Summary: Large eucalypt-dominated forest with many biking tracks that can be hit-and-miss for birds
Dates of visit: Mar 25, 2021 and Mar 7, 2023
Bunyaville Conservation Park, established in 1917, is one of the larger forest parks in Brisbane, and lies on the northside in the suburb of Bunya. It should definitely not be confused with the Bunya Mountains (which is three hours west of Brisbane). It consists largely of dry forest and is criss-crossed with walking tracks and mountain bike trails, as well as containing the Bunyaville Environmental Education Centre. It is fairly typical of the eucalypt-dominated woodland of south-east Queensland in terms of bird habitats.
The park is somewhat reminiscent of Toohey Forest in that it has a busy road going straight through the middle of it (sigh…) This road is called Jinker Track, and has paved paths along some of its length, but be aware it is very much a car road and has an 80km/hr speed limit – you could bird along here checking out the bush on either side, but it’s not my idea of a good time. At least there are a couple of good car parking bays along it. You can also park at the Environmental Centre.
There is a bewildering array of trails here (make sure you have a map!) Partly this is because this is a big mountain biking destination; you should avoid weekends here for this reason. The tracks fall into two main categories: the bike-only paths, which are typically winding and narrow and feature various terrain features (these are the more zig-zaggy lines on the map), and the more straighter shared trails. You will still get bike riders, as well as runners and dog-walkers, on these shared trails.
GT Track has the highest species count of the several eBird hotspots within Bunyaville Conservation Park, though do note that the park is not particularly heavily visited by birders. You can access GT Track from the nearby car park just north-east on Jinker Track – see the map. The entry is shared with Brewer’s Break, so if you see that sign, head in there.
When I visited in March 2021 there was a curious female Rufous Whistler, a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets and a Pied Currawong to be seen, as well as half a dozen Noisy Miners. The latter are dominant especially nearer the edges of the forest – when you get deeper in they mostly disappear (such is also the case with the perimeters of Toohey Forest).
GT Track is a pretty simple dirt affair, though it is fairly wide. You can hear many more birds than you can see, and I was wondering what I might find more interesting than the standard dry forest birds when I came across a Brush Cuckoo at around eye level only a few metres off the track (I was several hundred metres down the GT Track by then).
The Brush Cuckoo is one of the larger cuckoos and can be tricky to ID as the juveniles look quite different to adults – the one I was seeing was some sort of sub-adult with all the mottling on its breast. Amazingly, these cuckoos use at least 58 species of bird as hosts across its Australian range, and the females will actually lay different egg types for specific hosts (how’s that for evolution!)
Fuscous Honeyeater is a honeyeater uncommonly seen in Brisbane (I personally associate it more with sites like Durikai State Forest), and I was lucky enough to see one here. It wasn’t the best views but it was neat to find, especially when you do a double-take after originally thinking it’s the much more common Brown Honeyeater.
The GT Track gradually descends until it hits the creek line (about 1.1km from the road), where you’d expect to see more birds… and strangely I didn’t.
I lingered around the creek area, not seeing anything much except a Rainbow Bee-Eater briefly far away, so decided to work my way back up GT Break again. I was rewarded with the sight of a Red-Browed Finch nest collecting – it was compulsively returning to the same spot to gather material, passing across the path and pausing alongside it to grab grass stalks. It did this three or four times, and became rather unbothered by my presence. These are times when it’s easy to like the birding hobby!
Even better was to come – back where the Brush Cuckoo was hanging out before, it was still there and had been joined by a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo – on the same branch! Despite the glare of the stronger morning sun and the back-lit lighting, I’m not sure I’ll ever get a shot like that again.
A couple of White-Throated Treecreepers and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos were next seen.
There was a juvenile Black-Faced Monarch, a White-Throated Honeyeater, and a pair of Pale-Headed Rosellas next, and I started to wonder if I had been blind on the way down the track, as it was a veritable feast of birds now in comparison.
Back near the road there were upwards of ten crows loudly squawking at something high in the crown of the trees, but despite staring for several minutes I couldn’t make out what it was through the branches. Very mysterious.
I returned in Feb 2022, almost a year later, wondering if I would again have at least one superlative birding moment at this location. This time, however, it was more of a drought, and I ended up making a big circuit (4km) of GT Break right up through Hippie House Road and AS6 Break, and saw almost nothing – in fact I ended up deleting the few photos I took (I had a bit of a “ragequit” moment), and remember only a Rufous Shrikethrush in dense vegetation near the creek line as the only interesting bird.
