Several of my images, taken at our place in Toowoomba, have accompanied an article by Dr Darryl Jones in the Winter 2013 edition of Wildlife Australia.
A Powerful Owl —Australia’s largest and most, um, powerful owl — photographed at Moggill in Brisbane by Harry Hines, Senior Conservation Officer with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
Powerful Owl, giant of the continent’s nocturnal birds of prey, epitome of solitude and the voice that expresses as no other the essence and grandeur of the mountain bushlands. — David Fleay.
A spell of warm weather, and the Superb Blue Fairy-wrens rise early to once again wrestle with their reflections in the misty windows of our car.
Sometimes they leave their mark — this time two tiny footprints and the swish of a single delicate wing-tip. An instant smile-making bit of window art.
A Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) peers at me from a clump of reeds on the edge of Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island National Park.
I like this photo. It’s technically pretty poor, and composed in a fairly ordinary fashion, but it makes me smile as it brings back memories. Crouching in the sand, oblivious to anything else, all personal worries forgotten — completely in the moment with a camera, peering into reeds through a viewfinder and trying to get a single clear shot of a small bird that just won’t separate itself from the shadows. Suddenly it’s there, checking me out in a fashion most fearless for its size, before darting back into the reeds to join its crew.
Another small moment of life in the wild edges. Here’s to moments shared with little creatures of big personality.
The dragonfly collection of the late Toowoomba naturalist Barry Kenway has been preserved in the Queensland Museum, where it will contribute to the State’s knowledge of these marvellous insects.
From the Winter 2013 edition of Antenna, the journal of the Queensland Museum Foundation:
Dragonflies and damselflies are one of the world’s most familiar and charismatic insects.
There are 327 known species of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) in Australia. The Odonata collection held by the Queensland Museum Network consists of over 4,000 specimens, acquired over the past 151 years.
This year, thanks to a generous donation through the Cultural Gifts Program by odonatologist extraordinaire Deniss Reeves, and a bequest from the estate of the late naturalist Barry Kenway, the Queensland Museum Network’s holdings of dragonflies and
damselflies have more than doubled. We now hold one of the most comprehensive and significant Odonata collections in Australia in terms of species representation and geographic coverage.
The names Deniss Reeves and Barry Kenway are synonymous with Odonata throughout Queensland. Over the last four decades, Deniss has devoted his life to raising community awareness and understanding about his beloved dragonflies and damselflies. During his odonatological career Deniss has amassed thousands of specimens, donating many to scientific institutions, and his stunning photographs of dragonflies and damselflies in their natural habitat have featured in many field guides, including the best-selling Wildlife of Greater Brisbane, published by the Queensland Museum Network. In 1999 Deniss’ significant contribution to the world of entomology was rewarded when the Queensland Pin Damselfly, Eurystica reevesi, was named in his honour.
Barry Kenway was a brother, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, sportsman and highly esteemed member of the Toowoomba community. He had an unquenchable enthusiasm for nature, particularly dragonflies. Barry amassed a collection of hundreds of specimens during his own expeditions and field trips with the Toowoomba Field Naturalists’ Club.
Deniss and Barry’s carefully preserved specimens have come to the Queensland Museum Network precisely packaged in paper envelopes and stored in a multitude of plastic containers. Our scientists will now begin the immense, complicated and delicate task of sorting and storing these specimens in a specially designed cabinet from the United States, purchased with funds raised by the Queensland Museum Foundation.
Queensland Museum Network curator Dr Chris Burwell noted that once sorted and stored, each specimen will be catalogued on the Queensland Museum Network database, making our vastly enhanced Odonata holdings, to be known as the Deniss Reeves & Barry Kenway Dragonfly Collection, accessible to the scientific community and the general public the world over.
“Doctoral scholar Alex Bush will use the collection in a research study to predict the impact of climate change on the distribution of these biological treasures and investigate how our system of reserves could be modified and augmented to best ensure their conservation,” Dr Burwell said.
“Importantly, the Deniss Reeves & Barry Kenway Dragonfly Collection project will form an enduring legacy, commemorating the steadfast commitment and passion shown by Deniss and Barry to the study and protection of dragonflies and damselflies”.
Thanks to Sonya Peters, Chris Burwell and Rod Hobson. Copy courtesy of Antenna, Queensland Museum Foundation.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers on Fraser Island have many wildlife encounters. Most of these are enjoyable, but some are deeply disappointing.
Albatross are spectacular birds, so spotting one is always a joy — unless it’s one that is a species not often seen in Queensland and is critically ill with a longline fishing trace hanging out of its mouth.
In May this year Rangers Linda Behrendorff and Darren Blake found a Buller’s Albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) sitting on the beach one kilometre north of the Pinnacles at Fraser Island. The bird had a green nylon trace with a large longline clip hanging from its mouth. Although transported back to the Eurong Ranger base for urgent assistance, the albatross died that morning.
In June, the bird’s body was necropsied at the Moggill Koala Hospital in Brisbane. Dave Stewart, of the Environment and Heritage and Protection Department of Queensland, writes:
When necropsied, the green nylon trace was found to extend down into the proventriculus of the albatross. At the end of the nylon trace was a large hook with both a bent tip and a barb, both of which had punctured the wall of the proventriculus.
Approximately half of the nylon trace line (the section adjacent to the hook) had changed colour, from green to yellow and all except the tip of the stainless steel hook had begun to corrode. As the albatross was frozen shortly after death, for both nylon to change colour and for the stainless steel hook to begin to corrode, suggests that both of these have been in the gastro-intestinal tract of the bird for some time, in particular the proventriculus which is involved with the secretion of digestive enzymes.
The hook was identified as a tuna circle hook — used for catching all types of fish, while the short trace indicated a drop line set-up used for many types of fish (except tuna). Dave Stewart:
There are two main periods during the longline fishing when seabirds are likely to get caught. These are during the line setting and line hauling. During line setting, baits are attached to hooks and paid out from the stern of the ship. At this stage of the fishing, seabirds risk getting hooked on the lines and then drawn underwater and drown. During line hauling, seabirds may survive the initial hauling process, but retain the longline hooks, which eventually result in their death or disability.
Presumably, most instances of hook ingestion occur as a result of processing procedures (notably the discarding of hooked fish heads by factory crew) undertaken on non-Australian and/or illegal longlining vessels.
