The Town Common Conservation Park, to give it its full name, is a valuable wetland year-round but changes with the seasons. Now, in mid-September, it is drying out. Grasses and small shrubs are dying off except where they are in or near the remaining open water. Water birds are returning to the Common as other resources dry out even more, but insects and other birds are not so numerous.
Spring here in Townsville is so different from Spring in temperate climates that the word sets up all sorts of wrong expectations. Coming out of a cold winter and enjoying the first sunshine for months? Fruit trees bursting into blossom? Sudden wild storms? Everything green and growing? None of the above.
The word needs scare quotes here, or some other warning that it’s nothing like an English Spring, or even a Victorian Spring. I’m going to put it in square brackets: Spring is what Tolkien would recognise, [Spring] is what we get.
We’re well into our Dry season, having had less than 5 mm of rain in the ten weeks since mid-July, and everything is parched and dusty. Many of our native trees drop some or all of their leaves to conserve energy, although some of them (Bat-wing Coral Tree, for instance) do also flower around this time. Exotics like Tabebuia and Poinciana follow the same pattern, so there are always bright spots in our streets and gardens.
The Dry Season continues, and the birds are more and more grateful for our bird baths and lawn sprinklers – well, they seem to be, but who knows what’s going on in their little minds? All we can say for sure is that they come to fly through the spray or sit where the water is falling.
On the way home from the trip which took me to the Dalrymple Track and elsewhere I stopped off at Jourama Falls. I didn’t walk up to the falls themselves because I saw from the creek – still flowing, but only just over the camping ground causeways – that the effort would not be well rewarded.
This photo, however, confirms just how dry the country is now.
Townsville is the same, but we know Townsville is in the Dry Tropics; Jourama is not far from Townsville, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that it’s dry; but both are drier than usual, and Cardwell, definitely in the Wet Tropics, was nearly as bad.
A look at recent weather observations on the Bureau of Meteorology’s website has corrected my gut feeling that Townsville had another very dry winter. The total for June-July-August was 30 mm so, paltry though it might seem, it was significantly more than the 18 mm median (see averages here). Here is what we’ve had, according to the BoM.
The main reason I was wrong was that less than 1 mm of the total has fallen since the middle of July. Six weeks of clear skies, increasingly hot days (topping out recently in the low 30s) and no rain has left the city looking desiccated, even though people are still rebuilding their homes and lives after the February floods.
What can we look forward to, then? September is typically our driest month, and October isn’t much better, so no immediate relief is in sight. We might get some useful rain in November but we might also have to wait until Christmas.
It’s not called the Dry Season for nothing!