Mount Stuart after rain

Mount Stuart
The top of Mount Stuart from the inland (South-Eastern) side. The last of the cloud cleared as I arrived.

Wildlife Queensland intended to visit Mount Stuart on March 24 but their date clashed with a biking event on the mountain so they went to Alligator Creek instead. I, on the other hand, went to their first-choice location a week later. My reasoning was that all the rain we’ve had recently would have made it exceptionally green, and so it was.

I said in August 2016 that, “The summit is a difficult environment for plants and animals alike: very exposed, very dry, and with only a thin covering of soil where there is any at all. Vegetation is ‘open woodland’ with a decent covering of tussocky grass, but most of the trees are tiny. Ants seem to be the most abundant invertebrates but there were other insects to be found as well as the spiders which prey on them.”

New plant growth always feeds more vegetarian insects, which in turn feed more carnivorous insects, spiders and birds, so conditions were good for all of them on this visit. Paperbarks and other trees were in bud rather than in full flower, so the flower spikes of the Grass-trees (Xanthorrhea) were the main nectar source, attracting European honey bees, several species of fly, Tiger moths, beetles and ants – and one Rainbow Lorikeet, too intent on lunch to fly off.

Rainbow Lorikeet on grasstree flower
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on the flower spike of a Grass-tree, with bees lower down.

Butterflies included Blue Tiger, Glasswing, Common Crow, Grass Yellow, Ringlets and Blues. Nearly all the spiders I saw were orb-weavers, Neoscona  and Eriophora species, but there were some Jumping spiders and one silver orb-weaver, Leucauge sp. Ants were everywhere, and there were quite a few wasps and beetles.

Walking the foothills of Mount Stuart

A week ago I joined my first Wildlife Queensland walk for the year, having missed an expedition to their Mahogany Glider Project Area in March and the branch’s 50th birthday party in April.

Their May walk took us up into the foothills of Mount Stuart behind the Western Campus of James Cook University. It began on a purpose-built walking track but quickly led us onto an impressive network of mountain bike trails, all new to me and a very easy way to “go bush” just a few minutes from suburban Townsville. Continue reading “Walking the foothills of Mount Stuart”

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. Continue reading “A winter morning at the Palmetum”

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