Along the Allery Trail


It wasn’t even our primary objective. The Allery Trail was no more than a means to a broader end; finding another access point to the segmented Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

We’d first come across the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail back in May 2010.   It was Colleen Fingland, along with her husband, Robert, who had first introduced us to the walk. We covered a few kilometres from the Blackbutt end, out towards Benarkin, before the heat of the day decided us to admit that discretion was, after all, the better part of valour – or at least the safer side of skin cancer. Nevertheless we came away with a list of 36 species with gems such as Red-rumped Parrot and Rose Robin among the day’s tally.

Our next sortie on the Rail Trail was not until April 2011 when we discovered an unscheduled, or at least an unmapped access point off the D’Aguilar Highway. However, as it was only a matter of metres from the Benarkin Railway Station official access it served little purpose in solving the overall difficulty. On that occasion we again left matters a little late in the day; t was already past peak daylight hours by the time we found the side track down to the old railway. We came away with a disappointing tally of only nine species although that did include very close views of a Tawny Frogmouth perched near eye-level up a small sapling.


It took more than a year [October 2012] before we ventured out onto the Rail Trail again.

By now we were beginning to appreciate the segmented nature of the Rail Trail. Stretching some 45km, it has only a limited number of access points between Yarraman and Linville. It is rumoured that the Rail Trail will eventually reach out all the way to Ipswich but for Fay and I anything further than Linville lies beyond the Wide World and is of no interest to timid moles or cautious water rats.

In October 2012 we made our way to Ditchmen Park, the Linville end of the Rail Trail, hoping to make our way back towards Benarkin. It has to be appreciated that back in that period of the sojourn we were unaware of the total length of the Trail; unaware of its segments or of each segmental distance. In fact, when poised at Ditchmen Park we had never actually looked at a map of each segment or one of the entire route. We were babes in pioneering arms; avian adventures up the creek without a reliable paddle.

Perhaps not too surprising then that throughout 2013 we failed to record any surveys along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

Matters took on a different complexion in early March 2014, during the first Saturday of the month in fact; Nanango’s monthly Market Day. Fay was chasing replacement ducks for our aging quartet of Welsh Harlequins and the three surviving Indian Runners were all drakes. I was still hopeful of finding a brace of pheasant. What we found was a stall maintained by volunteers of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail who willingly supplied us with two brochures, “on the right track: Nukku Road to Yarraman” and “on the right track: Moore to Blackbutt.” Both provided rough mudmaps of the Rail Trail, although the latter was the larger and more useful of the maps.

The pennies were beginning to fall into place. The Rail Trail was segmented, sectionalized, with specific access points to each sector. And for the first time we had official distances.

The younger, fitter, elements of society could walk the entire length [and back] although bicycles and horses are allowed. Those of a more delicate nature could tackle the Rail Trail segment by segment [there and back again] on different days. Those more disposed to idling had a choice:

  1. Walk part way and return, tackling the same section from the other end at a different time

  2. Take two vehicles; leave one at the eventual “end.” Drive around to the “beginning” of the selected segment, walk to the designated “end” and then simply drive back to the “beginning” where the second walker would pick up their awaiting car.

That worked reasonably well until one came to the last segment, Benarkin to Linville – 18km each way! At our age that was clearly a bridge too far.

And therein lay the challenge. We needed further access points somewhere between Benarkin and Linville to bring the 18km down to more manageable distances.

It was Fay who first discovered the existence of the Allery Trail. If we were reading the green-dotted track [the Allery Trail] aright it intersected with the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail at some point along the D’Aguilar Highway. Further perusal of the mudmap clearly showed that for at least part of its 31km circuitous route, the Allery Trail simply followed the Old Esk Road and that was a part of the world we knew.

The plan became glaringly obvious: drive down to the Old Esk Road, link up with the Allery Trail and follow that until we arrived at its intersection with the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Piece of cake!

Well, not quite. We had programmed EMILY [our Garmin GPS unit] to lead the way. She did well up to midway along Taromeo Road when she wanted us to take a left into William Road. There was no William Road to take a left into. We retraced our steps and again EMILY advised us to [this time] take a right onto William Road but there was still no William Road to be seen from behind the windscreen.

We executed another U-turn and a few kilometres along found ourselves at a major Y-junction but according to EMILY this was beyond our desired turning point. We returned to the site of the mythical William Road and did notice a narrow forestry track on our right. However, apart from a discarded television monitor and a handful of Red-browed Finches there seemed to be no passage through to the Allery Trail.

Back to the aforementioned Y-junction. Again, it was Fay who first spotted the rather discreet sign pointing to the right-hand fork; designated by a rather unpretentiously sign, with minute printing above a short, narrow, black arrow, “Rail Trail”.

We diligently followed this, looking and listening out for bird life until we reached a second Y-junction. The fork to the left read “Sandy Creek”; a smaller, somewhat modest, sign on the right simply read “Rail Trail.” There was no mention of the “Allery Trail” but further consultation with our small-scale mudmaps suggested that we were in fact on part of the Allery Trail. It dropped sharply downhill and disappeared around a sharpish left-hand bend some 50m away.

