Alva Beach

The trip which included the Ayr Nature Display was also my first visit to Alva Beach, Ayr’s local beach just a quarter of an hour from town. The township is much like others along this part of the coast (Jerona, for instance) in existing for holiday-makers and fishing enthusiasts. There isn’t even a shop, let alone a pub or a servo – just a cluster of houses, two blocks deep, between the beachfront dunes and the salt flats, swamps and cattle country of the hinterland.

The country is all very flat and a difference in elevation of a metre or two marks the difference between swamps, cattle country and canefields, as this (2014) photo shows.

Inkerman
Looking over the mouth of the Burdekin towards Alva Beach from the peak of Mt Inkerman

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Butterflies on display in Ayr

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.

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Apostlebird portrait

Apostlebird
Apostlebird

Apostlebirds, Struthidea cinerea, are not common around Townsville so I was glad of this opportunity for a close-up portrait in spite of the unnatural background. Three apostlebirds had found their way into a fowl-run, looking for easy food. They were enjoying the plentiful food but apparently couldn’t find their way out and were quite agitated when anyone approached the enclosure.

I associate the species with the drier inland areas such as Charters Towers and Porcupine Gorge, but this encounter took place in the canefields of the lower Burdekin, specifically at Mio College, Claredale, where the birdlife was a bonus after a very pleasant lunch.

Sleepy midwinter butterflies

sleeping butterfly
Common Albatross, sleeping

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.

Do butterflies dream?

Probably not – but how could we know?

Winter Solstice

Midwinter, the winter solstice, doesn’t mean as much here in the tropics as it does further from the Equator but it’s still a significant turning point.

The winter solstice is always close to June 21 – 22, and this year’s was yesterday, June 21, according to this lovely site. (I chose it partly in memory of a warung (restaurant/cafe/bar) owner’s patient explanation of an amazingly detailed Hindu astrological calendar to me in Bali a year ago.)

According to this site, the solstice was not just generally “June 21” but specifically at 20:06:39. Sunrise was at 06:45:29 and Sunset at 17:43:38, for a Day Duration of 10 Hours 58 Mins 09 Secs. The previous day was 1 second longer and today was the same length as the solstice day.

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