Callum Brae, ACT

This page is a chapter in the book Australian Capital Territory.

[top]Description

[top]Background

Formerly a grazing leasehold, Callum Brae was resumed by the ACT Government in 2004 for the purpose of making it a woodland nature reserve.

[top]Nature of land/vegetation

It is an area of roughly 170 hectares containing two main creeks and six former farm dams and a small dougout waterhole that is frequently dry. The creeks stop running fairly quickly after rain, with a few small waterholes that remain for one to several weeks longer. Some flat areas can become swampy, with water remaining on the soil surface for some weeks after heavy rain.

The most common trees on this block are Yellow Box and Blakely’s Red Gum. There is also Scribbly Gum and Red Box. The understory is heavily infested with introduced weeds, however there are now extensive areas of regenerating eucalypts, chiefly Blakely’s Red Gum. There are also areas of open grassland, especially on the southern side of Middle Creek, so named by the writer because it bisects Callum Brae into northern and southern halves. The Blakely’s Red Gums are subject to die-back and attacks by a variety of insects. They often look pretty unhealthy, but at the same time the rich population of insect life feeding off them provide sustenance for creatures further up the food chain.

Currently, the land next door in the north-west corner, on which a former zoo was situated, has thick patches of blackberries and other introduced species that provide habitat for small birds. (edit, 9/4/14) The land on the former zoo block has now been cleared of all undergrowth. Might be a while before the small birds return.

Blakely’s Red Gums in particular, have a habit of dropping branches, leaving hollows in the tree suitable for those birds that nest in tree hollows. The reedy type of vegetation that lines the creeks and around the dams provides habitat for small birds.

Callum Brae is contiguous on the South East corner with the Jerrabomberra Grasslands.

Across the southern boundary fence are a quarry and a large farm dam, the latter attracting some larger waterbirds.

Generally the terrain is walker friendly, but there are few tracks, and footwear needs to be solid clothing should be thistle-proof.

[top]Getting there

Callum Brae is in Symonston, a non residential part of the Australian Capital Territory.

The main entrance gate is along Narrabundah Lane, west of the Therapeutic Goods Administration Laboratories. This is a locked iron gate through which you must climb. Otherwise there is not much else along that lane. It is easily accessible from Hindmarsh Drive then Jerrabomberra Ave.

There is another entrance off Mugga Lane opposite Murray’s bus depot. There is a gap beside this gate to walk through, but you are then on a quite steep and rough stony track.

[top]When to go

There are no entry restrictions to Callum Brae, go whenever you like. Dogs are prohibited as are bicycles.

[top]Amenities

None.

[top]Key species

The many hollow trees attract a variety of parrots. Sulphur crested cockatoos, galahs, corellas, crimson rosellas and eastern rosellas are common. Also seen less frequently are red-rumped parrots, rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and gang-gangs.

Raptors: One particularly savage brown goshawk lives Callum Brae, and if visiting in spring time it might be an idea to ask a local where she is nesting. She tends to stick to one area for a few seasons, but moves around occasionally. Nankeen kestrels and Australian Hobbies are regulars. Wedge-tailed eagles often hunt over Callum Brae, but tend to nest higher up on Isaacs Ridge.

Honeyeaters: Noisy miners have taken over quite a large chunk of Callum Brae just in from the Narrabundah Lane entrance, keeping out smaller birds from that area. Red wattlebirds and noisy friar birds are also frequently seen, but the smaller honeyeaters are not common. White-plumed have been seen along the creeks.

Magpies, grey butcherbirds, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes, Australian ravens, currawongs, and white-winged choughs are all common, as are magpie-larks, willie wagtails and grey fantails. Olive-backed orioles are seen infrequently.

Wood-ducks nest on Callum Brae, and Australian grebes are occasionally seen on the dams.

Also favouring the water bodies will be superb fairy wrens, sacred kingfishers and Australian reed warblers.

Thornbills; yellow-rumped, buff-rumped and striated turn up anywhere. Speckled warblers favour dense thickets with a lot of dead material. One such location is just inside the Mugga Lane entrance. When nesting is over they tend to move around more on a here today gone tomorrow basis. Leaden flycatchers and white-throated gerygones are summer migrants that favour dense thickets of youngish trees. Scarlet robins turn up sporadically in the winter, and diamond firetails are seen infrequently in the warmer seasons.

The bottom end of Middle creek is a favoured location for dusky woodswallows, white-winged trillers, varied sittellas and red-browed finches.

Kookaburras live permanently on Callum Brae, with several families having their own territories.

Dollar birds visit in small numbers in the summer.

Rufous whistlers are seen occasionally, golden whistlers less often.

White-throated treecreepers have been reported, though I have not seen one myself. Spotted and striated pardalotes may both be found, the latter being a little more frequent.

Weebills are ubiquitous.
Crested pigeons are becoming more common, as are common starlings.

A few one-off encounters for me on Callum Brae have included white-faced heron, straw-necked ibis and mistletoe birds.

Land based fauna include Cunningham skinks, rabbits, eastern grey kangaroos, hare and foxes.

[top]Notes

Take all your needs with you and leave nothing behind. Walking is generally easy because the terrain is undulating. The creeks are quite deep washaways in parts, but just follow the kangaroo tracks, they know the best places to cross. It’s not such a big reserve, but there are few tracks. If you take a reading on your GPS at the gate when you go in, it will help you find your way back.

The Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) has produced a pamphlet which may be found at http://canberrabirds.org.au/Bird%20R...rd_route2e.pdf . It tends to raise expectations of seeing less common birds every time you turn around. It has a good map.

[top]References

Dabb G and Bounds J in Canberra Ornithologists Group — Bird Fact Sheets 3


[top]Maps & GPS



[top]Images

Callum Brae Map. Screen grab from Google Earth with a few pointers addedCallum Brae Map. Screen grab from Google Earth with a few pointers added
Typical Blakely's Red Gum with many hollow, dead branches.Typical Blakely's Red Gum with many hollow, dead branches.
At daybreak the sulphur crested cockies and corellas hold a general meeting in dead trees not far from the main gate.At daybreak the sulphur crested cockies and corellas hold a general meeting in dead trees not far from the main gate.
Several kookaburra families breed on Callum Brae. You will always hear their dawn chorusSeveral kookaburra families breed on Callum Brae. You will always hear their dawn chorus
Eastern rosellas are breeding residents on Callum Brae. You will see many of them.Eastern rosellas are breeding residents on Callum Brae. You will see many of them.
Varied sittellas are summer breeding migrants. They prefer the rough bark of recently dead branches.Varied sittellas are summer breeding migrants. They prefer the rough bark of recently dead branches.
Striated pardalotes breed along the creek beds.Striated pardalotes breed along the creek beds.
A nankeen kestrel defends its nest against attacks from pied currawongs.A nankeen kestrel defends its nest against attacks from pied currawongs.
No visit to Callum Brae is complete without a close encounter with the eastern grey kangaroos.No visit to Callum Brae is complete without a close encounter with the eastern grey kangaroos.
Previous: Australian Bird Location Guide Australian Capital Territory Next: New South Wales

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