Goanna at Alligator Creek

Goanna Varanus varius
Serious Varanus varius

We visited Alligator Creek today. It was very beautiful after recent rain and more photos will appear here soon but the goanna we saw in the picnic ground gave us so much pleasure that it should have a post to itself.

It was a Lace Monitor, Varanus varius, and must have been nearly fully grown because it was about 1.7 m long and they only grow to 2.1 m, according to Wilson’s Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland. Continue reading “Goanna at Alligator Creek”

Alligator Creek

We took advantage of the Boxing Day holiday to drive down to the camping and picnic area at Alligator Creek. It is normally a popular spot but the long dry spell which only ended on Christmas Eve seems to have discouraged the campers and even the day-tripper numbers were down, so it was pleasantly quiet. We paddled in the shallows, swam in the deeper pools, clambered over the rocks and enjoyed a picnic lunch. All of us are enthusiastic about wildlife and all of us had cameras so my photographic haul for the day is only about a quarter of the total.

We all took photos of the scrub turkeys, Alectura lathami. There were plenty of them around and they were absolutely comfortable with human society – even to the point of shopping at Supré, apparently:

scrub turkey with shopping bag over one shoulder
Scrub turkey returning from its shopping trip
scrub turkey with head in shopping bag
Did I remember to buy the bread?
turkey head-down in the dust
Crash landing? What crash landing?

They are large and somewhat clumsy birds but my third photo here is misleading: the bird did not crash-land at all but was enjoying an energetic dust-bath. A far more formal portrait is here, on my Flickr photostream.

The scrub turkeys were not the first creatures we noticed on arrival: the cicadas were. Their screaming drone is characteristic of the Australian bush in summer and dominated the picnic area. After a while we saw some of their cast-off shells (here and adjacent) clinging to tree-trunks and saplings but we never did see any of the adult insects; they must have been high in the trees.

I also brought home pictures of spiders – another ant-mimicking jumping spider, a tiny yellow spider which had somehow defeated a green-ant plus a couple of others – flies (1, 2), dragonflies, damselflies and a marvellously camouflaged mantis:

Brown Mantis 5822
Mantis? Where?

A post about an earlier visit to the same park shows the scenery and some more of the fauna, while this link will take you to a composite collection of my Flickr photos of the wildlife.

Alligator Creek

View of rocky swimming hole, Alligator Creek
Swimming hole

Head north from Townsville looking for a pretty spot for a picnic and you might end up at Paluma; head south, and you get to Billabong Sanctuary or, just a little further on, Alligator Creek picnic and camping grounds. Turning inland from the highway takes you into Bowling Green Bay National Park (their photo is definitely a wet-season one) and, a couple of kilometres up a narrow road, a basic camping ground and picnic ground serving a popular swimming spot. (Alligator Creek is named after a boat which went aground at its mouth, not after scaly inhabitants, so the swimmers are safe enough so long as they are careful on the rocks.)

We hadn’t been there for years but it seemed like a good thing to do on a Sunday clear of other commitments. The picnic ground, like the bush around it, was very dry but the creek was still running – plenty of water in the pools for kids to splash around in, although you could easily step across the creek between the pools. It is a violent rocky torrent many metres wide in the Wet, so the picnic ground is well above the creek bed.

I rock-hopped my way upstream with my camera after lunch. Dragonflies and damselflies (see this post for similarities and differences) caught my attention immediately, especially one large, gorgeous bright blue variety that I hadn’t seen before.  I was sure it was a dragon (big, and resting with wings outstretched) but found when I got home that it was a damsel, the Tropical RockmasterDiphlebia euphoeoides.

Blue damselfly with dark wings
Tropical Rockmaster on a rock in Alligator Creek

The early afternoon light among the rocks was very bright (brilliant? harsh? glary?), making the shadows correspondingly black. In this case the shadows could almost fool you into thinking the insect has eight wings, like this one I saw a few months ago.

I also photographed two more typical damsels (one here), a red-brown dragon and a blue-black one (both of which I know from Ross River and Anderson Park), a few spiders (one unfamiliar relative of our familiar St Andrew’s Cross spider and a couple of very skinny tetragnathids, here and here), some fish and tadpoles easily visible in the crystal-clear water, skinks on the rocks and, just before we left, a kangaroo flying through the picnic grounds as though it was being pursued by something with big snappy jaws. It wasn’t, or I might have run instead of picking up my camera:

Kangaroo mid-leap
Flying kangaroo