This is a medium-sized species of albatross, with a wingspan of 200 to 213cm. Buller’s Albatross are up to about 80cm in length and can live for up to 30 years. They feed mostly on fish, squid and tunicates (barrel-like filter feeders), but also octopuses, shrimps and lobsters.
While Buller’s Albatross visit Australian waters from the south, they are usually seen off the east coast from Coffs Harbour, south to Tasmania and west to Eyre Peninsula. The specimen found on Fraser Island is a rare visitor to our part of the world. This species was unknown from Queensland until 1991, when a specimen was found dead on Frenchmans Beach on North Stradbroke Island. Since this initial record there have been five specimens found beach-washed (mainly on Fraser Island), while five live birds have been observed offshore from Southport and Mooloolaba.
The Buller’s Albatross is a species is listed as Vulnerable under the Nature Conservation Act in Queensland and the national Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Recent population estimates for this species of albatross indicate that about 31,000 to 32,000 pairs remain. While this may sound a lot, in biological terms it is a small number.
Buller’s Albatross are known to breed on a limited number of island groups around New Zealand and in other southern waters. When breeding, Buller’s Albatross are seen mostly over the shelf and slope waters off southern New Zealand, while some birds will occasionally travel further into the Tasman Sea. After breeding, many of these albatross disperse in the oceanic subtropical waters of the western South Pacific, or the Humboldt Current off the western shores of South America.
Longline fishing is a big problem for the Buller’s Albatross, and has been identified as the main threat to the Buller’s Albatross as a species. These albatross are often included in the estimated 300,000 sea birds drowned each year when they eat fish caught on longlines. It is believed that (an unsustainable) 600 breeding adult Buller’s Albatross are killed each year in Japanese operations off New Zealand alone. Other Buller’s Albatross are killed in the Australian Fishing Zone from longlining and collision with the cables and warps used on fishing trawlers.
The CSIRO in Hobart is involved in a study to determine the relationship between fishing activity in the Atlantic and declining albatross populations. It is being funded by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
Resource modeller with the CSIRO in Hobart, Geoff Tuck, says the study will make recommendations about better managing Atlantic fisheries to reduce the effect on seabirds. He says that fishing agencies are currently setting about 400 million hooks across the Atlantic, and believes that area closures or reductions in effort in particular areas or in particular fleets may help the albatross.
“That’s a lot of hooks and even though a vessel may catch either no birds on a particular set or maybe only one bird or two birds, the problem is that when you multiply that up across millions and millions of hooks then it becomes a problem for our seabirds.”
Images (not credited) are courtesy Linda Behrendorrf, Jenna Tapply and Dave Stewart. Thanks to Linda and David for the information and images.
- Stewart, D (2013). A Buller’s Albatross from Fraser Island in May 2013. Unpublished report, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
References cited in the above report:
- Alexander, K., G. Robertson & R. Gales (1997). The incidental mortality of albatrosses in longline fisheries. Tasmania: Australian Antarctic Division.
- Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne, Victoria: Melbourne University Press.
- Brothers, N. (1991). Albatross mortality and associated bait loss in the Japanese longline fishery in the Southern Ocean. Biological Conservation. 55:255-268.
- EABG (Experimental Analysis of Behaviour Group) 1999. Draft Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant Petrels. Environment Australia Biodiversity Group, Canberra.
- Environment Australia (EA) (2001). National Recovery Plan for Albatrosses and Giant-Petrels 2001-2005. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia.
- Gales, R., Brothers, N. and Reid, T. 1998. Seabird mortality in the Japanese tuna longline fishery around Australia, 1988-1995. Biol. Conserv. 86:37-56.
- Gynther and Stewart (1998). First Record of Buller’s Albatross in Queensland. 42:494.
- Murray, T. E.; Bartle, J. A.; Kalish, S. R.; Taylor, P. R. 1993. Incidental capture of seabirds by Japanese southern bluefin tuna longline vessels in New Zealand waters, 1988-1992. Bird Conservation International 3: 181-210.
- Nel, D.C. & J.L. Nel (1999). Marine debris and fishing gear associated with seabirds at sub-antarctic Marion Island, 1996/97 and 1997/98: in relation to longline fishing activity. CCAMLR Science. 6:85-96.
- Stahl, J.C., J.A. Bartle, N.G. Cheshire, C. Petyt & P.M. Sagar (1998). Distribution and movements of Buller’s Albatross (Diomedea bulleri) in Australasian seas. New Zealand Journal of Zoology. 25:109-137.
Black Kites have been mysteriously dying in northern Queensland.
Experts are looking for clues as to why common black kites are falling dead from north Queensland skies.
Black kites, also known as shite-hawks and firebirds, are medium-sized birds of prey and are among the few raptor species which gather in flocks. Testing has so far excluded bird flu and Newcastle disease, both highly contagious viral infections linked to mass deaths of migratory wild birds, and transmissible to humans. But the cause of the latest spate of deaths, possibly linked to a cross-border infection, is still a mystery.
Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed it is testing “several kites in relation to unexplained deaths in the tropical north Queensland region. The exact number of bird deaths is unknown and estimates are not available at this stage of the investigation,” a spokesman told The Courier-Mail.
He said a range of tests were being undertaken for potential causes. “Laboratory testing is ongoing to determine the cause of this mortality incident.” Environment Department wildlife director Beck Williams said her office would investigate if it was suspected the birds might have been illegally killed.
Bird of prey expert James Biggs said it was highly unusual for raptors to die in large numbers or, literally, drop dead from the sky. “If it is not disease, it could possibly be poisoning, but without being familiar with the ongoing tests it is hard to know,” the Cairns Tropical Zoo bird supervisor said.
Black kites prey on insects, small animals and birds, and can spend all day soaring on the wing, hawking insects out of the air and eating them on the fly. “They are often seen hovering around fires, like cane burn-off, where they catch the insects pushed up on the updraft,” Mr Biggs said. “But if there is a road kill they will feed on that too. Whatever it is that is killing them I’d be very keen to know why. It’s a puzzle.”
I’ve just had an image printed in a Finnish newspaper. What were they after? A photo of a dingo! Why? Read on …
I thought you might need an explanation concerning the use of your dingo photo.
