|Nudgee Beach features an environment which supports a variety of raptors. Esturine coastal heathlands with remnants of dry sclerophyll forest, open out onto a bay protected by several sand islands, including Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island. With coastal wetlands to the North and South, Nudgee Beach is an ideal location to find and photograph raptors. To the South Birisbane Airport spoils the wetland habitat it has been built upon, with the addition of more runways in the past and the near future dealing a mighty environmental impact on this shrinking wetland resource. Rumour has it that plans are afoot to build nesting platforms near the Nudgee transfer station and further afield, to attract raptors (in particular, the Eastern Osprey) away from the airport area. I have to wonder at the logic of this strategy, since these locations already have a population of Osprey and other raptors, and the addition of more could only put additional pressure on the current wetland resource, or could cause some birds to be ousted from a particular territory due to competition. Habitat destruction remains the central concern to the conservation of raptor species in this area, and the current situation is far from desirable.
Since European settlement, an estimated 67,000 hectares, or two-thirds of the original woody
vegetation in Brisbane, has been cleared. This includes approximately 90% of lowland forests and
more than 80% of all lowland vegetation (below 100 metres elevation). Habitat fragmentation is also
extensive; around 80% of bushland remnants remaining in the city are less than 20 hectares
|To the North of Nudgee lies Boondal Wetlands, a reserve established in 1990 occupying 1100 hectares of wetlands. A visitors centre, walking track, and bird hide were established on site in 1996. Featuring denser growth than Nudgee, including Casaurina forest, open dry sclerophyll forest, Melaleuca swampland and some open grassland, the bird life is different here too. Not so different by way of species, but the different environment effects the way birds use this area. Bird activity seems much lower at Boondall, but this location which lies only a brief ten minute drive to the North of Nudgee, does produce some interesting suprises and is worth exploring.
With Boondall to the North, the airport-dominated Wetlands to the South, a bushland corridor to the West, and several islands in the Bay, Nudgee Beach Reserve is more or less 'buffered' and remains a habitat well-used by raptor species. Nearby Nudgee Lagoons and Nudgee Golf Course somewhat extend this habitat.
Nudgee Creek at low tide, looking out onto Moreton Bay
|The most common species of raptor found at Nudgee Beach Reserve (in my experience) are the Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite, Eastern Osprey, and White-bellied Sea Eagle. Other species sighted include Black Kite, Brown Goshawk, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel and Pacific Baza. Of these the Black Kite can be seen occasionally, the Goshawk less-so (try Boondall Wetlands), Black-shouldered Kite I have only seen twice at Nudgee (try Nudgee Lagoons or near the Airport), the Nankeen Kestrel I have sighted at Nudgee Beach once in the last eighteen months (try around the airport grasslands and Nudgee Lagoons), the Pacific Baza once - they are often seen further inland at suburban Nudgee, Virginia (golf course), Banyo, Toombul, Boondall during their breeding season. Spotted Harrier at Boondall Wetlands (and over my own home at Nudgee), but not around Nudgee Beach.
The best spot to find raptors when visiting Nudgee Beach is around the mouth of Nudgee Creek, easily accessable via the boardwalk, just a ten minute walk from the main car park. If you have a canoe or kayak, there is a launching ramp specifically for these craft nearby in Nudgee Creek. Ideal birding territory exists on the far side of the creek, which can only be reached easily by water. The creek itself can be crossed on foot at low tide (you will still get wet boots), and I am yet to seriously explore this area, though it looks potentially more productive than the reserve - snakes and insects aside.
Waiting for raptors has proven to be much more successful than trying to follow them. Better to find a spot where they are likely to appear, bagging a handful of good photos, than to go chasing after them and ending up with dozens of sharp images of raptor bums and birdless skies. Low tide seems best for raptors at this site, though you may see them at any time. There does not seem to be a set routine or timetable that these birds follow for feeding or moving about.
Other places around Nudgee worth checking are the boat ramp on Nudgee Road (on the right as you head towards the reserve), and the bike track leading from Nudgee Road to Boondall Wetlands (on the left just past the boat ramp) where you may see Black Kite, Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite circling overhead. About 150m up the bike track a high viewing platform overlooks the entire reserve. Many birders overlook the bike track as a birding location, but it has a shallow lagoon (short 50m walk from Nudgee Road) used by all manner of waders, ducks and other waterfowl, frequented by Mangrove Honey-eaters, further on open grassed areas bordered by mangrove and heath produce Pipits, Superb Fairy-wren, and other local species.
- White-bellied Sea Eagles seem to reside to the North of Nudgee. I have noticed the same birds (apparently) at Osprey House, a small reserve near Dohles Rocks just 25 minutes North of Nudgee, the birds coming mainly from the South of this site. This leads me to the tentative conclusion that a nest may be located somewhere between Nudgee and Dohles Rocks. I would like to confirm if this is true or not. Both adults are incredible birds, the female in particular. I have seen her crashing into the bay in a shower of spray reaching several metres above her, time and again coming up empty-taloned, only to plow into the ocean again and again until securing a meal for herself or her young. The struggle for survival, even for a majestic and poweful hunter such as she, can not be flippantly ignored. The above experience left me breathless, emotional, with a lump in my throat. I have spotted immature Sea Eagles regularly in this area and in neighbouring areas, always they seem healthy and independant - a promising sign for the continued survival of our local birds. If you visit Nudgee Beach, perhaps you will see these amazing birds circling high overhead, or plummeting into the bay off in the distance. Perhaps you will fortunate enough to see one gliding slowly above the mangrove canopy, passing at near eye-level as it floats a graceful, unpredictable flight path during a morning hunt. Above the leafy horizon, you may see two graceful butterfly-like behemoths, wing movement seemingly too slow to support flight, as they lazily gain height until your eye can no longer resolve their distant shapes. For me, these experiences with the Eagles have been quite sincerely life-changing.
- Eastern Osprey seem to also come from the North, possibly from Osprey House. A breeding pair at Osprey House enjoy an artifical nesting platform atop a tall pole. You can check the progress of the pair and their eggs/young from the visitors centre thanks to a camera mounted above the nest. I have seen both adult and young Osprey at Nudgee Beach, however last year the breeding pair at Osprey House were not successful, suggesting that the young bird(s) I have seen did not come from that location. The Osprey I have photographed recently is one of last year's crop, I have watched it grow into its adult colours. This individual seems to have adopted Nudgee Beach as an essential part of its territory and displays semi-predictable feeding behaviour, favouring certain perches which other visiting Osprey don't seem to use. If this individual changes this habitual behaviour I will have little chance of telling it apart from other Osprey, so I hope it sticks to its habits for a while longer so that I can continue learning from it.
- Brahminy Kite is a daily visitor to Nudgee Beach reserve, with at least one breeding pair located nearby. These birds will glide low overhead and like the local Osprey, don't seem too shy of humans. You may see them near the mouth of the creek or above the bird hide, or even from the boardwalk further up Nudgee Creek, perched above the water in tall mangrove or young Eucalyptus tree. This year the breeding pair successfully fledged one youngster which, I can gladly report, is now independant and doing very well, while still sporting a hint of its immature plumeage. The parents however seemed to have moved further afield for the time being, I have only caught occasional glimpses of them near the boat ramp and Casaurina glades on airport land. I consider the Brahminy Kite to be a species of raptor you are very likely to encounter at Nudgee.
- Whistling Kite is common at Nudgee, nesting nearby and hunting the reserve daily.