Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Newly Discovered Wetland on Sunshine Coast

West Coolum Wetland
While negotiations continue in the hope of resolving the future of the Yandina Creek Wetland, it has emerged that the Sunshine Coast Council owns a substantial parcel of land with similar wetland and grassland habitat.

Google Earth image of West Coolum Wetland
I stumbled across the area, located between the Sunshine Coast Motorway and Coolum Creek Reserve, while kayaking along Coolum Creek. I walked a somewhat overgrown track extending from an old cane train bridge that crosses the creek to the motorway.

Sunshine Coast Council MyMaps of site

I discovered that there are some nice birds in the wetland. In an extensive area of mangrove fern, I heard and saw briefly an Australian Spotted Crake - a very rare species in south-east Queensland that has also been recorded at Yandina Creek. I heard about 10 Spotless Crakes, seeing two.

Spotless Crake
I also heard 8 Lewin's Rails and saw one, along with a Buff-banded Rail. Little Grassbird was quite common. A Swamp Harrier quartered the grassland.
Buff-banded Rail
In short, there is a nice suite of grassland and reed-inhabiting bird species at the site, which I'll dub West Coolum Wetland for the sake of convenience. West Coolum lacks the diversity of Yandina Creek before that wetland was drained; it seemingly has no deep water pools, mangroves or extensive areas of mudflats.

West Coolum Wetland
However, there were some areas of exposed mud and cane stubble - potentially good waterbird habitat - but by comparison with Yandina Creek, few other waterbirds about. The only shorebirds, for instance, were a single Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a lone Latham's Snipe; Yandina Creek at this time of year should be swarming with shorebirds. (It is a matter of considerable regret that shorebirds and other waterbirds continue to be denied access to the Yandina Creek Wetland.) A list of birds seen at West Coolum can be found here.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Nonetheless, the area has potential. As in the case of Yandina Creek, broken floodgates have allowed the site to be regularly inundated by tidal water, creating a wetland habitat in an area that until the mid-2000s had been used to grow sugarcane.

West Coolum Wetland floodgates
A check of Sunshine Coast Council MyMaps shows the council owns a 90-hectare parcel of land covering the site. The land is designated either as "unallocated" or "open space sport environment". This suggests that the council plans to use part or all of the site for some kind of sports project.

During months of controversy surrounding Yandina Creek, the council did not reveal that it had this site in its possession. The council rejected proposals to acquire the Yandina Creek properties for conservation purposes, largely on the basis of cost (estimated at $4 million). The council has been asked to explain its plans for the future of the West Coolum Wetland.

Allocasuarina regrowth at Yandina Creek
Meanwhile, as the fate of Yandina Creek remains in the balance, a recent inspection of that site shows that dense regrowth of Melaleuca and Allocasuarina is flourishing in areas that were inundated tidally before the wetland was drained. This in fact is what happened to the council-owned Coolum Creek Reserve, which lies between the Yandina Creek and Coolum West wetlands. Also former cane farmland, the Coolum Creek Reserve these days harbours little variety of wildlife and few waterbirds as it is essentially a large thicket of Melaleuca and Allocasuarina regrowth.

Google Earth screenshot showing from west to east Yandina Creek Wetland (presently drained), Coolum Creek Reserve (vegetation), Coolum West Wetland

 That said, a large reserve embracing the contiguous (from west to east) Yandina Creek Wetland, Coolum Creek Reserve and Coolum West Wetland would be a substantial addition to the national environmental estate.

Parklakes Wetland
I also visited the Parklakes Wetland at Bli Bli. As has been indicated previously, the Parklakes estate developers have essentially destroyed this once excellent wetland. The wetland today had been drained yet again. Any waterbirds that may have tried to nest in the remnant of reedbed surviving past depredations would have been left high and dry.  Of some consolation was this nice Black-necked Stork in flooded caneland near Yandina.

Black-necked Stork
While on a recent visit to north Queensland, I called in on two wetlands which, like Yandina Creek and West Coolum, are established on low-lying land formerly used to grow sugar crane. Tyto Wetland near Ingham and Cattana Wetland near Cairns are among the top wetland reserves in the wet tropics region.

Cattana Wetland
Cattana Wetland
Catanna and Tyto both have great biodiversity value as wildlife reserves; they boost the regional economy as popular ecotourism destinations; and they enhance the lifestyle of local residents who are fiercely protective of the wetlands. Hopefully the Sunshine Coast will have something similar to boast about in the not-too-distant future.

Tyto Wetland


  1. That's awesome Greg,
    I remember discussing this area with somebody, but I can't remember who. I remember finding the area on google maps but it looked inaccessible by road, so I didn't think much of it! Gorgeous Jabiru!

  2. This area has been owned by the main roads department since the motorway was built. The council used a huge amount of out environmental levy to pay another branch of government for this land a few years ago.

    1. Do we know for sure that the environmental levy was used to purchase this land?