Porcupine Gorge after the floods

My recent visit to White Mountains was an add-on to a longer visit to Porcupine Gorge, north of Hughenden. I’ve been to the Gorge several times before and wrote about the area at some length after my visit in April last year, covering the Gorge, its wildlife and nearby points of interest in three separate posts.

The main focus of this post, therefore, is the effect of the monsoonal floods early this year. Townsville was hit hard, but so was Western Queensland. The Flinders River had 50-year floods and was 200 kilometres wide at its peak; and the Flinders, of course runs from the Burra Range and the northern corner of White Mountains National Park through Hughenden to the Gulf, picking up the waters of Porcupine Creek on the way.

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Porcupine Gorge wildlife

As I said a few days ago, the wildlife at Porcupine Gorge  was abundant when I visited it last week. Here’s a sample of photos under the three broad headings of mammals, birds and invertebrates (i.e. insects and spiders). I did see some reptiles as well – a goanna and a frill-necked lizard (I think) on the road, and several small skinks around the gorge – but have no photos to share here.


A large wallaby or small kangaroo species was quite common in the early mornings but I’m not sure which species: possibly red kangaroo or agile wallaby, but I’m inclined to think they were Antilopine Kangaroos, Macropus antilopinus. If so, they were at the Southern end of their known range.

Porcupine Gorge
An adult on the move

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Around Porcupine Gorge – scenery and birdlife

This is an illustrated list of places in the vicinity of Porcupine Gorge which are worth a look for one reason or another, intended as a guide to visitors and context for my wildlife photos (still to come). My starting point is the camping ground. Working away from it …

There is a waterhole beside the camping ground access road which attracts quite a lot of bird life.

Turning North towards the Lynd soon takes you over an attractive creek crossing, White Cliffs Creek. It’s an incipient gorge, having cut only a few metres into the white sandstone, and is good for birds and butterflies. Travelling further up the same road takes you through typical savannah country and, eventually, to Undara Lava Tubes, Greenvale and the gemfields.

Porcupine Gorge region
White Cliffs Creek from the main raod
Porcupine Gorge region
Looking over the savannah from a low hill on the road to The Lynd

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Porcupine Gorge National Park

Porcupine Gorge sunrise
Dawn at Porcupine Gorge

Getting to Porcupine Gorge from Townsville is easy but takes a while: drive South-west to Hughenden (380 km) and turn right. Drive another 70 km, still on good sealed roads, to reach the Pyramid camping ground overlooking the Gorge. It’s too far for a day trip and a stretch even for a weekend, which is why it’s six years since I have been there. After that trip I promised to write about it but other things intervened so this will be my first real report on the place.

The gorge carved out by Porcupine Creek, a tributary of the Flinders River, over millions of years is more than 100 km long and the National Park encloses and protects a quarter of it.

Porcupine Gorge view
Looking across the gorge into rugged country just after sunrise

The camping ground is on level ground on the Western lip of the gorge, offering good views down to the Pyramid. A steep track leads down to the creek and (at this time of year) sandy beaches beside swimming holes, rocky terraces, grevilleas, melaleucas … endless entertainment for anyone willing to explore. Continue reading “Porcupine Gorge National Park”

Nature photography challenge

lorikeet on red flowers
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on the flowers of an umbrella tree

A “Nature Photography Challenge” has been circulating on facebook recently. The idea is that each new person challenged has to publish one nature photo every day for a week and invite one new person each day to taken up the same task. When I was challenged I saw it as a good reason to sift through my older photos for attractive images which, for one reason or another, hadn’t already been published here on Green Path. Now, of course they are being published here, partly so that I can expand on the information about them but partly to give them a public life longer than facebook affords.

I began with the Rainbow Lorikeet, above, a photo taken in the garden of a friend on Magnetic Island earlier this year and offered to facebook friends in Southern states as an example of the stereotypically gaudy tropical wildlife. There’s not much more to say about it except that this very common species has recently been split into seven, “three of which occur in Australia: Rainbow Lorikeet (now Trichoglossus moluccanus) in the east; the Red-collared Lorikeet (T. rubritorquis) in the north and the Coconut Lorikeet (T. haematodus) in Boigu and Saibai Is. in Torres Strait,” according to Ian Montgomery of Birdway. That makes our local birds Trichoglossus moluccanus, not Trichoglossus haematodus as they used to be.

grey dove
Peaceful Dove in the frangipani tree

I will continue here with the other birds I posted, rather than following my “Challenge” sequence. The Peaceful Dove, Geopelia placida (aka Geopelia striata) is as ubiquitous here as the Rainbow Lorikeet but very much quieter in coloration, demeanour and voice.

grey heron
Striated Heron fishing from Aplin’s weir

The Striated Heron, Butorides striata (another not-gaudy, not-noisy local bird), often squats like this while fishing, unlike Egrets which stand tall and spear down from their maximum height. Aplin’s Weir  is on Ross River not far from my home and has therefore often featured on Green Path.

The last of my bird photos was an exercise in defamiliarisation:

birds in flight

Birds in flight, obviously, but which birds?

Pelicans. Those enormous beaks are hardly noticeable from straight ahead, especially when we are not cued by the contrast between the pink beak and the black-and-white plumage. I took the shot on a Ross Dam walk with the Townsville Bird Observers Club a few months ago.

butterfly close-up
Extreme close-up of a butterfly’s face

I was surprised to find myself posting so many bird photos and only one insect, since a few years ago, the ratio would have been reversed. The butterfly, for what it’s worth, is a Common Eggfly, Hypolimnas bolina, one of the half-dozen species most often seen around my garden. If you want to see what the whole butterfly looks like, there are photos here.

Bottle tree on a low basalt ridge beside the road from Hughenden to Porcupine Gorge
Bottle tree on a low basalt ridge beside the road from Hughenden to Porcupine Gorge

I submitted two landscape photos. This one was taken on a trip ‘out West’ four years ago; this post has a couple more and links to yet more.

Bottle trees (Brachychiton rupestris) are fairly common in the dry tropics. The Kurrajong and Illawarra Flame Tree are closely related, but the Boab (baobab) is not related at all, despite the obvious similarity of form.

My other landscape broke my own rule (of finding pictures which hadn’t already appeared here) for the sake of the greatest possible contrast with the Rainbow Lorikeet photo. It shows cattle country near Mount Fox, just over the crest of the Dividing Range a little North of Townsville.