Sam’s Track, Jan 2023

Summary: Out-of-the-way bush birding site reliable for some harder-to-find species

Date of visit: 27 Jan, 2023

Sam’s Track is 1 hour 20 west of Toowoomba, and feels like the proverbial middle of nowhere. The track itself is totally unmarked and the entry difficult to find if you don’t know it’s there, and there’s not much info available anywhere about this hotspot (until now!), except for that intriguing golden marker on eBird

To get there, travel to Dunmore then head south on Dunmore Rd – the road is sealed most of the way except for the last 5km or so. The track itself is a rough four-wheel drive track through the Western Creek State Forest.

If you pass through Cecil Plains on your way to Dunmore, keep an eye out for flocks of Corellas feeding in Apex park. We saw hundreds when we were passing through.

Also on the way, Apostlebirds were feeding on the edges of the road and we couldn’t resist the urge to stop and take a few photos. They even let us get some video! Brown Quail also displayed themselves along the road, but were a lot quicker to run off when we got close.

The start of Sam’s Track is not marked or signed, but there are a couple of points down Dunmore Road that you can use to orient yourself. Keep going past the Opal Creek feedlot, and you will pass a turn-off to Dunmore Estate on the left. Continue straight another 1.5km and you’ll see the start of the track on your right, opposite a gate leading to the field on the left. There’s enough verge for a couple of cars, but no official parking.

Straight out of the car we were presented with the sound of some Superb Fairywrens, and they gave us the reassurance to keep going – it was an overcast day and threatened rain a few times so was not the best conditions; however that did keep it cooler walking along the track.

Following a mud map provided by some fellow birders, we wandered along in search of White-Backed Swallows. Lo and behold, about half a kilometre in where it clears a bit on the left (the “Clearing” shown on the map above, though it isn’t much of a clearing), we saw them flying around hunting. Their size and shape is roughly similar to that of Welcome Swallows, but closer looks show the eponymous white back quite clearly. We were lucky enough to have a couple of these birds fly almost overhead for an extended period. The area provided views of some other birds, notably the Yellow-Faced Honeyeater pictured here.

We were glad for the cloudy day, as it was still quite warm and could have been really unpleasant in full sunshine in summer. Even so it was still quite humid. We were hassled a bit by flies but buoyed on by the promise of more birds to come.

One bird that led us on a merry chase was a Rufous Songlark that flew from tree to tree, calling us forward but forever out of reach. Never mind that too much, because we got our first view of a Hooded Robin, and although the male didn’t make its presence felt, we were happy to see the juvenile with its distinct markings. There were plenty of Jacky Winters about as well, so the “Robin” box was ticked.

The track had a couple of branches off to the left as we travelled, but sticking to the right was easy to follow. It varies in roughness as you travel along, with a small rise in elevation a couple of kilometres in, but otherwise has relatively similar views and landscape along the way.

And of course, more birds! Little Woodswallow juveniles sat happily on a branch, their wings out, pretending to fly. Grey Shrikethrush hunted and called, and White-Throated Treecreepers methodically searched for bugs.

There were some other usual suspects that you see in bush settings – Yellow Thornbill with fairywrens and Grey Fantails foraging together. Less common was the Leaden Flycatcher seen along the way.

The furthest we went on the track was to the point where there is an old shed and water tank; there was a trough here which had a little water in it and seemed like it might be an attractive spot in a drier season. If you look at the eBird checklists for Sam’s track, you see there is a possibility of many different parrots, trillers and babblers, none of which we saw. We only saw the one Double-barred Finch, but Zebra Finches, Plum-headed Finches and Diamond Firetails have been commonly seen, especially along the ridge line area before the water tank. And a bird that was high on the list to see is a Crested Bellbird, which looks like it might be easier to find at a different time of year.

Back near the car we were visited by White-Plumed and Striped Honeyeaters. We had a quick look over the fence in the field opposite to see if any quail wanted to show (a long shot, that!), but had no luck, and we weren’t willing to cross the fence to look harder.

So it was back towards home again, and another quick stop at Cecil Plains. This time it was a juvenile Blue-Faced Honeyeater that caught the eye, and a Dollarbird that kept it company.

Despite some ordinary weather and some fairly standard-looking scenery, Sam’s Track gave us a great birding experience by delivering four lifer birds for K-A – Hooded Robin, White-Breasted Swallow, Jacky Winter and Yellow Thornbill. The potential to see a few more will bring us back for another visit in cooler weather to compare the experience.

Hotspot: Western Creek State Forest–Dunmore Rd at Sam’s Track (161 species)
Checklist for this visit: Jan 27 2023 (29 species)

Pluses and minuses:
+ Reliable spot for White-Backed Swallow, Hooded Robin and others
+ More bird life than you might expect in dry country
+ Flat easy track
– Hard to find track entry, section of dirt road required to access
– Dry, annoying flies, can get very hot too
– Far from any major centres
+/- “Middle of nowhere” feel


2 thoughts on “Sam’s Track, Jan 2023

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