Ollera Creek and the beach

I have known for some time about a Mahogany Glider (Petaurus gracilis) research project undertaken by the good people of Wildlife Queensland, but that’s almost all I knew until they scheduled a visit to the site last Sunday as one of their regular monthly walks.

Their monitoring site straddles Ollera Creek an hour North of Townsville, between the highway and the coast. We gathered at the Paluma turn-off before driving in convoy through well-timbered grazing land to the beach near the mouth of Ollera Creek.

Ollera Creek
Looking along the beach towards Ollera Creek

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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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Cape Hillsborough National Park

wallabies on beach
Campers watching wallabies in the early morning

Cape Hillsborough National Park and Eungella are both just north of Mackay, which means they are a little too far from Townsville for an easy weekend trip, but both are beautiful and I decided to take advantage of four clear days to visit them last week. I came back (as my regular readers will no doubt have expected) with lots of photos and will spread them across several posts, beginning with these Cape Hillsborough landscapes.

There is a happily low-key camping ground and resort nestled in the coastal scrub behind the beach within the national park – the sort of place that Aussie parents have been taking their kids camping for the last fifty years. Bird life is abundant and Agile Wallabies (Macropus agilis) move freely around the camp-ground and picnic areas; they regularly feed on the beach at dawn, too, although I have no idea what they might be finding there.

wallabies on flat beach
Agile wallabies – what are they eating?
beach and headland
Looking along the beach on a drizzly morning to the northern headland
beach and headland
The northern headland in full daylight
forested hills
Looking inland from the beach in the golden light of late afternoon
rock wall around sand floor
Remains of aboriginal fish trap, Cape Hillsborough National Park. A stone wall links natural outcrops to enclose a large shallow pool which drains at low tide.

A short drive from the camping ground takes the visitor to the remains of an aboriginal fish trap and an indigenous food trail. A boardwalk and walking trail through the mangroves are a similar distance from the resort, on the road to Seaforth.

Also, a walking track to the north of the resort leads over the ridge to Beachcombers Cove and loops back (except at high tide!) to its starting point via the beach. And at low tide it is possible to walk out along the natural causeway, on the horizon in my first two photos, to the island at its end.

Future posts will look at some of these excursions.

The Tasman Peninsula

burnt trees with green fuzz of new foliage
Tall eucalypts beginning to recover from bushfire

Driving from Hobart towards the Tasman Peninsula these days provides sobering reminders of the bushfires which devastated the area around Dunalley in January.

There are huge areas of burnt bushland although it is good to see that much of it is already coming back to life. I stopped beside the road on the Hobart side of Dunalley to look at the regrowth. The town itself looks far better than it does in these photos taken immediately after the event but there are still burnt-out buildings to be seen.

Dunalley sits just north of the narrow neck of land joining the Forestier Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania (see map). The next narrow isthmus, between the Forestier Peninsula and the double-lobed Tasman Peninsula, is Eaglehawk Neck. It became famous because it is where the 1830s colonial administration set up its final barrier between the Port Arthur convicts and the uncertain freedom of the mainland, a heavily patrolled dog line. Some of the convict-era buildings are preserved but the Neck is now a popular holiday destination because of its natural beauty. The Tessellated Pavement is a little to the north and the Blowhole, Devil’s Kitchen and Tasman’s Arch are a similar distance to the south, around the capes bracketing the Pirates Bay surf beach.

grey weatherboard buildings
Stables (in the distance) and other outbuildings of the guards quarters at Eaglehawk Neck
white sand beach
Pirates Bay beach, Eaglehawk Neck, looking south
rock shelf
From sea level is is clear that the Tessellated Pavement is a tidal rock shelf beneath sandstone cliffs
Tessellated Pavement showing structure
Part of the Tessellated Pavement from above

A sign near the Pavement explains its formation: silt became stone, then was split in three different directions by movement of underlying rocks; the mineralised cracks are eroded by wave action near the edge of the rock platform to leave “loaves”, but resist the effects of salt (which stays longer on the surface nearer the cliffs) better than the sandstone to form the edges of “pans”.

trees against the sky
A serendipitous shot of trees on top of the cliffs above the Pavement
sandstone cliff
Fossil Cliffs, near the Blowhole at the other end of Pirates Bay
Dunalley Bay
Dunalley Bay, very late in the afternoon, looking south. The rusty colour of the small trees at left is neither autumn foliage nor sunset’s golden glow but fire damage
Dunalley Bay sunset
Dunalley Bay, looking north-west from the same vantage point as before

Big sky over Ross River

high cloud over beach at Ross River estuary
Big sky over Ross River estuary, looking roughly southeast towards hills between Mt Elliott and Cape Bowling Green

Ross Creek runs along the edge of the city centre and past Reef HQ Aquarium so I know it well. However, I rarely visit the mouth of Ross River on the other side of South Townsville.

I was in the vicinity last week to recycle some old computer gear so I continued down to the end of Boundary Street for a walk on the beach. The river mouth is very shallow, with wide stretches of sand and extensive mangroves. I enjoyed the clouds, and a couple of Whistling Kites soaring above me. One came close enough for a pleasing photo:

brown hawk soaring overhead
Whistling Kite, Haliastur sphenurus

Down at ground level I found a sleek grey and black wasp going about its business. It turned out to be a Spider Wasp (Pompilidae) and you can see it here on Flickr.