A wet start to 2023

This feels like a real wet season. There has been rain around for most of January, for a total of 411 mm.

Most of it arrived in one really wet week in the middle of the month. The 160 mm drenching on the weekend of the 14th-15th sent me down to nearby Aplin’s Weir on the Sunday morning to see how high the river was – high enough for a good photo, especially with Mt Stuart hiding in the clouds on the far side of the river.

The 411 mm total is somewhat higher than January’s average of 270 mm but not outrageously so. January totals vary enormously, from a mere 9 mm to 1142.

Aplins Weir in flood
Aplin’s Weir on Sunday morning Jan 15

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The last of the Wet?

I wrote about “the last of the Wet” a bit too early, as it turned out.

The rain came back in the second week of May, with 102 mm in Townsville on May 11 and another 20-something on the days before and after. Nearby locations got a little more and Ross Dam rose by another 20% to 86%, so it’s now very comfortably full.

Mt Stuart from Ross Creek
Mt Stuart under cloud on 5 May

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The last of the Wet

I have noticed before that our Wet seasons can end with a farewell deluge. If what we’re getting now – 200 mm and more in a day or two – is this year’s example, it’s a bit late.

John Anderson, veteran rural reporter for our local paper, reckons that if we haven’t had rain before Anzac Day, we’re not getting any. My own rule of thumb was that Easter marked the end of the Wet season, and I suspected that it might be tied somehow to the lunar and solar calendars. Easter, after all, falls just after the first full moon after the Equinox (more detail here).

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Wet-season visitors – PIPs and Koels

Torres Strait Pigeons, aka Pied Imperial-Pigeons (i.e. PIPs) and Koels, aka Stormbirds or Rainbirds, are Wet-season visitors to the Townsville region. As I write, the Wet hasn’t arrived but the visitors have been with us for months.

The PIPs are often to be seen high in the tallest trees; their call is a baritone “Coo”, as befits their size, and we tend to smile when we hear them. The Koels, on the other hand, are rarely seen but the males’ incessant calling – a frantic rising wockawockwocka! – can wear out its welcome. The females are far quieter, which is probably a good thing.

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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.