I worked as a news reporter in the newspaper Satakunnan Kansa for nearly 30 years. My specialities in that work were nature, conservation of nature, fishing and hunting. Now I have been editing the readers’ letters for five years. I also do the layout for the two pages.
The “dingo case” started when a bear swum to one of the Pori harbours. The animal was very angry because of the harbour’s fences. It tried to go through, but couldn’t do that, so it went back to the sea and swam away. The authorities decided that they would have to shoot the bear if it did not go back to the woods. So, they tracked the animal for a while with guns, but stopped when they couldn’t find it.
After all that the newspaper got a letter form a blind priest by the name of Hannes Tiira, who is a keen bird listener and conservationist. He wrote that the city of Pori, which has the bear in its coat of arms, did not deserve the bear as a symbol, as the city had mistreated the bear (I like this guy. His blog looks cool, but my Finnish is dismal —Rob).
He suggested that the dingo or mamba would be a better animal for Pori, because these animals don’t bother us. Why dingo or mamba? The explanation is that Pori is known for its rock bands Dingo and Mamba.
Dingo was the most popular rock band in Finland in the beginning of the 1980s. The composer and singer of the band (Neumann) was a sailor as a young boy and maybe he had seen the dingo. In the summer many fans were waiting outside to see them play, some even sleeping in the open. The album that I have sent you in the 5th of Dingo. I thought you’d like to hear what kind of music they played.
When I got the letter from Hannes Tiira, I thought that all our readers might not know what a dingo was. I found you on the Internet and saw that you had a dingo photo, so I contacted you and you had the good will to send me the photo even though I could not pay you.
Thank you again,
Esa-Pekka Avela, Journalist, Pori, Finland
Google ‘Bears and Finland’ to see some absolutely stunning photographs of bears in … Finland!
This watercolour painting by Rob Mancini hangs above my desk.
It’s a constant source of inspiration to me.
I’ve photographed terns, those feisty survivors of the edges between land and sea, with mixed results. My photographs never seem to capture the enjoyment of seeing these characters live. This painting, however, has done just that.
This is an image that exudes mystery and majesty. There has been no attempt to nail down the birds with clinical precision, instead, we are granted a dazzling peek into the fast-paced lives of these fabulous animals — burning bright with tenacious life in the salty sea-spray and early light, with their precise but ruffled forms.
I am reminded that no matter how much I might think I know birds I am only ever struggling to get an understanding of them — an outsider peering in, and my human intelligence and arrogance is to no avail when faced with the transient beauty and other-worldly nature of such creatures. This is a brief, shimmering glimpse into another reality.
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
― Henry Beston, “The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod.”
Rob Mancini was a featured artist in Penny Olsen’s 2001 book “Feather and Brush: Three Centuries of Australian Bird Art.” From that book:
The subjects that capture (Rob’s) interest are the waterbirds, especially migratory waders, subtly-plumaged birds that are often over-looked. “I get pretty excited by raptors too, but who doesn’t?’ An accurate rendering alone does not hold much interest for him, rather he hopes to convey a more emotive experience. He believes that the obsession with super-realism has led to some misunderstanding about creating a realistic image. Although certainly interested in scientific accuracy and believability, rather than attempting to render every minute detail he aims to evoke a realistic impression. “It’s worth resisting the temptation to paint every detail, instead allowing the eye of the observer to put them in.”
Rob has just made a selection of fine art prints of his paintings available for sale on his Etsy webpage. Included is a limited edition print of the Crested Tern painting featured here (from an edition of 300, hand-signed and numbered, printed by offset lithography on heavyweight art paper). If you’re ever lost for a gift idea, supporting an Australian wildlife artist by purchasing one of these prints might be the go. Rob also has a collection of his illustrations on his deviantART page.
Lake Nuga Nuga, the largest natural water body within the dry highlands of the Central Queensland Sandstone Belt, is a place of many stories.
About 515 km north-west of Brisbane, this lake is located at the northern (downstream) end of the Arcadia Valley, and lies within the floodplain of the Brown River, a tributary of the Comet River. The Comet River itself falls within the greater Fitzroy River basin (see map below), the waters from which eventually reach the Queensland coast near Rockhampton.
During favourable seasons both the Brown River and Moolayember Creek flow into Lake Nuga Nuga.
Lake Nuga Nuga varies in size with the seasons. It is usually somewhere in the order of about 2,000 ha in area, and is about 8 km across in a north-west to south-east direction and about 4 km in width. The lake is mostly below 2 metres in depth, with a maximum depth of about 9 metres. One source records the lake as having been dry only twice — in 1936 and in 1970-71, while Walsh (1988) states the lake as having been dry three times during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nuga Nuga National Park lies adjacent to the lake’s northern banks, but does not include the lake itself.
A sudden growth …
While today’s visitors to the lake are often awed by the lake’s immense expanse, it has not always looked like this.
Ludwig Leichhardt crossed the nearby Expedition Range in 1844 on his way to Port Essington. He narrowly missed Lake Nuga Nuga while skirting around the area’s brigalow scrubs. He did name Lake Brown, a lake just to the north of Lake Nuga Nuga, after one of the Aboriginal members of his expedition.
Walsh (1985) believes that Frederick Walker of the native Police may have been among the first to officially record the lake’s existence in early ‘white’ records.
In 2006 researchers Finlayson and Kenyon published a paper on Lake Nuga Nuga, sourcing original files and the results of lake core sediment samples. They studied the records of surveyor Vernon Brown, who travelled through the Arcadia Valley in 1865. Brown recorded Lake Nuga Nuga as small, being only about one kilometre in diameter, within an extensive area of swamps and flood-prone country covered by open forest and ‘open brigalow scrub’, ‘oak scrub’, ‘open scrub’ and ‘open flooded box flat’.
About 1880 the dimensions of Lake Nuga Nuga dramatically extended over a short period of time.
It is thought that heavy rain and the subsequent flooding of the Brown River filled the small existing lake and surrounding swamps, before a scouring flash flood in Moolayember Creek transported large amounts of silt into the vicinity of the lake. When these waters reached the creek’s right-angle junction with the Brown River, turbulence caused the silt to form a natural levee bank at the lake’s northern end.
Finlayson and Kenyon believe that Lake Nuga Nuga is unusual geographically because it is a particularly large example of a lake associated with a river levee, and also because it is a rare case where the main stream (the Brown Rover) has been blocked by a smaller tributary, here Moolayember Creek.