Always firm followers in that old adage about discretion being the better side of valour, we parked the Forester at this point and walked down to the bend to scout out the lie of the topography.

The gravel road continued downhill for another one hundred or so metres before taking a right-hand bend. We continued downhill. On reaching the bend, the road slid down another few hundred metres before turning again. We went on, looking and listening out for birds. The road disappeared around yet another bend, always heading downhill, always seemingly becoming steeper.

The birding itself was meagre; the ubiquitous Grey Fantail was the first species to actually show itself, as distinct from the half dozen “heard only” birds to that point. Nevertheless, at the next bend we agreed to persevere… just to the next downhill bend. And then the next. We had no pedometer at that time [it came a little later] but guessed we had travelled several kilometres/miles, always downhill.




Yarraman to Harland Park


Harland Park to Nukku Road


Nukku Road to Blackbutt


Blackbutt to Benarkin


Benarkin to Linville



The Lewin’s Honeyeater and Bell Miner became our next “seen” birds. We carried on and then heard the distinctive roar of an overworked heavy engine. It didn’t need rocket science to realise that not too far ahead [below] us was the D’Aguilar Highway. We were surely nearing the crucial part of the Allery Trail.

By the time we reached the next bend we suddenly became aware of the horrible truth; we knew exactly where we were heading for and that we had been here before.

The January 2011 floods created havoc in the Blackbutt Ranges with major landslides blocking off access to Blackbutt and beyond from that direction [east]. Indeed, severe flooding in the Gympie area [to the north] and massive water damage in and around Toowoomba [to the south] virtually isolated the immediate area; Fay and I were marooned on our own property for three days.

As part of the rebuilding program, the D’Aguilar Highway running through the Blackbutt Ranges was eventually opened piecemeal with contraflow traffic allowed through in 15-minute blocks, either up from Moore or down to Moore and beyond. By coincidence, the traffic lights on the Blackbutt side of the one-way system were position just after the old railway bridge; below was the track bed, now part of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.

At the time we were barely aware of its existence, having walked along its Blackbutt section only the once, in May 2010. However, on a number of the many occasions when we mis-timed our approach to the lights and were forced to wait for the changeover, we did notice a forest track leading back off and uphill from the highway. There was an open area at the foot of the forest track.

Later, in April 2011, when we had become aware of the Rail Trail, we pulled up in the lay-bye created by the earth-moving machinery and attempted to find a way down to the track bed. Tangled vines and thorny bushes had the better of the encounter, forcing us to abandon any hopes of an access point hereabouts.

Now, as we approached the last 500m of the Allery Trail, we knew that on the last bend we would be standing in that same lay-bye off the D’Aguilar Highway. We had walked down the same forestry track we had first noticed going up from the side of the D’Aguilar Highway but had failed to investigate in our attempts to find a way down to the Rail Trail.

Access to the Rail Trail was on our left, some 20m from the actual point of intersection. It was also the continuation of the Allery Trail as from this junction the two shared the same old trackbed back to Blackbutt where the Allery Trail veered off to the north while the Rail Trail wound its way towards Nukku Road.

We had achieved the primary raison d’etre for the outing; we had found another access point to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail between Benarkin and Linville.

All that remains now is to resolve the daunting reality that from the Allery/Brisbane Valley Rail Trail junction there is still a 12km stretch to Linville.




Bunyas & Cows


I’m back!  Not that I was really away all that long.  Was it a matter of weeks, perhaps a few months? Time appears to have become a little disorientated in the maelstrom of preparations for retirement.

The root of the problem when I was blogging from another place was trying to simultaneously maintain three blog sites.  It all seemed perfectly logical at the time: one site for our backyard birds [Allen Road in Nanango, Queensland]; a second site [Birding the South Burnett] to cover the broader local patch; and a third [Birding Beyond the Pale] to account for all those occasions when FAY and I ventured beyond the borders of the South Burnett [supposedly even including intra-Australia and overseas trips].  And of course, there was always, still lurking in the background, the original blog – Staffordshire Stray [circa 2010].

Allen Road itself was never a serious problem; we continue to keep extensive records and if not quite daily they do extend back to April 2001. Birding the South Burnett became somewhat more problematic as political local government borders do not always match the geographical boundaries; on the linear journey between Nanango [South Burnett Regional Council] and Blackbutt [South Burnett Regional Council], Yarraman, midway between the two, sits in Toowoomba Regional Council’s jurisdiction. The South Burnett fringe areas remain blurred and often require a Google search to determine contiguous regions. Birding Beyond the Pale was basically stillborn, simply suffocated beneath the pressures of increasing workloads imposed upon Queensland teachers by the new Australian Curriculum.

Hopefully Birder at Large will bring all under the one umbrella.

And, as our first foray at large, we determined on the Bunya Mountains National Park, on the southwest fringes of the South Burnett. Where else could you experience the anguish of having a cow sit on the bonnet of your car?

