Wolves of Limmen

I had no idea when we set out that I would spend an evening spotlighting for wolves in Limmen, but that’s what happened.

Wolf spiders, that is. (There are no real wolves in the park, although we did see a dingo; feral cattle, buffalo and donkeys, too.) Wolf spiders are “mostly robust, agile hunters, active by day or night, common across all of Australia,” to quote Whyte and Anderson. Most of them wear drab camouflage colours and live on the ground in leaf litter or temporary retreats.

Spotlighting for wolves

Karl, our host at Nathan River, introduced us to the art of spotlighting: if you hold a torch up at eye level (a head torch is ideal), the eyes of roaming wolf spiders will shine back at you like little diamonds.

It works! The key is having the torch close to your own eyes so that the light reflected from theirs comes back along the same path. But the effect is impossible to photograph because there isn’t enough light on the scene, and adding light makes the background brighter than the eye-shine. (There’s a challenge here for obsessive nature photographers. Perhaps it could be done with a macro lens, a flash unit, lots of patience and co-operative wolves.) In real life, one squats down beside the wolf and uses a torch and flash for a photo.

wolf spider in leaf litter
Wolf spider in leaf litter

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Sunrise, sunset

We had fine weather for the whole of our trip to Limmen National Park and were very often up and about at sunrise or before, and still outdoors for sunsets. They are beautiful times of day…

Sunset reflected in the lake
The last of the sunset reflected in the lake at Richmond

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Not pines – hoop pine and screw pine

akakMagnetic Island birds and insects are different from those on the mainland, as I noted a few years ago, and the same is true of the vegetation.

The tree most characteristic of the island, because it is so abundant there but hardly occurs elsewhere in the region, is known as the ‘Hoop Pine’. The ‘Screw Pine’ is also common but is not so specific to the island, occurring everywhere along the tropical coast.

Neither of them is a pine, however, or even a particularly close relative.

Hoop Pines

conifers growing on rocks
Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii)

In brief, the Hoop Pine is native to Australia’s East coast from around Coff’s Harbour to Cooktown, and grew widely on the mainland until most of the accessible trees were cut down for their timber. The trees on the Island, therefore, have survived more because of their awkward locations than because the island is particularly well suited to them.

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Porcupine Gorge and its wildlife

We’ve written several times about Porcupine Gorge and these three posts from April 2018, covering the Gorge, its wildlife and nearby points of interest, make quite a full introduction to it. That means there’s not much general information to add this time.

The park has hardly changed since our first visit, more than ten years ago, except that its popularity has demanded a larger camping area. It’s up to 22 sites now. There are still no showers, however, because the only local water supply is at the bottom of the gorge. Never mind – people can and do walk down for a swim.

Floods at the start of 2019 scoured the gorge floor clean, as shown here, and dammed the main creek channel near the Pyramid with rocks and sand. The creek now flows through the big new sandbank near the foot of the Pyramid (at the right of this photo), which has been colonised by spindly Sesbania Pea (riverhemp). It’s still a beautiful spot.

Porcupine Gorge view
The pool at the foot of the Pyramid

Wildlife

Our recent visit was enlivened by local animals taking advantage of us.

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