Summary: Well-located hotspot with potential for large number of bird species
Date of visit: Feb 21, 2021
The Samford district north-west of Brisbane hosts an impressive collection of birding hotspots. A bonanza of habitats and birds result from its location on the eastern edge of the D’Aguilar range where it meets Moreton Bay catchments. The two hotspot jewels in the birding crown are Gold Scrub Lane and Postman’s Track, located next door to each other on the western edge of Lake Samsonvale. While you need to gain permission in advance to visit Gold Scrub Lane (see our blog post), Postman’s Track is easily accessible to the public, though do check the SEQWater site for closures or other info before heading out.
Postman’s Track is a 55min drive from the Brisbane CBD and offers a mixture of forest birding mixed with grassland, vine thickets and the possibility of water birds on Lake Samsonvale. Around 6km of colour-coded trails (multi-use so watch out for horse and bike riders) make navigation easy. We mainly stuck to the coded trails which don’t give access to the Lake’s edge, although it should be accessible to those adventurous enough to explore side tracks. Snakes are often seen in the area, so take care.
The paved access road from Mt Samson Road to the trail head is confusingly also called Postman’s Track – it is also worth birding on your way in or out. It runs through attractive acreage country before ending at an excellent large paved car park at the trail-head. There are no toilet facilities here.
Everyone knows the best birding is done in car parks and straight out of the car we were greeted by a symphony of bird calls. The magical descending silvery trill of a White-throated Gerygone drew our eyes and cameras up, but good shots eluded us. We did manage to spot the source of some of the other sounds – a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, a White-naped Honeyeater, and a Grey Shrikethrush. Also keeping an eye on us was a male Rufous Whistler with a silver leg band on its right leg.
From the car park, drawn by the calls of Bell Miners above us, we decided to head south on a gently sloping track that led to the open grassy fringe on the north side of the inlet opposite Gold Scrub Lane. As the path left the forest we were greeted by a new set of birds. Under the watchful eyes of some Spangled Drongos menacingly perched in their glossy black coats, as well as a group of Black-faced Cuckooshrikes, smaller birds were on the move.
A minute later the prize for “how many colours can I squeeze into my plumage” was taken by a party of Rainbow Bee-eaters, busy preening, singing, chopping the air while nabbing insects mid-flight. Our hearts were a-flutter as we tried to grab shots of them flying through the golden morning light.
It needed something special to draw our attention away from the Bee-eaters – a male Mistletoebird with resplendent red chest landed just a few meters away. We watched it swallow a green fruit that seemed impossibly large for its mouth. Even though the sun was backlighting it, having a Mistletoebird so close by was a real highlight.
The mown trails were quite overgrown on our visit. The wet grass was making the walk a slog, shoes and pants were getting quite wet, and Google Maps was showing trails that clearly didn’t exist, so when we reached what looked like an old farming area we decided to stop. From here we could see across the outlet of Kobble Creek to the Gold Scrub Lane area. Four Great Cormorants flew over us, the only large water bird we were to see. The grass pathways and the birds seemed to peter out before we were able to reach the lake, so we began backtracking.
After reacquainting ourselves with the Bee-eaters, we spotted two Chestnut-breasted Munias skipping between the long grass and wild tobacco trees; and although we didn’t get any photos, Golden-headed Cisticolas sang safely from the thick grass. A Bar-shouldered Dove looked on, its slightly dopey look contrasting with its elegant bronze fish-scale coat, and let’s not get started on the relative aesthetic appeal of the Noisy Friarbird.
Around 50m east of the car park the track splits where we took the “red” track anticlockwise. From here to the White/Blue/Red intersection is through forest along a flattish path.
This section was fairly uninspiring birding on our visit although we had good views of a Noisy Friarbird and encounters with some regulars like Figbirds, Noisy Miners and Grey Shrikethrush. We also took a side trail (see map) down to an isolated pond which on a different day might have held some interesting water birds or skulkers like crakes or bitterns (you never know…!)
Just past the intersection along the Blue trail is a swampy area that can be difficult to get through after rain. After a brief encounter with a Sacred Kingfisher, we backtracked again and turned right on the White Track. Cue a bird-free sweaty 1km long climb that takes you up 70m in altitude on a rocky fire trail. Fear not, turning left onto the Red trail signals a mostly downhill run to the car park.
Revelling in the sensation of heading downhill, we almost stumbled on a butterfly and also a small grey frog (best guess at an ID is Broad Palmed Rocketfrog) in the leaf litter who was happy to pose for photos and to listen to bad frog jokes.
The frog must have been our bird-whisperer because soon after we walked into another wave of birds as the trail followed a wetter gully on the right. First an impressive Noisy Friarbird, then a male Rufous Whistler in his dapper coat of white, grey, black and that rusty underbody. He also had a silver leg band on his right leg – could this be our friend from the carpark? Perched nearby was a Shining-bronze Cuckoo showing off its barred front, but we weren’t lucky enough to get a view of that breath-taking iridescent green back plumage before it flew off. Then our eyes were drawn to the movement of a group of five Sittellas. Varied Sittellas are one of those birds I never expect to see or have as a target, but seem to pop up when you least expect it. Foraging in small groups, they search for insects in the bark with their oversized sharp bill. It’s quite the spectator sport to watch their frenzied activity, face full of attitude as they work from the top to bottom of the trees.
Last in the wave was a White-throated Treecreeper which in contrast to the Sittellas, usually works its way from bottom to top of trees and can be quite vocal. You have to love a bird that knows how to pose for the photographer – clinging vertically to tree trunks, with great separation from the background and away from those focus-stealing leaves.
The action died off as we negotiated one or two more hills on the way back, but this fluffy Grey Fantail provided another highlight.
A couple of energetic honeyeaters also kept us company.
After one visit with a smallish total of 30 species observed (regular birders here often see 50-60) and having missed some paths, I felt we hadn’t done the site justice. Postman’s Track is definitely worth repeat visits to fully explore its trails and seasonal variations. In particular based on eBird data, the grassy areas are excellent for Brown Quail, King Quail and the rarer Red-backed Buttonquail, and the forest is good for Painted Buttonquail, none of which we saw. There is also great potential for water birds if you can get closer to the outlet of Kobble Creek, or sections of Lake Samsonvale that seem to be accessible from side trails off the Blue circuit.
There are closer sites to Brisbane such as Oxley Common and Sandy Camp Wetlands with a similar if smaller mix of species, however, if you are birding the Samford area definitely keep Postman’s Track on your list. On the other hand, if you are coming from Brisbane and only have time to visit one location in the area, then Gold Scrub Lane is 10 minutes closer and the gold standard birding option.
Hotspot: Lake Samsonvale–Postman’s Track (242 species)
Nearby hotspots: Gold Scrub Lane (254 species)
Checklist for this visit: Feb 21, 2021 (30 species)
Pluses and minuses:
+ Great mixture of habitats
+ Large species counts possible
+ Good site to see a number of Quail species
+ Trails are well signed and usually not busy
– Some steep parts on some tracks
– Some paths not passable after rain
– Can’t really get close to the lake edge
– Closer sites to Brisbane with similar mix of species
AUTHOR: LUKE S
BIRDERS: ANDY GEE, LUKE S