I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published November 30th 2017
Bird watching with experts
I remember around 2001, when I was working in an office in Alderley with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, one of the women at work was jumping around very excited one day because she had just sold a large piece of land to a developer at Eaton's Hill. She said she felt like she had won the lottery. I'd only moved to Brisbane a few months before and had never heard of Eaton's Hill or had ever been there.
I finally got to go to Eaton's Hill a few months ago. It is around a half hour drive from Brisbane, via Old Northern Road. I joined in a bird watching activity at Kumbartcho Sanctuary, which was part of the Moreton Bay Council, Older and Bolder Program. It was my second activity with this program. I had gone on one of their kayaking trips to lake Kurwongbah a few weeks earlier.
The Council runs the Older and Bolder Program every year from September to November and there is a huge range of interesting activities for people over 50 to join. Many of the activities are free or have a small contribution fee. You can do kayaking, abseiling, canoeing, boot camp, table tennis, dancing, fitness classes, snooker, weightlifting, yoga, learn to surf, learn to sail, dragon boating, croquet, Tai Chi, pilates, walks and wildlife spotting, fishing and many more activities.
A small group of us met at the Sanctuary at 15 Bunya Pine Court, Eaton's Hill for the bird watching trip. It was an overcast, rainy day. The group included some serious bird watchers who had some very expensive looking long telephoto lenses. We walked around the area on well-marked tracks, around the large dam and visited the bird hide, butterfly garden, frog hollow and the fairy garden.
There are koalas at the sanctuary, but we didn't see any that day. We were very lucky though to see a beautiful water dragon and 34 different birds. My favourites were the mother duck with her ducklings, a tawny frogmouth just in trees outside the Centre, the willie wagtail feeding its chick a dragonfly, and of course the dragon. I love all reptiles.
It was a slow walk as there was a lot to see and many stops to look at and photograph birds. The group was very skilled at seeing and hearing the birds, and I was amazed at their ability. They were so tuned in to the environment. By the time I could spot the birds through my binoculars, they were onto the next lot of birds.
I met some well-known Brisbane bird experts and two of them, Deb Merton and Pip Grant Taylor gave me some of their photos to use with this story. Pip even sent me a photo of the Pacific Bazaar, which is not seen very often. We didn't see one on this visit, but she said she had seen them there on every other visit. She said it would interest people, probably especially bird watchers and encourage them to visit.
There is a native plant nursery there, which sells plants cheaply. It is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 3pm, and on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm. I told a friend about the nursery after I got home, and he went out to buy some plants, but unfortunately, he didn't check the opening times and went on a Monday and was disappointed when the nursery wasn't open.
The other areas including the walking tracks, playground, picnic, and barbeque facilities are open every day. Community volunteers in partnership operate the sanctuary, including the Environmental Centre, Conference Centre and Kumbartcho Nursery with Moreton Bay Regional Council. They usually put on activities for children in the school holidays.
The main Environmental Education Centre is open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 2pm. It contains videos, a reference library, a Mangroves to Mountains diorama with live native fish, a nocturnal display, arts and crafts for children, and a touch and feel environment display table.
The 6-hectare Sanctuary is a little bit of an oasis in the middle of suburbia. It is beside the South Pine River and has a variety of habitats. I'm glad those developers didn't get their hands on that site. The area was previously the Bunya Park Sanctuary. Kumbartcho was established in 1997. It is named after the Aboriginal word for Hoop Pine.
I have fond memories of the Old Bunya Park Sanctuary. First went there in 1969 as an 18 year old and continued to visit through the years especially in the 1980s by which time I had children. They loved it as much as me! Gradually the drive through the bush became a drive through suburbia until Bunya Park closed. ( like Alma Park !) I only found out about 6-7 years ago that this little remnant survives.