Bellbird Grove, part of the D’Aguilar National Park west of Brisbane and a few kilometres up Mt Nebo Rd from Enoggera Reservoir, held a special allure for me when I first started making a systematic catalogue of birding hotspots in 2019. This was because for a long time the site was closed, yet its species count in eBird suggested that it had once been a good birding site. So when it re-opened in 2021, I went and had a look.

Getting there is pretty simple, just turn off Mt Nebo Road onto Bellbird Grove Road, with the main parking and picnic area about 1.7km in. Here is also where Cedar Creek runs through, and several tracks can be accessed. I started on the Turrbal Circuit Track, which is about 1.2km through quite dense forest following the creek line.

An Eastern Yellow Robin was a welcome first bird sighting, then I saw Brown Thornbills, Variegated Fairywrens and a White-Throated Honeyeater. It was tough trying to get good shots as the light was low (it was about 6:15am, half an hour after sunrise), but I persisted. It is nice hearing the birds calling in the early morning even if you can’t always see them.

As the light gradually increased I saw a juvenile Olive-Backed Oriole and a Pied Currawong.

I was close to the point where Turrbal Circuit Track meets the turnoff to Golden Boulder Circuit (most of which is on the other side of the road), when I had the encounter of the day, with a Grey Fantail posing in some lovely light and not too far off eye level. I took a bunch of snaps which I was super happy with, and tried to remind myself that these flitty fantails are often much harder to get good photos of!

The Golden Boulder Circuit has quite a different feel, as it is mainly dry eucalypt forest and has scatterings of historical information and artefacts (such as a small hut!). All well and good, but I was looking for birds, and the drier forest didn’t provide many for quite a while.

A pair of juvenile Black-Faced Monarchs broke the drought; it is always a pleasure to see any sort of monarch. I also nearly walked headlong into the (occupied!) web of a Jewel Spider. These are also known as Christmas Spiders and are pretty fascinating to see up close.

Another Brown Thornbill appeared and as I neared the road (and hence the creek line) again a female Leaden Flycatcher and White-Naped Honeyeater came by as well. The bird sightings were definitely getting frequent enough to keep me interested now, and I then saw a Spectacled Monarch, again a juvenile (like the Black-Faced juveniles, lacking the dark face colouring of the adults), and then a female Cicadabird. Quite a species roster!

I was now where the Turrbal Circuit crosses the creek near Bellbird Grove Road – at a spot I have called “The Nexus” on the map. The creek’s running water here seemed to be attracting birds; perhaps it was a regular watering hole, despite being so close to the road. I stood here for quite and saw a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo arrive, as well as Lewin’s and Yellow-Faced Honeyeaters. It was a little weird standing there spotting all these birds by this delightful little brook with four wheel drives and other vehicles racing around the corner every few minutes.

Back at the car park/picnic ground area there were – bizarrely – a couple of guys practising bagpipes, as well as birds you’d regularly find on open parkland – Magpies and Masked Lapwings, for example.

I returned to the AS1 Track (also called AS1 Break on Google Maps) section of this area in September 2021, on the lookout for a Spotted Quail-Thrush (or two!). I hesitate to mention this as it seems like a bit of a secret that there is a pair of Spotted Quail-Thrush in the area, but birders keen to find this species only have to look at eBird records to discover they are regularly seen here, so I suppose it is public knowledge. In any case, I tried my luck – it would be my first lifer bird in the Brisbane area for many months if I could find it. I parked at the entrance to the AS1 Track, which is basically just a dirt turn-off from Bellbird Grove Road, where there is a gate and a little sign. I walked the whole length of AS1 Track, quite slowly, listening for the high long peep of Quail-Thrush but instead seeing only small numbers of honeyeaters in the gum trees.

Finally when I returned to near the gate entrance, I heard the sound I had been straining for and soon after caught sight of a Quail-Thrush. And very camouflaged they are, too!

I followed the bird quietly at a distance, losing sight of it repeatedly then picking up the movement again as it foraged in the dry grasses along the roadside. Finally both birds (male and female) popped out onto the road for a while! It made me feel foolish for hiking up and down the AS1 Track – I should have just stayed near the road…

Finally – bizarrely – a firetruck came barrelling through (yes, really) and that scared the Quail-Thrush off in a big way and I didn’t pick them up again. Still, I felt flushed with success at having seen this rather cryptic bird.

Bellbird Grove is a worthy little birding hotspot which features a good, though short, creek circuit as well as a network of other trails. I believe you can link up to Ross Road Park in Upper Kedron as well as exploring the various other “breaks” here, though I suspect most of them are like AS1 Break in that they traverse drier, less bird-rich bush. The picnic area has most facilities you could want including many picnic tables, toilets and ample parking. Though the birds I observed here were not huge in number, I happily spotted a good variety of species – any day you see two species of monarch and a Cicadabird is a good day in my book!

Hotspot: Brisbane Forest Park–Bellbird Grove (155 species)
Checklist for this visit: 26 Feb 2021 (24 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Good variety of birds to be found, especially a few good denser-forest species
+ Great facilities, grassed picnic areas and well-maintained track network
+ Resident Spotted Quail-Thrush pair in the vicinity
– Best spots are near the road, where cars can easily scare off birds
– The best trail (Turrbal Circuit) can be quite challenging for observation and photography
– Many tracks of the standard dry eucalypt forest type

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