[9 September 2019] Was it my age? Was it my cheerful smile? Was it that I looked a little lost? Or was the friendly CityLink bus driver just sharing the early morning tropical Queensland vibe? “Going hiking?” he asked as I fumbled through my wallet for change. “Don’t worry about the money. Take a seat and have a good Saturday.” I only realised a few hours later that this was indeed my lucky day.
Mission: Bird watching at Enoggera Reservoir (literally meaning sing-play or song and dance in Turrbal.)
D’Aguilar National Park is a 30 minute drive from Brisbane’s CBD. At 06:50 I was the only passenger on the 385. On a good day local experts have seen more than 100 different bird species on and around this reservoir, but I wasn’t chasing numbers at all. I knew chances were that I’d see birds that I hadn’t seen before, but mainly I was just happy to be in an “as good as it gets” nature park.
As I descended towards the water through tall woodlands the never-ending ringing sound of a colony of Bell Miners could be heard all around me – ping, ping, ping – as clear as drops of crystal. They were extremely hard to see high up in the eucalypt canopy and more than a glimpse of one would evade me all day. The brilliant soundscape is however etched in my mind.
At first the birds I saw were all those familiar to me back home in Victoria. Butcherbird, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Coot, Currawong, Black Duck, Red-browed Finch, Grebe, Hardhead, White-naped and White-plumed Honeyeater, Ibis and many more.
The sun was still low when I was stopped on the footpath by a very excited man. “I took a day off work to come and look for snakes,” he said in a strong Indian accent. “I love snakes – actually all reptiles – and Enoggera hardly ever disappoints. Stand still. Look. In those grasses there – you see it? It’s a Red-bellied Black. You see it? Beautiful, yes?” he said animatedly. Ah yes, I saw it, where it was curling and twirling through the moist grass on the edge of the dam. Truth be told, I had no intention of a closer encounter, especially after I was informed that the notorious Brown Snake had no patch on this guy – “you’d be dead in a few minutes”. Okay then. I shall be very careful for the remainder of this day.
A while later I came upon a perfect spot (besides the ever present possibility of poisonous slitherers) to sit on a fallen branch and watch and photograph birds as they come down to drink. Within an hour I had seen incredible beauty. Close-up! Lewin’s, Scarlet and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.
Not long after, Variegated Fairy-wren came down (a male and a female) for a drink of water and finally the Red-backed Fairy-wren made its apprehensive yet splendid appearance. Life couldn’t get any better. A family of hyperactive Silvereye completed the picture. By now I had forgotten about the deadly snakes all together.
As I walked back to the bus stand at midday, almost bursting out in song and dance, my eye caught the most radiant flash of dark royal blue. And there he was on a branch hanging low over the water – a Forest Kingfisher. Iridescent and unmistakable in the blistering sun.
Back at the top of the hill, where I waited on the 385 to take me home, I saw the most delightful sign: Kiss ‘n’ ride – 2 mins max. One’s gotta love Ozzie humour.