The northern end of Pumicestone Passage contains a variety of waders and terns. A good vantage point to observe these birds is from beside the navigation tower at Golden Beach. Notable species of wader that can be observed here include Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover and Greater Sand Plover during summer and Double-banded Plover during autumn and winter. However, undoubtedly the highlight of this area is the very large population of terns. Beginning in October, three species of migrant terns (Little Tern, Common Tern and White-winged Black Tern) arrive from their northern hemisphere breeding grounds. Flock numbers increase between late January and mid to late February, when up to 40,000 can be seen at last light as they settle on the central sandbanks for the night. By early May, all migratory terns have left to breed again.
The best time to visit Golden Beach is on a rising tide just before the sandbanks are completely submerged. This time normally coincides with the time of the high tide at Brisbane Bar. The terns congregate in largest numbers during the late afternoon, when fortunately, the best viewing conditions occur, as the sun is directly behind one’s back. As the sandbanks are a reasonable distance from the beach, use of a spotting scope is highly recommended.
After a visit to Golden Beach, it is also worth stopping at Jensen Park boat ramp. Here, sandbanks become exposed at low tide, often yielding great scurries of feeding activity from a range of species of wader, both migrant and resident. Pacific Golden Plover are particularly fond of this area, along with Black-winged Stilt and Grey-tailed Tattler. A spotting scope is not necessary for viewing here.
How to get there: From Brisbane, drive north along the Bruce Highway for about 80 km. At the signpost to Caloundra, exit onto Caloundra Road. Drive through the roundabout at Nicklin Way and take the second road on the right to Golden Beach. Follow the Esplanade along the foreshore for about 1 km until the passage comes into view on the left.
Jensen Park boat ramp at Bells Creek: About 4 km south of Caloundra Road, The Esplanade turns sharply right and ends a few hundred metres along at the boat ramp. Exposed mudflats can be seen from anywhere along this south-facing road.
Site coordinates: Lat 26º 50’ 35” S, Long 153º 06’ 45” E
Amenities/access: Toilets and picnic facilities are located in several places along the Esplanade. All sites are easily accessible for disabled people.
Wader species: Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Knot, Red Knot, Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher, Black-winged Stilt, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-capped Plover, Double-banded Plover (March – August), Lesser Sand Plover, Greater Sand Plover and Masked Lapwing.
Other species: Caspian Tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Crested Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern and White-winged Black Tern.