Ayr is a pleasant town in the canefields on the Townsville side of the Burdekin River. Townsville people generally know it only as a place on the way to somewhere further South, but every town has its attractions and the Ayr Nature Display is one which I should have found much sooner.
It is a family affair, created by Allan and Jess Ey in the 1960s and cared for by their daughter to this day. As such, it’s a time capsule as well as a wildlife display, since both the “what” and the “how” of the display reflect attitudes towards collecting (and laws about collecting) which are very different from those of today.
The short days and cool weather of our winter don’t stop our butterflies completely but do slow them down. Numbers drop off, and their hours of activity shrink. As I noted years ago, most of them find quiet spots by about 3.30 each afternoon where they can rest safely until the temperature climbs again on the following morning. The one in my photo is doing just that, but I only spotted it because I saw it land.
Do butterflies really sleep?
As this site says, it “depends on your definition of sleep. If you want to define sleep as an inactive, low metabolic state: yes. This low metabolic state is often driven by the temperature in the air.” Butterflies are ectothermic (“cold-blooded”, except that they don’t really have blood) so they need external warmth for their activity.
An extension of their overnight “sleep” is the over-winter hibernation which carries adults of some species through a long period of low temperatures and limited food supplies, even here in the tropics.
A Guide to Wildlife and protected areas of the Top End
Environment Centre NT, 2017
This handsomely produced book is the result of an ambitious project undertaken by the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory. It will be a valuable resource for years to come, not only for Territorians but for anyone living in, or visiting, North Queensland and Northern WA.
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.
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.