On another return visit to the GT Break track in Mar 2023, Luke S and I had a “mixed bag” experience. Noisy Miners seemed even more abundant, though there were sprinklings of other birds – Rainbow Lorikeets, Noisy Friarbirds, and the calls of Treecreepers, Striated Pardalotes and Yellow-Faced, Lewin’s and Scarlet Honeyeaters. The Miners seemed to have particular dominance over the lower storey, fearlessly coming to the ground to forage.
We ended up with a count of 27 species for that visit, with the most interesting sight being around two dozen Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos on the ground on the edge of the sports field area just to the west of the track. Photographically it was not very rewarding, with most sightings being of birds very high up.
Further up Jinker Track is a permanent body of water accessible by the Dam Rd Track. The best car park for this is about a kilometre east of the car park for GT Track, enough that you’ll probably want to drive between the two, unless you like birding along busy roads.
The Dam Rd Track drops down off the road fairly steeply and soon you are crossing a creek line and rounding the top end of a reasonably sized dam. On my first visit here I found a Forest Kingfisher.
On the water were a couple of Dusky Moorhens, and Welcome Swallows swooped over the surface. There are a couple of coniferous trees around and I found a few Rufous Whistlers in them, while I glimpsed a couple of honeyeaters and heard a few more. There are no seats or tables along the water here, which is a shame as you may be tempted to chill out and watch a while (the hard ground is not very comfortable…)
When re-crossing the creek on the track back up, I came across a male Variegated Fairywren who was showing quite well. I ended up taking 60 photos of him.
A Rufous Fantail appeared, and a female Variegated Fairywren along with another Rufous Whistler.
Nine species in nearly an hour of birding near water didn’t seem especially good, but the experience was definitely saved by the extended Variegated Fairywren encounter.
On my revisit in Mar 2023 a couple of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos thought they were the stars of the show. They come down to drink on the stony bare ground at the water’s edge, and nest in hollows in the surrounding gum trees. A Rainbow Lorikeet – perhaps ousted by one of the cockatoos – hung around very close by.
Forest Kingfishers were again present, in fact we saw three of them. They were using the exposed branches overhanging or near the water as sentinel posts. A Striated Pardalote or two came down to the lower canopy to visit us at one point as well which provided a little highlight.
Rufous Whistlers were again seen, with the female being characteristically curious and approachable, but this time we also found some Varied Sittellas (we reckoned a group of no less than 8) high in the gum trees near the water. They stayed in a set of three or four of these trees for quite a while, but the light was difficult and the birds too far to get any magazine-front-cover-worthy shots. One can dream.
We picked up 24 species in just over an hour at the dam, most were the usual suspects, with the Forest Kingfishers (which I interpolate might be resident) and the Varied Sittellas being the stand-outs.
My view of Bunyaville Conservation Park is coloured by having visited it at the same time of year (late summer) three years in a row (this is coincidence only). Perhaps at different times of year it can offer other experiences, but my bet is that it is simply typical dry gum forest: you get fewer birds than wetter bushland, mainly the usual suspects (Noisy Miners, Cockatoos and Lorikeets, Crows and Currawongs), and you should count yourself lucky if you happen to find something more interesting. That is all well and good and is not much different to say, Toohey Forest, Mt Coot-tha, or Karawatha Forest in Brisbane which are also large eucalypt-dominated woodlands. That is why, despite its size and potential, I find myself not particularly excited by Bunyaville Conservation Park and why I haven’t explored more of it.
Hotspots: GT Track (125 species), Dam Rd (114 species)
Checklists for these visit: GT Track Mar 25 2021 (19 species), GT Track Mar 7 2023 (27 species), Dam Rd Mar 25 2021 (9 species), Dam Rd Mar 7 2023 (24 species)
BirdSpots videos for this site: Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Pluses and minuses:
+ Very large forest to explore
+ Pleasant, decent-sized dam area
+ Some tantalising bird encounters possible
– Very hit and miss
– Trails don’t connect as well for walkers as for bike riders
– Busy road cutting straight through the middle
AUTHOR: ANDY GEE
BIRDERS: ANDY GEE, LUKE S
One thought on “Bunyaville Conservation Park, 2021-2023”
Really good , informative post. Excellent photos. Thank you.