Big Crystal Creek

view of forested mountains

Looking up towards Mt Spec

Last Sunday we went for another walk in the bush with the local Wildlife Queensland people – a bit further from home than our first, and more interesting in that it took us to a place we knew about but hadn’t visited before. We know Paluma, and Little Crystal Creek on the road up the range to it, but had somehow never diverged from that road to visit Big Crystal Creek and Paradise Lagoon. It’s easy enough: turn off the highway as if you’re going to Paluma but then follow the signs (about 7km) to Big Crystal Creek instead of turning left to go up Mount Spec to Paluma.

two yellow-fronted birds on branch

Lemon-bellied Flycatchers

We parked at the Paradise Lagoon picnic ground and walked up the road to the Water Slides area. WQ will  soon have a full report on the walk (it is here) so I will concentrate on the bugs and leave most of the plants and birds to them. I’m still going to put one bird photo here, however, just because the birds were obliging enough to pose for a series of portraits (as usual, click on it for a full-size image).

As well as these Flycatchers (Microeca flavigaster) we saw a tiny Scarlet Honeyeater and several other birds. Insects and spiders were also abundant, from the mantis and preyed-upon grasshopper I spotted before we even left the carpark, to the grasshoppers preying upon flowers of the native hibiscus (see them here), to the spiders waiting patiently in their webs above the fast-flowing rocky stream. There were lots of butterflies, too - we saw Blue Triangles, Clearwing Swallowtail, Common Crow, Eurema, Common Eggfly, Blue Argus, a Pierid which was probably a Migrant, and an orange butterfly which may have been an Australian Rustic – but they are all species which I have already photographed lots of times and I didn’t try too hard to catch them this time.

spotted beetle

Acacia Longicorn Beetle on twig. They eat bark, so this one is probably responsible for the damage we see here.

mantis with a grasshopper

Mantis and prey

A slender spider, Tetragnathidae, suspended above rushing water

A slender spider, Tetragnathidae, suspended above rushing water

Another slender spider, Cyclosa species, in its web. The strand of 'rubbish' consists of egg sacs (near top), spider and (lower middle) and camouflage including prey remnants

Another slender spider, Cyclosa species, in its web. The strand of ‘rubbish’ consists of egg sacs (near top), spider  (lower middle – head down and with front legs extended) and camouflage including prey remnants.

We returned to Paradise Lagoon picnic ground for lunch and a short walk to the swimming hole:

rocky swimming hole

Paradise Lagoon

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I’m still spending a bit more time on Facebook than I really should but it does mean I’m still collecting some clever and thought-provoking graphics. It’s a bit like beachcombing (but without the sunshine and fresh air), actually, in that if you pick up enough shells and pebbles you can make pretty patterns with them, or with a selection of them. It’s also like beachcombing in that you hardly ever know where your finds have originally come from; as before, I would like to give the creators of these graphics credit (and link to their sites) but I simply don’t know who they are.

These three go together quite interestingly, I think:


do nothing

first they ignore

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More arboreal ants

two ants on branch

Two ants from the first nest – a soldier (above) and a worker

Frangipanis are deciduous tropical trees with – as everyone knows – beautiful flowers, and they are deservedly popular in Townsville gardens. A few days ago I was trimming small dead branches from ours and was vividly, and almost painfully, reminded of the fact that dead branches are hollow and nature abhors a vacuum – that is, small creatures enthusiastically adopt hollow branches as nests.

The creatures in these branches were ants, and I found two different species. Two residents of the first are shown above and yes, they are big ants. The soldier must have been about 15mm long and it had a huge, heavy, big-jawed head in proportion. They weren’t just casual visitors to the branch, either, but long-term residents raising the next generation inside the hollow as I proved by knocking the branch against a post and seeing eggs fall out:

ant and eggs

A worker from the first nest trying to rescue eggs

The ants in the second nest were much smaller, perhaps 10mm long, and prettier. They were also more agitated, moving so fast that it was almost impossible to get a photo.

silver-charcoal ants

Ants from the second nest

When one of them did stop to investigate a hole it bent forward in such a way as to show off its spiny body:

ant on branch

Investigating a hole

This spines are enough to identify it as a Polyrhachis species, but (as this page shows) we have well over 100 species in that genus in Australia and I haven’t tried to narrow it down.

To answer a couple of obvious questions …

  • My reminder about vacuums was ‘almost painful’ because I very nearly got bitten by soldiers of the first nest.
  • Carpenter bees also adopt frangipani hollows as nests (this one wasn’t smart enough but will give you the idea).
  • Our other ‘arboreal ants’ are the two species which make nests by sewing leaves together – Rattle Ants (another Polyrhachis species) and the very familiar Green-ants.
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March in March and Earth Hour

A few months ago I wrote about how good it felt to be part of a large group of like-minded people standing up for the environment. We have two opportunities to repeat the experience in the next couple of weeks – March in March this Sunday (16th) and Earth Hour two weeks later, on Saturday 29th.

The route of Townsville’s March in March is along the Strand, from Burke Street Headland to the Rock Pool; people are asked to gather on the headland at 9.00am. Full details are here but that page doesn’t give much of the rationale for the protest. This article in The Age gives the background – sympathetically but from outside the movement, which is what one should be able to expect from a responsible news organisation.

If you’re not in Townsville, look here for your nearest gathering. If you can’t get to one, you could send Mr Abbott an email to tell him what you think he’s doing wrong.

Townsville’s big gathering for Earth Hour is also on the Strand – in Strand Park, in fact. Townsville City Council – who deserve kudos for this, for Eco-Fiesta and for many other sustainability initiatives – invites everyone to an event which begins at 3.00 pm:

The Townsville Earth Hour and Resilience Expo will bring together different organisations and business to showcase the actions people in Townsville can undertake to go beyond the hour and build resilience in the community. The event will culminate in a public screening of the “lights out for the Reef” documentary. People are encouraged to come down and set up a picnic rug to enjoy the public screening.

More information here. If you’re not in Townsville, look here for a gathering near you.

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Nature walk with Wildlife Queensland

Ten days ago I joined the local chapter of Wildlife Queensland, aka the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, for a Sunday morning walk along the banks of Ross River.

The location was a part of the river I had never visited on foot, across the footbridge from Weir State School, and it was an enjoyable event in its low-key way. The combined knowledge of the group was impressive – plant, bird or bug, someone would have a name for it – and progress was a very gentle amble in consequence.

damselfly on leaf

Damselfly, perhaps Redtail damselfly, Ceriagrion aeruginosum, near Ross River

I was intending to write a full description of the walk and what we saw but our leader has beaten me to it (and saved me the trouble) by posting her account on the WQ site – click here to read it.

WQ’s next field trip will be to Paradise Lagoon, Big Crystal Creek on Sunday March 23 – details are here.

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