FL30 Rocky Road to the Tropics

Bundaberg to Rockhampton

The weather gods put on another majestic morning for my flight from Bundaberg up to Hedlow, near Rockhampton. Steve Curtis got up early to open up the hangar so I could get away early before the thermals kicked off for the day.

Following the coastline, I flew over Curtis Island, Rodd’s Bay, Port Alma and the Fitzroy River. These are some of the most spectacular wetlands I’ve ever seen! The fluvial patterns of the diffent shades of brown in the mud contrasting with the green of the mangroves and the blue of the water was something else to behold. 

Flying over Port Alma
Curtis Island
Fitzroy River
Near Port Alma

It was beautiful smooth sailing until just before I reached Yeppoon near the Fitzroy River. The flight took me about three hours, so it was about 9.30am and the ground had started heating up. As I headed inland to Hedlow from Yeppoon, I started to get kicked around by thermals flying through the mountains. 

This area of Queensland has an ancient volcanic history. A chain of 12 volcanic plugs called trachytes scattered throughout the landscape form Baga National Park and hold significance for the Darumbal people. Hedlow Airfield is right next to one of these trachytes. It was pretty fun flying around it coming in to land!

Overhead Hedlow Airfield with the trachyte visible in the background.

Another trike pilot, Steve (why are so many pilots called Steve… 😂), helped me out with hangarage at Hedlow Airfield where I stayed for the next couple of weeks.

My ground crew of one, Mick Barker from BirdLife Capricornia, arrived soon after with the trailer in tow. Mick kindly offered me accommodation at his place in Yeppoon so we headed back into town.

Mick is an avid birder and bird photographer so I was keen to get out and see his favourite local birding spots! He didn’t disappoint. Our first stop was Byfield State Forest just north of Yeppoon. I’d been asking to see Wompoo Fruit Doves and we had about 12 of them calling and foraging in the trees throughout the campgrounds near the Bowenia Rainforest Circuit. 

A few days later, we did Corio Bay Fish Habitat Road where I got a few more lifers – Olive-backed Sunbird, Mangrove Honeyeater, Radjah Shelduck and Dusky Honeyeater. Then we headed over to Lake Mary Swamp at sunset. The lighting over the volcanic plugs was amazing and we saw Bustards, Brolgas, Magpie Geese and Cotton Pygmy Geese. Such a great day! 🥰🐦

Wompoo Fruit Dove
An Australian Bustard
Australian Bustard
Dusky Honeyeater
Radjah Shelduck

While in town, I visited Farnborough State School and the students from a homeschool group as well in Yeppoon. I also did an evening talk for BirdLife Capricornia members who sponsored the flight leg from Rockhampton to Mackay.

Aerial view of Lady Elliot Island

On May 14th, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the annual Walk for Toondah protest in Brisbane. Redlands 2030, BirdLife Australia, the Queensland Wader Study Group and Australian Conservation Foundation Bayside in Brisbane have been campaigning against this development proposal for almost 10 years. 

Toondah Harbour is part of the internationally recognised Ramsar site of Moreton Bay and is one of the last wetlands where large flocks of the critically endangered Eastern Curlew still occur in their thousands.  

The Walker Corporation plan to construct 3200 apartments across 60 towers along the waterfront of Toondah Harbour, which would see the destruction of 48 hectares of the Moreton Bay Ramsar site. If this development goes ahead, it would be the first time a Ramsar site has been approved for development and would set a troubling precedent for other protected areas to also be approved for future developments.

The Walk for Toondah had a record turnout with over 3000 people attending to ‘say no to Toondah’. It was a no brainer for me to add my voice to this campaign. The decision to protect Toondah now lies in the hands of the Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek

To add your voice to the campaign, you can sign the petition against the Toondah development on BirdLife Australia’s Act For Birds website here.

Last, I also had the pleasure of catching up for morning tea with the team from Ecosure in Rockhampton! 

I was introduced to Ecosure by Jill Brix from Avisure in Ballina. Ecosure and Avisure are involved in ecological surveys and implementing measures to reduce the impact of aviation on wildlife nearby airports. Namely birdstrike but also minimising the impact on bats and kangaroos as well.

Thank you to Ecosure for sponsoring the flight leg from Daly Waters to Katherine!

That’s it from me! If you missed the livestream of flight leg 30 from Bundaberg to Rockhampton (Hedlow) 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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