The many dead trees throughout the water area may support the larger lake’s relatively short period of existence. The lake has, despite expanding and contracting with seasonal conditions, gradually continued to expand.
… and a mysterious disappearance
A strange event occurred at Lake Nuga Nuga in the 1940s. The water of the lake apparently drained overnight, leaving the bodies of thousands of dead fish, eels and turtles scattered around the lake’s shoreline.
From the September 13, 1946 edition of the Western Star:
The waters of Lake Nooga Nooga, normally about five miles in diameter and situated just north of the Carnarvon range, have mysteriously disappeared.
The edge of the lake has been steadily receding, and muffled explosions have been heard from the direction of the lake from Christmas Eve, 1944. Last week the manager of Warinilla Station (Mr W Logan) found that only a strip of mud 100 yards by 20 yards remained. Three months ago there were 400 acres of water. Mr Logan said that the water had been disappearing too fast for evaporation to be the explanation.
The explosion, which is believed to have been a subterranean disturbance, killed all the fish in the lake, which was previously well stocked. Mr Logan said: “We found the fish lying dead in the mud around the lake bed. You can still scoop up their bones.”
One theory held in the district is that the disturbance opened a connection with an underground shale layer believed to run through to Springsure about 70 miles to the north-west.
Mr Logan said that he had never heard of the lake being dry before, but evidence of charring on timber of the “drowned forest” which filled the original lake bed indicated that at some time it must have been swept by bushfires.
Walsh (1985) reports one persistent local theory for this event:
It is believed that American bombers flying on the Darwin to Brisbane route had jettisoned their bomb load directly into the lake’s waters. The explosion was thought to have opened some fissure or fault in the floor of the lake and permitted the water to escape. Careful examination of the lake bed during the 1970s drought failed to discover any evidence of such disturbance or of bomb shrapnel.
Walsh quotes a newspaper article about a group on a fishing expedition camped on the lake shore at the time of the event:
The night before, muffled explosions like thunder exploded in the distant hills and rocked their holiday camp and swirled the lake’s waters angrily on its sands.
Apparently activities normally associated with earth tremors were recorded at least as far south as Timor Station, near Injune. It was reported that crockery in the kitchen cupboards rattled furiously in the night in question.
The original locals?
The Aboriginal name for the lake was, and still is, Wagan Wagan. This means ‘running’ and may have originally referred to the small dotterels and wading birds that can be seen running around the lake’s shoreline.
From Walsh (1985):
The origin of Wagan Wagan Lake has a direct association with one of the most significant creatures in Australian Aboriginal mythology: the Rainbow Snake. This creature is found in mythology in many countries, and in Australia is often responsible for forming particular landscape features such as rivers and lakes. Within the sandstone belt area this fearsome creature was commonly known as Moondagarri or at times Moondungera. Areas reputed to be the home of the Moondagarri (also known as Mundagurra) are held in great reverence and the Lake Nuga Nuga area is exceptional in that it is the home of not one but two Rainbow Serpents.
The two prominent mountains on the northern lake edge and which form the southern extremity of the Fantail Range are now known as Mt Warrinilla or Round Mountain (known by Aboriginal people as Dhanamany) and Mt Kirk. One Rainbow Serpent is said to reside under each of these mountains.
Lake Wagan Wagan was originally created by the travelling Rainbow Serpents as their final home, and maintain the water in the lake to keep their bodies moist. It is said that if the Rainbow Serpents leave their homes under the mountains the lake will dry up forever.
There was plenty of evidence in the early 1900s that the Lake Nuga Nuga area was of great significance to Aboriginal people long before the advent of European settlers.
An extensive complex of ledge burials was found in the area in the 1950s and in spite of its remote location was totally pillaged within a decade, an event all too typical within the entire sandstone country in decades past. A wealth of information was lost to science, writes Walsh. One could also add that the appalling desecration of burial grounds held sacred to Aboriginal people was inexcusably thoughtless and ignorant.
Burial cylinders, made of elaborate bark constructions, were taken from the area decades ago. It is thought that large amounts of material accompanied the burials, including bone awls, dilly bags, skin bags, ceremonial stones and clapsticks. Walsh believed this to be one of the greatest single sources of material data in pre-contact Aboriginal lifestyles yet discovered in central Queensland.
Controversy over the removal of a burial cylinder from the area in 1982 gathered media interest, attracting greater public support for the official protection of archaeological sites.
In the 1970s drought it was reported that numerous stone tools lay in an area not far from the shoreline of the lake, still not covered by the deposits of sediment. Clay and stone ground ovens were also visible on the lake bed.
Despite what is written about the “lost tribes of the Carnarvons” the Karingbal people have survived, and continue to assert their relationship with this area, including Lake Nuga Nuga and its surrounds.
A small national park, but without the lake
The Arcadia Valley, like much of the central Queensland area, was once covered in a scrub dominated by the acacia known as brigalow (Acacia harpophylla). Clearing of this area for agriculture accelerated after the Second World War with the introduction of heavy machinery.
Jim Gasteen was involved in extensive surveys of the area in the 1970s as conservationists and scientists sought to have examples of the State’s biogeographic regions included within national park reserves. He describes (in 1982) what happened in the area with the commencement of the Fitzroy Basin Brigalow Land Development Scheme in 1962:
The plan by the Government was to allocate and clear 4.5 million hectares of brigalow-dominated country north from the Warrego Highway for closer settlement. As a result of this, and other extensive private clearing during the Scheme and since, most of the lowland brigalow scrubs had disappeared by the early 1970s, leaving vast areas of over-cleared agricultural lowland to the north, south and east of the central highlands. In addition, the more accessible mixed eucalypt ridges associated with the north/south coastal ranges have now been cleared for farming and grazing. Virtually the only areas which have escaped the onslaught of an expanding agricultural industry have been the more elevated ranges where the soils are shallow and rocky and which are too steep and difficult to clear.
Gasteen’s survey work was a critical part of the successful acquisition of some central highlands areas in national parks or other reserves, including Expedition National Park and Nuga Nuga National Park. His The Queensland Central Highlands Sandstone Region Survey Report was vital support in the effort to protect some remaining habitat within reserves. After completing a large survey of Queensland’s wetlands in the 1970s, Gasteen named 11 specific wetland areas that he felt should be accorded national park status. Lake Nuga Nuga was one of these.
