Winter may here, as I said in my last post, but the butterflies haven’t yet felt its full force. There are still plenty of flowers for the adults and greenery for the caterpillars, even on Hervey’s Range in Townsville’s cooler, drier hinterland.
These photos were taken on three successive visits between mid-April and mid-May and for this post I have simply sorted them by size: the female Varied Eggfly has a wingspan of about 85 mm, while the blues are in the 20 – 30 mm range.
Clicking on the images to see them in a lightbox will reveal extended captions including their Latin names.
All of the above are in the family Nymphalidae (Nymphs or Browns) except for the Grass-yellows which are in Pieridae (Whites and Yellows). Those below are Blues (Lycaenidae), our largest family although our smallest butterflies, and I haven’t attempted to identify them.
The Very Varied Eggfly is an album of my photos on flickr and shows most of the colour forms of the female, as well as males of the species.
The Tawny Coster only arrived in our region a year ago and I wrote about its arrival here.
‘Puddling’ is the proper term for butterflies’ habit of landing on mud (as here) or wet sand (as here), or beside shallow puddles (as here) to suck up water.
Winter arrived yesterday, with its usual suddenness.
As in most years, a big weather pattern somewhere down South pushed cold, dry air from Central Australia out over the ranges to Townsville. Overnight temperatures dropped, and the humidity crashed. Last year I reckoned the Dry arrived at the end of April, as it did in 2014 and 2015 so we’re running a couple of weeks late this year.
In numbers, the changes are from overnight minimums of 18 – 21 C for the beginning of May down to 13.4 and 10.6 on the nights of the 12th and 13th, and humidity from 55 – 90% down to 16 – 19%.
In daily life that means the cat becomes a permanent lap-rug, if he can get away with it, but we’re not permitted to stroke him because of the sparks which leap painfully from the tips of his ears and tail. Meanwhile, we search for windcheaters we haven’t worn for six months and seek out patches of sunshine in the morning instead of drifting automatically into shade.
Let me be clear, however: I am not complaining. I love this weather, and after a good Wet season I really look forward to it.
As I said a few days ago, the wildlife at Porcupine Gorge was abundant when I visited it last week. Here’s a sample of photos under the three broad headings of mammals, birds and invertebrates (i.e. insects and spiders). I did see some reptiles as well – a goanna and a frill-necked lizard (I think) on the road, and several small skinks around the gorge – but have no photos to share here.
A large wallaby or small kangaroo species was quite common in the early mornings but I’m not sure which species: possibly red kangaroo or agile wallaby, but I’m inclined to think they were Antilopine Kangaroos, Macropus antilopinus. If so, they were at the Southern end of their known range.
This is an illustrated list of places in the vicinity of Porcupine Gorge which are worth a look for one reason or another, intended as a guide to visitors and context for my wildlife photos (still to come). My starting point is the camping ground. Working away from it …
There is a waterhole beside the camping ground access road which attracts quite a lot of bird life.
Turning North towards the Lynd soon takes you over an attractive creek crossing, White Cliffs Creek. It’s an incipient gorge, having cut only a few metres into the white sandstone, and is good for birds and butterflies. Travelling further up the same road takes you through typical savannah country and, eventually, to Undara Lava Tubes, Greenvale and the gemfields.
Getting to Porcupine Gorge from Townsville is easy but takes a while: drive South-west to Hughenden (380 km) and turn right. Drive another 70 km, still on good sealed roads, and you arrive at the Pyramid camping ground overlooking the Gorge. It’s too far for a day trip and a stretch even for a weekend, which is why it’s six years since I have been there. After that trip I promised to write about it but other things intervened so this will be my first real report on the place.
The gorge carved out by Porcupine Creek, a tributary of the Flinders River, over millions of years is more than 100 km long and the National Park encloses and protects a quarter of it.
The camping ground is on level ground on the Western lip of the gorge, offering good views down to the Pyramid. A steep track leads down to the creek and (at this time of year) sandy beaches beside swimming holes, rocky terraces, grevilleas, melaleucas … endless entertainment for anyone willing to explore. Continue reading “Porcupine Gorge National Park”