Summary: Large beach good for waders and Osprey, with creek exploration options for the more adventurous
Dates of visit: Feb 26 and Oct 24, 2021
Replace “sun, surf and sand” with “sun, mud and wading birds” and you describe Nudgee Beach at low tide in a nutshell. It’s an expansive area with widescreen vistas and in summertime teems with wader birds, terns, egrets and the odd surprise.
The Tabbil-ban dhagun boardwalk was covered in a previous Boondall Wetlands post (where Nudgee Beach town was described as “like a typical little Aussie seaside town lifted out and dropped onto the edge of Brisbane”). This post covers the beach, with a Nudgee Creek/Nundah Creek canoeing/birding outing also included.
The beach can be accessed by driving to the end of either Oquinn St or Fortitude St, each of which provides a modest amount of car parking. One is advised to wear some kind of sandflats-appropriate footwear – thongs or crocs or similar plastic sandals would be best; and of course you’ll need to go at low tide (or approaching low tide) to see the wading birds.
Thousands of scuttling crabs – probably Blue Soldier Crabs – provide a little danger underfoot to watch out for.
A couple of Torresian Crows hanging out on the sand reminded us of their adaptable scavengey nature, while Little Egrets foraged in the shallow pools of water left by the retreating tide. Pied Oystercatchers picked among the mangrove roots sticking up closer to the land.
A hunting Caspian Tern provided some entertainment, though we didn’t see it successfully catch anything. There were Little Terns around too.
You really can see a long, long way up and down the coast once you get right out onto the sand, from the cranes and stacked shipping containers to the south, to the Shorncliffe Pier, Redcliffe Bridge and even the volcanic mounds of the Glasshouse Mountains far to the north.
Horse-riders, dog-walkers and various other people were enjoying the sunny (if windy) afternoon; dogs in particular will easily frighten off a group of wader birds. Generally we found the largest groups of shorebirds congregating close to the open water. Whimbrels, Eastern Curlew, Bar-Tailed Godwits, a couple of Great Knots and some diminutive Lesser Sand-Plovers were all present.
One of our reasons for heading to Nudgee Beach was to find a Pacific Golden Plover, a migratory wader bird that had eluded us all (three regular birders from this blog) thus far in our birding adventures. They were however not difficult to find here, in fact we ended up counting 15 of them, and with persistence we were able to quietly creep close enough for reasonable photos and witness their golden colours shining wonderfully in the sun. We also found a single Curlew Sandpiper mixed in as well, given away by its down-curved bill.
A Crested Tern was having better luck than the Caspian Terns, nabbing itself a very juicy fish from the network of shallow waters.
There was a Pied Cormorant flyover, and then a few Whimbrels also took flight, giving more opportunities for bird-in-flight shots and also to appreciate the many thousands of kilometres these migratory birds will travel in a couple of months once they head back to points far north.
Nudgee Beach lacks the obvious focal point of, say, a walk across to an island that Wellington Point has; it’s more a case of wander around on the sand following whatever takes your fancy.
Once almost back at the mangrove-lined high-tide mark, a White Ibis provided the unexpected photographic moment of the day (well, at least for one of us…), with the slanting afternoon sun making what might have been a mediocre image into something a little more special.
A super quick look at the bird hide revealed another Eastern Curlew, and the final notable bird of the day was a Black-Faced Cuckooshrike on the side of the track between the bird hide and the car park.
On October 24 2021 two of us returned with a plan to explore some of the creeks in the area via our trusty old fibreglass canoe (veteran of a memorable Oxley Creek Common canoe trip). Nudgee Creek, where you “put in”, passes behind Nudgee Beach township, but you can then “portage” (carry/drag the vessel) about a hundred metres across dry land to nearby Nundah Creek, which runs through a section of Boondall Wetlands that is otherwise largely inaccessible.
We took quite some time getting the canoe into the water, because we were distracted by a flock of twenty White-throated Needletails swarming and zipping about right above the boat ramp area. We looked hard, but alas, there seemed to be no Pacific Swifts present (that being, ahem, a lifer bird for one of us should we find it…).
A couple of Rainbow Bee-Eaters, a Torresian Kingfisher and a few other birds also competed for attention. Then it was down to the awkward process of getting the boat into the water, not helped by the tide not yet being quite high.
Once we had portaged across to Nundah Creek, the stars of the show were Striated Herons and Mangrove Gerygones. The muddy waters and mangroves may not aesthetically appeal to everyone, but they are fine enough for a bit of birding if you grow bored of walking through forest…
As we slowly paddled toward the river mouth at Shorncliffe, Mangrove Honeyeaters were heard and then seen in the mangroves, while a Brahminy Kite and a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle soared above, perhaps themselves also following the creek line. The Needletails were also briefly seen again, presumably the same group.
At Shorncliffe we pulled up alongside the rather pleasant Yundah St boat ramp to give our legs a stretch, while also admiring some Pelicans on the pylons and floating groups of White Ibis in the sky. Osprey and a probable Whistling Kite provided raptor entertainment, and we also saw a Dollarbird in flight. It is quite an open area of water here with a few comings-and-goings of various water craft but a mostly relaxed seaside vibe.
We made the decision to paddle towards the ocean, to see if we could make it all the way around to Shorncliffe Pier. This almost proved our undoing, with criss-crossing waves threatening to capsizing us (and what would have been worse, ruining our camera gear), but fortunately the buffeting didn’t tip us over!
As we neared Shorncliffe Pier plenty of the usual bird residents could be seen – Silver Gulls, Crested Terns and Pied Cormorants most prominently, as well as an Osprey tearing into its fishy meal on one of the wooden piles. I think even the Osprey couldn’t believe how close we were drifting to it, and we kept clicking our shutter buttons even as the bird grew huge in the viewfinder. Definitely an intimate encounter!
We had the wind at our backs for the trip back where we followed the coastline to the mouth of Nudgee Creek and then back down into the creek, thus forming a large circuit. The most interesting activity here was an Osprey (perhaps the same one) who flew down to the mangrove edges and nabbed a decent-sized fish that must have been caught there by the changing tide.
The Osprey flew off with a crow following it, seemingly waiting for it to drop its fish or otherwise scavenge what it could. Finally a juvenile White-Bellied Sea-Eagle rounded out what was a satisfying (if at times slightly ill-advised) canoe journey.
Nudgee Beach doesn’t offer pristine white sands or classic surf breaks, but at low tide you have the option of enjoying a huge expanse of not-too-hard-on-the-feet sandy mud to wander on while chasing migratory shorebirds, egrets, terns and perhaps the odd raptor or two. The nearby creeks allow for some boating adventures which opens up close encounters with mangrove specialists. Not bad for somewhere a mere 20km from the Brisbane CBD.
Pluses and minuses:
+ Large beach with plenty of waders at the right time of year
+ Widescreen scenic/oceanic vistas
+ Opportunities for birding up the creek network if you have an appropriate vessel
– Shorebirds are very skittish!
– Gritty sand, crabs, water and wind won’t suit everyone’s idea of a great birding experience
– Care needs to be taken with water craft (particularly near river mouths)