Visiting Turtle Rock on Hervey’s Range

The Townsville branch of Wildlife Queensland has resumed its monthly-except-wet-season excursions and their April trip was to Turtle Rock, an indigenous rock shelter high on Hervey’s Range. It’s a site I had known about for years but never seen, so I was very happy to be able to join the expedition.

Turtle Rock is on private land between Sharps Rd and Edward Rd; access is across the paddocks from the former, a 20 minute walk which can be shortened by driving part-way (as most of us did) or to the foot of the rock (as one of us did). The landowners, the Fryer family, are happy to have people visiting the site at any time but a courtesy phone call is a good idea and may avoid any difficulties with the access track.

Turtle Rock
Turtle Rock rising from a sea of trees

The rock shelter is under a large overhang (on the right in this photo). There are numerous ochre images on its roof, and archaeological studies have shown that the shelter was in use at least 4000 years ago.

Rock art at Turtle Rock
Rock art beneath Turtle Rock

The best introduction to the archaeology is probably this survey on wanderstories although it doesn’t directly link to the work (1970s onwards) by Campbell, Brayshaw and Hatte on which it relies.

We, of course, were equally interested in the wildlife and the botany and spent a couple of hours scrambling around and over the cluster of enormous granite boulders nearby. From the top there are views to mountains in almost every direction, with High Range (a major military training ground) to the East and South, Ben Lomond  (best known for its uranium) to the West and the Hervey’s Range scarp to the North.

Boulders beside Turtle Rock
Boulders beside Turtle Rock

Invertebrate wildlife included lots of butterflies (blues, grass-yellows, the gorgeous Clearwing Swallowtails, Blue Argus, Chocolate Soldier and many more) and spiders (one hunstsman in the shelter, and many jumping spiders and small orb-weavers in the scrub) but the most notable find was the large nest of Yellow Paper Wasps, Ropalidia romandi, high up under the overhang.

Paper Wasp nest at Turtle Rock
Paper Wasp nest hanging from Turtle Rock
yellow paper wasp
Close-up showing activity and some nest entrances

Paper wasps are well known for vigorously defending their territory but fortunately the nest was so high above us that they didn’t see us as threats. (No, I didn’t get very close either – my “close-up” is courtesy of a telephoto lens.)

Vertebrates? Lots of small skinks on the rocks and in the leaf litter, and a few birds. I spotted a Baza (aka Crested Hawk, Aviceda subcristata) in a tree close enough for a photo but as I lifted my camera another bird of similar size flew towards it. Both then flew straight over my head. A couple of hurried, but lucky, shots  revealed the newcomer (attacker?) was a Pied Currawong, Strepera graculina.

Crested Hawk
Baza in flight

Thanks again to Wildlife Queensland for organising the walk. Their monthly walks are open to all, and this link will take you to my posts about others I have been on.

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