Hemmed in by the retreating scarps of the Expedition, Carnarvon and Kongabula ranges, which form a beautiful backdrop to the sea of pink waterlilies blanketing the lake surface, the Lake Nuga Nuga area contains important remnants of local native vegetation in the heart of the over-cleared Brigalow lands. This important wetland region supports a large and diverse wildlife population of immense significance to Queensland’s central highlands.
While the area adjacent to Lake Nuga Nuga was gazetted as a fauna reserve in 1969, it was not until 1991 that Nuga Nuga National Park was declared over a 2,550 ha area of bush. Extensions in 1993 allowed for the inclusion of a former Recreation Reserve, increasing the park’s size to 2,860 ha (about 28.6 sq km).
The lake itself is not part of the national park, but considered vacant crown land, a waterway which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources and Water. Attempts in the past to have the lake included within the national park failed after protests by some local land-owners.
Lake Nuga Nuga is listed in the National Directory of Important Australian Wetlands. It is one of 13 nationally-significant wetlands that fall within the Southern Brigalow Belt biogeographic region.
Lying within the Brigalow Belt Biogeographic region, Nuga Nuga National Park protects some remnants of plant communities that were once more widespread when the Arcadia Valley area was covered in scrub.
The vulnerable Ooline (Cadellia pentastylis) is found here. This tree was once widespread from central and southern Queensland to north-west New South Wales. Ooline is a relic species from earlier and wetter geological time, and is now restricted to a few isolated areas, having disappeared from most of its previous range. The remnants in Nuga Nuga National Park are found in one of the best remaining examples of this habitat in Queensland.
As well as Brigalow itself (Acacia harpophylla), other notable plants species include Broad-leaved Bottle-tree (Brachychiton australis) and eucalypts such as Poplar Box (Eucalyptus populnea), and ironbark. Rosewood Acacia (A. rhodoxylon) dominates the summit and sides of Mount Warrinilla, with ironbark fringing the edges and scarps.
There are areas within the park composed of a combination of open or shrubby woodland communities dominated by Narrow-leaved Ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) and Spotted Gum (Corymbia citriodora). Coolibah (Eucalyptus coolabah) woodland is also present.
Remnants of Bonewood (Macropteranthes leichhardtii) scrub, a dry form of rainforest (or semi-evergreen vine thicket), are found throughout the park, while Currentbush (Carissa ovata) is a significant coloniser of vine thicket margins.
The lake itself provides valuable habitat for water birds in an otherwise arid sandstone landscape.
At dawn and dusk the trumpeting of large gatherings of swans resounds hauntingly through the stillness of the lake’s ‘dying forest’. Walsh (1988).
Many species visiting the lake are migratory and are listed under international treaties. Large numbers of birds such as Pelicans, Black Swans, Magpie Geese, Brolgas, Grey Teal, Great Crested Grebes, Pink-eared Ducks, Hardheads and Plumed Whistling-ducks use the lake at times.
Raptors such as Whistling Kites and White-bellied Sea eagles can be seen here. Whistling Kites have been adding to some nests in the lake’s dead trees for over 20 years (Walsh, 1999), and can be seen snatching Bony Bream from the water on warm mornings.
Organised trips to Lake Nuga Nuga began in the early 1900s. In March 1931 The Royal Geographical Society of Australia’s Roma Branch organised the first major expedition to the lake. Led by Roma solicitor (and later Mayor) Fred Timbury, the party camped overnight before continuing on to Rewan Station and Carnarvon Gorge.
Timbury was an advocate of schemes (known as the Bradfield and Idriess) to redirect the flow of rivers inland and north for irrigation. His book Battle for the Inland, published in 1944, pushed these schemes. Following trips to Lake Nuga Nuga and Carnarvon, Timbury gave a series of lectures at Roma, Injune and Mitchell on the beauty of the Carnarvon Ranges, featuring a series of ‘Magic Lantern’ glass slides prepared from expedition photographs by Roma photographer Otto Watson.
Since then, Lake Nuga Nuga has been an increasingly popular destination for campers, fisher-folk and photographers.
In 1986 photographer Steve Parish led the Wildlife Photo Experience Tour to the lake, and participants waded out to get a close look at the lake and its stunning native water-lillies. The lillies are there still, and make an excellent photographic subject.
Val Palmer (1986) describes the joy of photographing the lake in the changing light of sunset:
With changing nuances of light, each image captured seemed to surpass the last. Such elation as the sun dipped lower, towards the bones of trees standing starkly from the lake! Then the ultimate simplicity as it set, a dull red orb, seeming to impale itself on the teeth of dead trees.
[Four sunset photos (above) courtesy Linda Thompson.]
Land currently farmed within the Arcadia Valley is regarded as the highest quality for agriculture, with a reputation as good fattening country for cattle. Pasture growth is good on soils derived from the original Brigalow, Belah, Ooline and Wilga softwood and vine scrub soils.
Another claim for use of the area’s land has accelerated, with mining exploration intensifying over the entire sandstone country of central Queensland, including the Arcadia Valley. Future threats to Lake Nuga Nuga may include water extraction and the introduction of new weed species.
The lake has seen a recent increase in people taking to its waters in powered boats. Nonetheless, it is still a serene location for most of the time. It remains to be seen what pressures will affect the lake and its small adjacent national park in the coming decades, and how it can be best protected for generations to appreciate.
I’d like to think that the Moondagarri stay sleeping beneath the mountains that overlook this magical place.
Thanks to QPWS rangers and total legends Linda Thompson and Bernice Sigley for permission to use their images, and for the enjoyable times spent camping by Nuga Nuga. Thanks also to Linda for the loan of the kayak, and to Bill Goebel and Peter Keegan.
- Finlayson, B. and Kenyon, C. (2007). Lake Nuga Nuga: a Levee-dammed Lake in Central Queensland, Australia. Geographical Research. 45(3):246-261. Online here.
- Gasteen, J. (1984). Pelicans to the Rescue. Wildlife Australia, Autumn 1984.
- Gasteen, J. (1998). Back to the Bush.
- Gasteen, J. (1991). How can we Protect Queensland’s Diminishing Wetlands? Wildlife Australia, Spring 1991.
- Walsh, G. L. (1985). Lake Nuga Nuga — A Need for Greater Protection. A Brief on the Historic Significance of the Lakes Area. Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (unpublished).
