The September field trip of Native Plants Queensland was to the Mount Zero area, between Paluma village and Hidden Valley. We added it into the beginning of our trip to Bladensburg National Park by camping overnight at Paluma Dam and taking the back roads from there to Charters Towers – not because it saved any travelling time but because we hadn’t been to Hidden Valley for five years or Running River for twenty.
Downhill all the way
Paluma Village straddles the crest of the range, and the road to Hidden Valley drops about 400 m in 30 km. Annual rainfall drops, too, from 1200 mm to about 600, so the vegetation changes quickly from rainforest through tall eucalypt forest to arid-inland scrub. It’s no wonder native plant enthusiasts like the area: there’s a different plant community every couple of kilometres.
Leeches arouse, almost universally, a “Yuck!” response out of all proportion to the pain and suffering they cause.
Our attitudes to small wildlife reflect our upbringing and experience and I’m constantly intrigued (and sometimes very quietly amused) by them. Most people I know “love wildlife” but only up to a point. They might love all mammals and birds but not reptiles, for instance, or like small lizards but not the bigones. Most of them love butterflies but many are not at all keen on spiders (I agree they are not usually so pretty but I like them just as much) – and then we reach the problematic types: flies, fleas, ticks, mozzies and of course leeches.
What is a leech?
We also tend to know very little about leeches. What kind of animal are they? They are obviously not vertebrates but they can’t be insects because they haven’t got six legs, so what what are they most closely related to?
Townsville Bushwalking Club has been active – and has been keeping its members active – since 1960 but I only came across it recently. My first walk with them was a couple of days ago, on the inland side of Paluma Range.
Fourteen of us met at Paluma village at 8.00, set up the car shuttle, and began the walk about 9.00 from a spot on the Paluma Dam road. It is rough country, cut by the deep narrow valleys of seasonal creeks (all flowing well at this time of year). The beginning of the walk was through rainforest but that transitioned to dry forest (“dry sclerophyll forest” is the technical term) as we progressed. Much of it has been logged, but not recently; the logging tracks still provide access for walkers but that’s all.
We stopped at Birthday Creek on the way back from Paluma Dam (last-but-one post) to see if we could see two bowerbirds known to live there, and perhaps a platypus as well. We scored, I reckon, 1.5 out of 3 – no platypus, one abandoned bower, and one bowerbird in full song.
A recent trip to Paluma Dam with the good people of Wildlife Queensland was enjoyable for the wildlife and just being in the rainforest but was far from strenuous. We walked across the dam wall and along a vehicular track to the west of the dam, took a side track to down to the dam shore, and returned the same way Continue reading “Walking in the Paluma rainforest”