FL28 Crossing the border to Brisbane

Hello Queensland!

After a couple of weeks in Ballina, it was time to continue north into Queensland. My first stop in Queensland was Caboolture Airfield, just north of Brisbane. Once again, I was joined by fellow trike pilot, Richard, from Ballina who flew with me up the coast until we were about to head into Gold Coast airspace. It was cool flying over these coastal areas of New South Wales as this is where my mum grew up and I’d heard about places like Chinderah, Cudgen and Murwullimbah for so many years but never been there. Richard gave a wonderful commentary of the areas we were flying over including the home of actor, Chris Helmsworth, in Byron Bay – I can attest it was very fancy 🤩

My flight path took me past the Gold Coast where I flew inland following the Western VFR Route with permission from Gold Coast Air Traffic Control. I then headed up the eastern side of Stradbroke and Moreton Islands before crossing the water to Bribie Island. I was joined at Stradbroke Island by another trike pilot, Chris Pfieffer, and we flew to Caboolture together.

Flying past the Gold Coast

When I landed, I was greeted by a welcoming committee of fans from Bribie Island Environmental Protection Association (BIEPA), BirdLife Rockhampton and Save Sunrise Glossies! It was so wonderful to meet so many people in person with whom I’d been speaking to online for such a long time.

Especially Spencer Hitchen and his mum and dad, Maxine and Gerard, who I met through Costa Georgiadis. Spencer has been campaigning tirelessly to protect the remaining habitat of the Glossy Black Cockatoos at Grasstree Court in Noose from development and we’ve been following one another on Instagram for some time.

Many thanks as well to Bruce Penman from Byron Bird Buddies as well who was my ground crew for this flight leg. Bruce and his wife drove my car up to Brisbane for me the following day and even made me some of the most delicious gluten free lemon drop biscuits I’ve ever had as a gift! 😋🙏

Welcoming committee of fans at Caboolture Airfield
Me and Spencer Hitchen
Pulling up at Caboolture in the trike
Obligatory selfie with the trike

I knew my schedule in Brisbane was going to be really full as I had three community talks lined up for Redlands 2030, BIEPA and Deception Bay Environmental Hub, as well as school visits for Shorncliffe State School, Good Shepherd Lutheran College, Nudgee Beach Environmental Centre, Sunshine Coast Grammar School, Woombye State School and the Boondall Wetlands Centre. Phew! 😮‍💨

One of the highlights of the BIEPA event was having Beako the enormous Eastern Curlew puppet come for a visit! Beako is about the same size as the microlight and is made out of an old hang glider by the Upatree Arts Cooperative 😀 The kids played the drums while the puppeteers sang a song about ‘Microlight Milly in her ultralight’. It was super cute 😄

Beako the Eastern Curlew puppet
Teaching the kids to draw
Kids drawing shorebirds at Nudgee Beach
Students at Woombye State School with their shorebird drawings

One of the big reasons why so many people were engaged with Wing Threads in Brisbane is the controversial Toondah Harbour development proposal that threatens to wipe out 48 hectares of a Ramsar wetland site in Moreton Bay significant for the critically endangered Eastern Curlew. It’s so wonderful to see such a large community coming together to speak out against the proposal that would be incredibly harmful for the local ecosystem. It was a no brainer for me to do what I could to promote advocacy for Toondah and add my voice to the protest!

One of the big ways I’m able to do that is through the media opportunities that come my way along my travels and I had a couple of big ones while in Brisbane. The first was the oppotunity to speak with Rebecca Livingstone on ABC Brisbane radio’s morning show and the second was through the ABC Conversations podcast with Sarah Kanowsky!

Me and Sarah Kanowsky at ABC Studio, Brisbane
Me and Randall Wood at ABC Studio, Brisbane

It’s funny how these opportunities sometimes come about. I was invited to come on Conversations by Sarah’s producer, Meggie, to do a pre-interview. Turns out Meggie is the sister of one of my flying instructors, Georgia, from Phil Unicomb Aviation Pty Ltd in Cessnock! Georgia had suggested me as a potential interviewee as had the wonderful Bernie Hobbs, who I met through Costa.

I also had a serendipitous moment when I went into the ABC studio to record with Sarah, bumping into filmmaker, Randall Wood who was there to do an interview with Rebecca about the premiere of his upcoming documentary film about shorebirds, Flyways! I hadn’t seen Randall since we first met in 2018 at the Australasian Shorebird Conference in Hobart and it was wonderfu to see him again and talk about potential future collaboration.

If you missed the live broadcast of the interview with Sarah, you can listen in to the podcast here or by clicking the link below.

Of course, my trip to Brisbane wouldn’t be complete without some birding and flying with friends! I was invited by Spencer and his family to join them for the weekend up in Noosa. Spencer is an avid bird photographer and was keen to share where the shorebirds like to hang out in his area with me down at Noosa River.

Maxine and Gerard hired a boat for the day and we had a wonderful time exploring the sandbars and sunshine. The highlight of the day for me was a family of Beach Stone-curlews that Spencer showed me. The two parents were keeping a close eye on their younger subadult bird, which hid in the vegetation until called. We also saw Whimbrel, Double-banded Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits. Thank you so much Maxine, Gerard and Spencer for your generosity and time – it was an amazing weekend!

Bar-tailed Godwits
Double-banded Plover
Beach Stone-curlew family

I was also treated to my first experience on non-powered flight in a glider by Phil Behnke from the Caboolture Gliding Club! Phil took me up in his motorised glider – a Super Dimona HK36 – and we flew around the Glasshouse Mountains 😍

I gotta say, it felt kinda weird switching the engine off at 2500 feet! There were a few small thermals going off and I managed to eventually thermal up to cloud base at 5500 feet.
We even had a Black Kite thermalling with us up there and tried to chase it to catch the thermals it was using 🐦
I absolutely loved it! Another aircraft to add to my ever growing list of planes I’d like to learn how to fly 😅 Thanks to Phil and all the pilots at Caboolture Gliding Club for a great day out!
The Super Dimona HK36 motorised glider!
The Glasshouse Mountains
Me and Phil
View from the glider

If you missed the livestream of flight leg 28 from Ballina NSW to Caboolture QLD, you can watch the replay on YouTube here or by clicking one of the links below.

Milly Formby
Milly Formby is a zoologist, pilot, and illustrator of the children’s book, A Shorebird Flying Adventure She is currently flying her microlight around Australia in 2022/23 to share,A Shorebird Flying Adventure with primary students.
Image credits:
Book cover for A Shorebird Flying Adventure

A Shorebird Flying Adventure

Available Now

Join Milly on her microlight and discover how amazing and awesome migratory shorebirds are!

Milly Formby is a zoologist and illustrator of the children’s book A Shorebird Flying Adventure. Available now through CSIRO Publishing.

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