It was our seventh survey of the area [the trip by Fay in December 2013, as a guest under the auspices of the Nanango Volunteers group, is discarded; amid the tea, sandwiches, cake and general frivolity, she recorded only four species].

It has been a rather inconsistent love affair. From the time of our initial visit in September 1990 there was a gap of three years before our subsequent sojourn in December 1993 but then only four months before our third visit in April 1994. Thereafter the drought set in and our fourth trip was left until January 2007, a chasm stretching back 13 years. The fifth call was in July 2011 and the sixth almost exactly two years later, July 2013.

We did however change the itinerary for this visit.

On most previous visits it had been our practice to head straight to the Park centre at Dandabah, park and walk the short to medium-length tracks emanating from there. Either before setting off, or, more often, immediately on returning, we would relax with a cup of coffee and the camera trained on Australian Brush-turkeys, Satin Bowerbirds or Red-browed Finch; in those early years, feeding was quite an extensive activity but has become rather politically incorrect in more modern times. On occasions we also explored a few of the smaller outer sites.

If nothing else [and with an ultimate Year List of only 220 species little could be more depressing] 2013 was at least a year in which Fay and I either explored new [sadly not always excessively birdy] sites [e.g. Winya Road in August – an unsuccessful twitch for Freckled Duck; Cove Road in October- an unsuccessful twitch for the Regent Honeyeater] or created our own local “circuits” [e.g. Booie Road Circuit in May; Din Din Road in November]. At the end of June 2013 we were in Chinchilla and discovered the Birding Areas of the Wambo Shire booklet; a useful little brochure derailing nine “Bird Trails”, each subdivided into a number of “sites” [from as low as one, for the Broadwater Trail, to a maximum of ten, for the Bunya Foothills Trail]. It took us a month or more but in August that year we found ourselves venturing onto the Bunya Foothills Trail, covering the first six sites [oppressive heat dictating that withdrawal was the better option]. We came away with a tally of 51 species but that’s a tale from yesteryear.

Thereafter, booklet and all thoughts of the other Wambo Trails were put aside and duly forgotten; indeed, the brochure became dislocated among a growing mound of paper rubbish.

That is until Fay reminded me that I’d committed myself to putting together a piece on the Bunya Mountains for the June issue of The Warbler [I’d sailed fairly close, perhaps too close, to the wind in completing the Yarraman State Forest article for March].

Revisiting the Bunya Mountains would be a good way to remind myself of at least some of its basic attributes but we also wanted more; a break from the set routine of Dandabah, a few simple strolls, feed the Satin Bowerbirds and rturn home. We knew there was so much more and we were determined to ring in a few changes.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the Bunya Mountains listed as No.4 in the Birding Areas of the Wambo Shire booklet. The answer had been handed to us on a plate. Coffee brewed, sandwiches packed, we set off to find Horse Gully.

There was a noticeable dearth of avifauna.

Having mused about the lack of birds at Horse Gully [Site 1 on the Bunya Mountains Trail] we made our way to Site No. 2 [a long two-kilometre stretch] and were immediately impressed by the active Yellow-throated Scrubwrens. We counted six in the bat of an eyelid; others skipped about around us. A Satin Bowerbirds called; a Green Catbird meowed from somewhere behind us but all the neck-cranking and peering failed to bring it to light.

We moved on to Site No. 3, Russell Park where we were soon challenged by an unfamiliar call, or rather, we put the then unseen bird down as an Eastern Rosella which didn’t quite “sound right.” It became obvious that there was more than one bird involved in the tree-top cacophony and the deafening screech was unquestionably coming closer. Not Eastern Rosella? Crimson Rosella then? Our experience with this latter species has become somewhat limited since moving to the South Burnett: a mere three sightings in 2013; only one in 2912. Two of the 2013 records relate to the Bunya Mountains.


They burst into view, a flash of reds and greens. Three Australian King-Parrots, an adult pair with an immature in tow; it was the latter making the terrific din. Fay and I looked at each other in puzzlement. King-Parrots were familiar to us; they were among the foremost guests at Café Avian and while never observed in any particular abundance, we had some experience of both juveniles and immatures. We could not recall any generating that level of tumult. Fay whipped out her i-pod and tuned in to Morcombe’s app. There was no immature call listed.

We found ourselves back at Dandabah’s small café/restaurant where we mused further over the Australian King-Parrot revelation and then were totally distrcted s a flock or twenty or more Topknot Pigeons flew by overhead; that put our tally at 22 species, one of the lowest we have recorded for the Bunya Mountains.

The cow on the bonnet? Oh yes, a most surrealistic experience. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.

We were driving quietly along, mostly second gear stuff as we listened for birds. There were a few wallabies on the side of the road and I did notice the odd cow or two but they we all busily chewing the cud. Suddenly one of the nearer cows broke into a gentle trot and started crossing the road in front of me. I swerved to the right but clipped the cow’s rump and the beast literally “sat” on the front, passenger side, corner of the bonnet. It stumbled and careered off downhill to, presumably, join its bovine cohorts, complaining about tourists to the Mountains.

The cow was clearly unharmed; my bonnet will set me back $600 [around $18 a bird]!