- Walsh, G. L. (1998). Carnarvon and Beyond. Takarakka Nowan Kas Publications.
- Palmer, V. (1986). Nuga Nuga Dreaming. Wildlife Australia, Spring 1986.
Black Kites have continued to hang around Toowoomba in great numbers, with huge flocks seen swirling above the local tip. A couple of dodgy images taken on my mobile phone.
For more on Black Kites see my April 2013 post.
From Mick Atzeni, 1/7/13:
After doing our western jaunt for the raptor census, Olive, Kylie, Claire Hanney and I caught the spectacle Saturday around 5pm along Hermitage Rd when hundreds and hundreds of kites were streaming in to roost. It’s surreal and exactly as Pat described; like a huge mob of decamping flying-foxes. It is a must see. You just can’t comprehend the scale of it unless you’re standing there trying to count them. With so many birds in flight – many below the treeline and obscured by the buildings — it was incredibly hard to do so but 3000+ would be my conservative estimate.
I recently accompanied my son and father-in-law on a fishing trip along the jetty at Bongaree, on Bribie Island. Unlike these two fishing legends, I’m hopeless at catching anything, so it was not hard to be distracted by the sight of two unusual birds sitting with the Silver Gulls and Pelicans on the busy beach.
It was a pair of immature Pacific Gulls, which were quite confiding and allowed me to get a few images. I’d only ever seen this species before at Bruny Island in the far south of Tasmania a decade ago, so it was interesting to see them here in the north.
[Click on images for larger view]
A nation-wide study on Pacific Gulls has shown that numbers of the birds are falling in some parts of Australia. At the same time research has revealed “unexpectedly intensive movement of the South Australian population of Pacific Gulls”. While the average movement of adult Pacific Gulls is said to be about 40 km, one South Australian bird has been reported 400 km away. Said researcher Dr Bruce Robertson, “He packed his suitcase and went a long way and we don’t know why.”
I recently did two days of long walking with my son at Carnarvon Gorge.
It was a great time, and reminded me of just how much walking in such terrific places can help one re-focus on the good things in life. Here are a small selection of images from the trip.
A recent work trip to the central Queensland sandstone country provided some great opportunities for bird photography, although much was done on the road in a bit of a rush getting from one spot to another.
[Click on images for enlarged view]
Arcadia Valley is between Injune and Rolleston. The brigalow scrub that once covered this area is now largely restricted to Lonesome National Park at the southern end of the valley. Vast fields of sorghum stretched off to distant sandstone escarpments as I drove south in the late afternoon light.
I’ve always loved spotting Red-winged Parrots (Aprosmictus erythropterus), and stopped to watch a small flock of these dazzling birds raiding the grain as long shadows crept across the fields.
[This is an article I recently wrote for the Autumn/Winter 2013 edition of Wildlife Queensland News.]
Perched uncomfortably in a grey mangrove tree, I was being eaten alive by sand-flies. I was coping with this, however, as I’d just caught a glimpse of my favourite bird.
I sat as still as possible, peering intently into the tangle of foliage on the opposite bank of this small, mangrove-lined creek on the outskirts of Brisbane. A pale grey, ghostly shape had just glided through a gap in the canopy, and the place had fallen silent — not a sound from the other mangrove birds that had been piping away seconds before. The place was tense. A predator was looking for a meal, and all were wary.
My first close encounter with a Grey Goshawk in my local patch of bushland, years earlier, had really sparked my enthusiasm for raptors — our birds of prey. I’d stopped in my tracks to meet the steady, but wary, gaze of this impressive bird as it perched on the end of a eucalypt limb above the walking track, black eyes stark against pale grey feathers. Having seen these birds occasionally from a distance on the edges of distant rainforest, I was stunned to be face-to-face with one in this patch of bush where the suburbs meet Moreton Bay. The bird had quickly and silently taken off, leaving me hooked.
Like many other bird-watchers before me I took a deeper plunge into the addictive world of raptor identification — a pastime equal parts frustration and excitement. What was this raptor doing here in Brisbane, and what others might be around? With fellow local birdwatchers over the next few years, I’d pursued some answers to these questions, and found many raptors hanging out locally. Our finds included Brown and Grey Goshawks; Collared Sparrow-hawks; Pacific Bazas; Brahminy, Whistling and Black-shouldered Kites — and even White-bellied Sea Eagles — all nesting in the area. We soon realised just how important these habitats were for our birds of prey.
Many years later, I still find raptors exciting to watch. Living on the Darling Downs, I’ve seen Spotted Harriers gliding over fields, Brown Falcons flapping about a clear blue sky, and Peregrine Falcons nesting on the cliffs of old quarries. Yet my favourite bird remains the Grey Goshawk, with whom my encounters are still rare and always thrilling. I’ve spotted one gliding over Queens Park in the middle of Toowoomba, and one day near Ravensbourne stood transfixed as a white phase morph of the species (the only pure white raptor in the world) glided past. That was one of the highlights of my life as a naturalist.
A naturalist? I remember telling a colleague that I was one of these, to which I received the shocked response, “You’re into running around with no clothes on?” It seems that being a naturalist (as opposed to a naturist, or nudist), is a pastime little known these days, and certainly less popular than watching football (and possibly running around nude). But it’s a long tradition, and a good-value hobby. Watching the natural world brings endless rewards. Part of the tradition is of course the sometimes obsessive need to impose order on what we see, to collect and categorise. Where once our predecessors kept bird eggs and cabinets of specimens, we keep notes, tick lists, make sketches and take photographs. And, of course, we share stories of what we’ve seen, which seems to close the loop on the enjoyable process of watching wildlife. I think it is the mystery and challenge, and the encounters with wonderful wild creatures, that make being a naturalist so rewarding.
Raptors are a great reminder of the mystery inherent in nature. Despite our technology we can’t just whistle them up, and identification (let alone an understanding of behaviour) takes dedication and skill. Long persecuted as predators that take our chickens or lambs, their ability to survive around us — largely unnoticed and given the chaos we wreak on habitats — is admirable.
As I sat in the mangroves that day, I was holding my breath. No doubt this mere glimpse would be all I’d get once more. But I was in luck, as a large female Grey Goshawk emerged from the tree line and glided right past me. My hands were shaking so much I could barely hold the binoculars still. Locking them briefly onto the bird’s face, I once more met the fierce and intelligent gaze of this most striking bird, before it was gone — as silently and as quickly as it had appeared.
