We had heard so much about Queensland’s Bunya Mountains National Park it just had to be visited. Was it worth it? I don’t know. A second visit is necessary!
The one thing you learn in Australia is that a 300km trip is considered a “short” trip; something some people do to buy groceries. 500km to a 1000km is considered a “long” trip. So at approximately 250km’s one way from Brisbane it’s a short trip. But add the return leg and it is a long way to go for a day’s bird photography, which is what we did. To ensure we had plenty of time up in the mountains we left very early. Now, summer in Australia is synonymous with blue skies and hot temperatures. As Bunya is considered a tropical mountain rainforest it was shorts and a shirt for me. So arriving just before 8.00am through dense fog and mist with the temperature at 14 degrees C it felt like we had just arrived in England! To make matters worse nothing up there opens until ten. It wasn’t the best start to a day but by 10.00am the mist had cleared and the temperature was a nice cool 19 degrees, perfect for tramping through the forest.
The most interesting feature of Bunya’s forest trails is the huge Bunya Pines that give the place their name. They are massive trees with a kernel that is prized as a source of food by the native aboriginal people. At one time these tree’s were common throughout Queensland, but were so badly decimated by the timber barons at the turn of the century that today they are really only found in national parks and protected areas. Aside from the Bunya Pines we were fascinated by the Strangler Fig, which starts its life as a small spider-web like creeper that attaches itself to the bark of a host tree. As it grows it swells until ultimately completely overwhelming and strangling the host and becoming a tree in its own right. The fig’s tentacles wrapping themselves round the host tree make a wonderful photographic subject.
Unlike the rainforests inMalaysia, the vegetation at ground level in the Australian rainforests is less dense and the light is much better for photography. Like all rainforests the birdlife is split between those birds that favor feeding high up in the canopy and those that forage the lower levels for insects and grubs. One of the more common birds that you find down at ground level are Rufous Fantails. These attractive little guys are restless feeders that never sit still for more than a second at a time. Consequently of maybe a hundred or so shots I took of these birds only a handful are worth keeping, and even then should be improved on.
Another great little bird that you find up the inland mountain spine that runs along eastern Australia is the Eastern Robin. I just love this guy and they are always a pleasure to photograph.
The roads in the area round Dandabah are great spots for a variety of Parrots and Lorikeets that are not shy at all. But I’ll keep these for a subsequent blog just on these birds as they are worth it. Actually you really don’t need to go into the forest to get birds. The carpark at Dandabah is an excellent location in itself. It was here we got the following shot of a female Satin Bowerbird that conveniently posed for a photo on a fence post next to the road. Unfortunately we missed the male who flew off before we could get him. But I’m sure that given more time we would definitely get him as well.
On the way back down the mountain we came across a small flock of Apostle Birds noisily feeding on the edge of the road. Stopping the car, we reversed back before shooting these shots out of the window.
We came away from Bunya with a good haul of a variety of different birds, but I decided to only post a few of the best shots of the day here. Would we go back to Bunya. Probably yes, but not for a day. At the very least it requires a stay of at least one night to do it justice.
One word of warning though. Bunya is crawling with ticks. Unlike African ticks which, much like Leeches in Malaysia drop off after getting fat with blood, the Bunya ticks stay clamped in place. Both Lynette and I were finding and picking these guys off us three days later (although Lynette was favored more than me!) So beware. If you are visiting Bunya make sure you smear yourselves with Mossie repellant to discourage them crawling up your legs!