A winter morning at the Palmetum

Mount Stuart under a blanket of cloud
Mount Stuart under a blanket of cloud

Early mornings have been so beautiful recently that staying indoors unnecessarily is … criminal? silly? wasteful? something of that kind, anyway … and a week ago I took advantage of a couple of free hours to visit the Palmetum.

My top photo shows Mount Stuart as it has often appeared recently, with a delicate blanket of cloud which catches the sun beautifully until dissipating mid-morning. On my walk from the park entrance to the lagoon, back through the rainforest, down to the riverbank and back I saw most of the usual birds – darters, cormorants, pee-wits, jacanas, ibis ducks, scrub turkeys, rainbow lorikeets and more.

Australian Darter
Australian Darter drying his wings above the lagoon in early sunshine

The flying foxes which used to time-share the rainforest with the ibis have moved out, for better and for worse: it’s good to be able to walk freely around the rainforest but I do wonder how well the flying foxes have coped with the move.

Forest Kingfisher in a paperbark on the bank of Ross River

As well as all the birds I saw Agile Wallabies and some, but not many, insects – butterflies and dragonflies, spiny spiders in their orb webs and a cute jumping spider on the bench overlooking the river. Early morning tends to be best for the birds and animals but the invertebrates like the warmth of the middle of the day.

Rock wallabies in suburbia

Contentedly browsing

I’ve written often enough about how the Dry season brings the birds to town, looking for water and food but the birds aren’t the only creatures on the move. These Allied Rock Wallabies, Petrogale assimilis, normally live on the upper slopes of Mount Stuart but have recently been venturing down to the edge of suburbia (in this case Wulguru) for any green food they can find.

Allied Rock Wallabies on the lawn
Allied Rock Wallabies on the lawn

A gap in the picket fence which separates this lawn from the lower slopes of the mountain, allows the wallabies to come cautiously through at dawn and dusk. There’s not much lawn left, in spite of the homeowners’ best efforts with the sprinklers, but it’s still far better than the hill. The homeowners have taken to sitting on the back step to watch their visitors and give them the occasional handout of rolled oats or carrots.

dry hillside
Why the lawn is so attractive: the lower slopes of Mount Stuart
Alert but not alarmed

The Allied Rock Wallaby is much smaller than the other common local wallaby, the Agile Wallaby, at around 4.5 kg as compared to 15 – 27 kg (i.e. cat size rather than dog size). Like other rock wallabies, this species lives on cliffs, boulder piles and rocky outcrops, and emerges into surrounding bushland at night to forage; Rootourism has more information about biology and habitat. They can often be seen late in the day at the Mount Stuart lookout and (almost any time) at the feeding station on Magnetic Island.

They particular animals look a bit moth-eaten but we think it’s just because they are losing their winter coats.

Poised to leave