I went home itchy, clothed and happy.
Herpetologist, author and photographer Mike Swan has been on the road taking photographs for a new field guide to the frogs of Australia. He’s given me permission to share a few images taken during a recent trip to far northern Queensland.
[All images copyright Mike Swan. Click on icon bottom-right of gallery for full-screen slide show.]
I’ll post more about this book down the track. See here for more information on Mike’s publishing business.
“I met Warren Zevon in Emerald,” said Martin Ambrose, Senior Ranger in the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, as we drove along some dodgy road near Injune. Tracks from the classic 1978 Zevon album Excitable Boy had been blasting out of the speakers for a quite a few kilometres.
I’d discovered that Ambrose and I shared an appreciation of the music of the late Zevon, but this was a bit hard to believe. Zevon, the hard-rocking American singer-songwriter, known for his sardonic humour, brilliant musicianship and heavy partying, hanging out in central Queensland? “I require evidence,” was my response. It appeared a few days later, in the form of this great photograph.
In his blog page on Zevon, ‘Nu Country guru’ Dave Dawson states, “When Chicago-born singer-songwriter Warren Zevon first toured Australia with (well-known Aussie outfit) The Little River Band in 1990 he soaked up Aussie culture from the shade of the Hilton circuit.” Zevon played 23 gigs that year in a tour that visited Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Tour lists do not mention that Zevon had briefly ventured off the coastal strip, accompanying The Little River Band when they visited Emerald to play at a charity concert following the big flood of that year. Zevon played two songs at the concert, which was held at the football grounds.
Martin relates how Zevon had earlier in the day planted a tree in the car park — a temporary location for the publicity photo shoot with the Queensland Forestry Department (who Martin them worked for) and Central Queensland News. “Forestry was seeking coverage for the Natureline, a corridor of trees being planted around the town of Emerald to reduce spray drift from cotton spraying around the margins of town. Fred Wild, aka Mr Natureline, got all sorts of famous people to plant trees to publicise the scheme.”
“Warren Zevon will be ten years dead on 7 September 2013. I would like to remember Warren by celebrating his significant contribution to conservation in Queensland.
The fuzzy box tree that he planted in the football ground car park in Emerald in 1990 was later unceremoniously translocated to the back yard of the Central Queensland News journalist Fred Wild, where it grew into a tree affectionately and widely known as ‘Warren’.
In the five years I was in Emerald, ‘Warren’ grew quickly to about four metres in height. The tree flowered and sheltered a fire ring that hosted many camp oven roasts. Under that tree, in a similar fashion to that ghost gum at Barcaldine, a range of well, and lesser-known ‘conservationists’ consumed roast lamb and red wine, while plotting strategies, drowning sorrows and celebrating small wins with contemporary issues in Central Queensland, including land clearing, tree plantings, land suitable for new national parks and wildlife refuges.
The Excitable Boy from New York and his little fuzzy box seedling unwittingly created a regular congregation of dedicated people who now have seniority in their respective careers across Australia.
I believe that ‘Warren’ eventually succumbed to clearing for redevelopment. However, the legend of the tree, and the man who planted it, lives on.”
Had any green Zevon anthems been forthcoming following his trip to the wilds of central Queensland? Almost. As Dave Dawson points out, Zevon indeed used his Aussie trip as inspiration for the title track of his eleventh album Mr Bad Example. No uplifting conservation theme here — the song is a typical Zevon number, bristling with his trademark sardonic humour and caustic wit, a hilarious travelogue parody putting “shonky Aussie corporate crooks on the griller.”
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the wanted ads sipping Fosters in the shade
I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman’s comp and pauperized the lot
I’m Mr Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt
I’m Mr Bad Example, take a look at me
I’ll live to be a hundred and go down in infamy
“Mr Bad Example” (Warren Zevon/Jorge Calderon).
“Like no other singer-songwriter of his generation, Warren Zevon addressed murder, desperate passion, espionage, crippling loneliness, and f*ck-you excess with a lethal wit and confessional grace that remain unrivalled. When the singer-songwriter-pianist succumbed to lung cancer in 2003, the music world lost a truly original voice.” — Rhino Records.
Thanks to Martin Ambrose for the story, deadly Stratego battles and Zevon road singalongs.
The Black, or Fork-tailed, Kite (Milvus migrans) is a hawk found mainly in Australia throughout the northern and inland parts of the country.
It’s a sociable raptor often seen around human settlements, where large flocks frequent rubbish dumps, stockyards, abbatoirs and roads.
This species is also found across much of the world , including Europe, Africa, Asia and New Guinea. In Europe the populations are highly migratory, hence the specific name migrans. Populations of the bird in Australia do not regularly migrate, but are known to occasionally ‘irrupt’ in areas beyond their usual range.
While seen occasionally about Toowoomba in small numbers or individuals, a large movement of these birds across town is from all accounts a fairly uncommon event. However, this is indeed what’s happened over the last month, with groups of these birds numbering up to perhaps a hundred, or even more, moving across the town. Other species of raptor have been seen at times moving with, or through, the groups.
While walking the dog in the park we spotted a large flock of these kites overhead, circling loosely on thermals and heading slowly east. As our small dog sat by itself in the open field, one bird suddenly appeared above us, peering intently at our little mutt.
Says raptor expert Stephen Debus, “The Black Kite’s most characteristic behaviour is its effortless circling in inland or tropical skies, in flocks sometimes numbering hundreds or even thousands. It can ascend beyond the range of human vision or suddenly appear overhead having descended from invisible heights.” Which is what this one pretty much did.
The dog was clearly threatened, peering up and growling before running to hide between human feet. It was hilarious to see this notorious bird-chaser on the receiving end for once!
See comments for updates.
Thanks to Justin Shiels, Tom Tarrant, Mick Atzeni, Richard Jeremy.
*Thanks also to Ian Menkins for the great collective noun. While the Oxford Dictionary associates the use of the collective noun ‘kettle’ for a group of fish, the term has also been used for hawks when flying in large numbers (see 1, 2) I might be stretching things a bit by using it with kites (too bad, it sounds good).
+ Debus, S (1998). The Birds of Australia. A Field Guide. Oxford.
^ Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. (1997). The Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia.
Links and further information:
Cicadas have been described as Australia’s best-loved insect.° What other type of insect has species with such fabulous common names as Greengrocer (Cyclochila australasiae), Yellow Monday (Cyclochila australasiae), Redeye (Psaltoda moerens), Floury Baker (Abricta curvicosta), Razor Grinder (Henicopsaltria eydouxii) and Cherrynose (Macrotristria angularis)?
Since the first Australian cicada was formally described in 1803 (the Double Drummer, Thopha saccata), the list of known Australian species has grown to over 240. New cicadas continue to be found.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) ranger Rod Hobson, who shares an office with me and bunch of other characters in Toowoomba, has just had the honour of having his name attached to a recently described species.
Drymopsalta hobsoni sp. nov. is one of three new species of cicada described this year by Tony Ewart and Lindsay Popple.* Tony and Lindsay had participated in a QPWS fauna survey at Bringalily State Forest, near Inglewood in southern inland Queensland. When returning to the site subsequently for a follow-up cicada search, Tony located the new cicada.
D. hobsoni is described as ‘small (less than 15 mm in length) and inconspicuous’ — which is not how I’d describe Hobson. While Ewart and Popple do not suggest a common name, I’d go for something like “The Small and Inconspicuous (Unlike It’s Dodgy Namesake) Brown Cicada”, or similar.
The discovery and scientific description of these three new species of cicada has been part of an ongoing, systematic collection of cicadas throughout Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory. Many new species, especially smaller ones, are being discovered from a wide range of woodland, heath and grassland habitats. Apart from catching the cicadas, researchers also record their distinctive songs, which become valuable tools in identifying known species of these bugs in the wild and for detecting what could be a new species.
While the three new species of cicadas are superficially similar in appearance, their songs are quite distinct from other cicadas — which is usually the case. However, two of the three new species (separated as species by a range of features) have quite similar calls. The buzzing, chirping calls of D. hobsoni and D. acrotela are very close, and the authors describe this as the first formal documentation of a ‘shared calling structure’ between two species of cicada in Australia.
Drymopsalta hobsoni was “Named after Mr Rod Hobson, who organised and arranged the original survey at Bringalily State Forest that led to the discovery of this new species. Mr Hobson has also contributed passionately to furthering the understanding of Queensland’s natural history, particularly in the Darling Downs region*.”
Rod has also had a new species of native snail named after him. See my blog entry from January 2011.
* Ewart, A. and Popple, L. W. (2013) New species of Drymopsalta Heath Cicadas (Cicadidae: Cicadettinae: Cicadettini) from Queensland and the Northern Territory, Australia, with overview of genus. Zootaxa 3620 (1).
° Moulds, M.S. (1990) Australian Cicadas. New South Wales University Press.
^ “The association of a name with a species, by necessity, must be associated in a way that is beyond question. When a researcher is naming a species (or describing a new species as it is often put) a single reference specimen is chosen to represent the species; this is known as the type specimen or holotype.”°
Holotypes form the core of the natural history collections of institutions such as the Queensland Museum (where the holotype of Drymopsalta hobsoni is stored).
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Bryan Phillips-Petersen recently took this photograph of a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatis) on a track at Bunya Mountains National Park.
It’s a beautiful reptile — a species that I’ve kept an eye out for at the Bunyas during visits over many years, with only one brief sighting that gave no chance for a photo.
Given its fierce look and common name, this is a snake that might invoke thoughts of an aggressive, attacking reptile. However, while this is a dangerously venomous snake responsible for fatalities, its reputation as a fierce animal is not deserved, according to herpetologist Steve Wilson:
The Tiger Snake has an undeserved reputation as being very aggressive, yet it is quite a timid snake that avoids confrontation. Very large individuals are often quite unconcerned by the presence of people. Even when provoked they give plenty of warning with an impressive threat display, flattening the neck and forebody and hissing loudly. Only as a last resort will the snake strike, but given its abundance around southern cities it is not surprising that this highly venomous species is second only to the Eastern Brown Snake as the most common cause of snake-bite death in Australia.*
Once the most common cause of snake-bite death, Tiger Snakes have now been surpassed by Eastern Brown Snakes. It is thought that this change may be due to the difference in favoured prey items. Tiger snakes like to eat frogs, which have declined in numbers in many areas favoured by humans areas due to habitat clearing and other factors. On the other hand mice — the favourite food of brown snakes — have only increased in numbers around humans.
Tiger Snakes are less common in Queensland than in southern parts of Australia, where they are widespread in cool moist areas such as swamp edges and creek banks. In Queensland they are found in upland rainforests such as the McPherson Ranges and the Bunya Mountains. They can also be found in coastal wallum and heath areas of the Sunshine Coast. An isolated population is found in the Mount Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park.
*Reference: What Snake is That? Gerry Swan and Steve Wilson, 2008.
Frilly Neck Lizard
when the dinosaurs
were wiped from the earth
you crawled inside
a caveman’s pocket
in my backyard
flaunting the latest look
protective neck wear
Michelle A. Taylor
If Bees Rode Shiny Bicycles
University of Queensland Press
The recent rain has been a blessing for frogs. For only the third time in ten years I noticed the call of Graceful Tree Frogs (Litoria gracilenta) in our suburb. Their long, drawn-out wail preceded the deluge of ex-cyclone Oswald by several days. When I heard that mysterious call I knew we were in for some serious humidity.
This week my son’s friend David and his great dog Sam discovered a strange brown amphibian on our footpath one afternoon. To my surprise it was not a Cane Toad, but a Great Barred Frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus). This was a new species for my backyard list (I’m including the footpath of course).
The Great Barred Frog is one of six species of frog in Queensland belonging to the genus Mixophyes. They are usually found along creek lines in, and around, rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests. In the Toowoomba area I’ve found (or heard) them only at escarpment locations such as Picnic Point and Jubilee Park (but haven’t been looking for them too much). It was a great surprise to have one in our busy street, slightly out of the forest.
I’ve only photographed three of Queensland’s six species of Barred Frog. The Giant Barred Frog (Mixophesy iteratus) is a spectacular amphibian, but one also sadly classified as endangered.
The Fleay’s Barred Frog (Mixophyes fleayi) is also classified as endangered. They are found only in mountainous rainforest and adjacent wet sclerophyll forest.