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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Undara Lava Tubes #2; life around the tubes

In my last posting introduced the wonderful Undara Lava Tubes of north Queensland, and ended by promising to show you a few of the plants and animals which live there.

The wider landscape around the tubes is dominated by tropical woodland, among whose many eucalypt species none is more impressive than the spectacularly-barked Red Bloodwood Eucalyptus (Corymbia) erythrophloia. 

Red Bloodwood bark.
This tree is endemic to Queensland, where it is widespread in the east of the state,
south of Cape York Peninsula.

The woodlands support a broad array of animals, most of which are widespread in the tropical savannah.
Female Blue-winged Kookaburra (the male has a blue tail) Dacelo leachii.

Whiptail (or Prettyface) Wallabies Macropus parryi are common in open country from
northern New South Wales to Cooktown. At Undara some are used to coming in to
the lawns at the accommodation complex.
The rim walk around Kalkarni Crater is a good introduction to the woodlands.
View across the woodlands from Kalkarni Crater.
Silver Oak Grevillea parallela, Kalkarni Crater.
The supping butterfly on the grevillea is the widespread Common Crow Euploea core; here are some more.
Common Crows on bottlebrush Callistemon sp.
(Some would lump Callistemon in with Melaleuca - not a novel idea incidentally, as von Mueller
proposed this in the 19th century - but acceptance has hitherto been patchy.)
Harlequin Bug Family Scutelleridae.

Saint Andrew's Cross Spider Argiope aetherea; the common name is a reference to its standard
posture in the web, supposedly reminiscent of the cross on the flag of Scotland.
Closer to the tubes the vegetation comprises vine forest (see Part One for more on this), where another beautifully-barked member of the family Myrtaceae can be found.

Python Wood Gossia (formerly Austromyrtus) bidwillii.Python Wood (named for the bark) is found in dry rainforest
in a broad strip up the east coast north of Sydney.
However the most conspicuous tree here is the Broad-leaved Bottle Tree Brachychiton australis, which is deciduous in the dry season.
Broad-leaved Bottle Trees alongside the tubes, above and below.
 
Even within the caves there is life, though of course it is less easy to see - and photograph! - there. In particular there are major colonies of four species bats which roost and breed there.
Eastern Bentwing Bats Miniopterus orianae.Previously known as M. schreibersii, but this species, which ranges across Europe,
Asia and Africa (and is probably not just one species) is now not believed to be found in Australia.

Eastern Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus megaphyllus.
Found allong the full length of the east coast, this is a primarily cave-dwelling species.
Around the entries to the tubes owls lurk, awaiting the bats' appearance at dusk.
Southern Boobook Ninox boobook.(No longer believed to be the same species as the New Zealand Morepork - from its call, like Boobook -
which retains the name N. novaezelandiae.
 A particularly lovely dweller of the tubes is a moth - presumably the bats don't hunt within the tubes!

Granny's Cloak Moth Speiredonia spectans; also found in dark nooks of houses on the east coast.
On our last visit however, the most impressive cave resident we found was a very beautiful Carpet Python Morelia spilota, gliding elegantly and nonchalantly past our feet across the cave floor.
Its glossiness suggests it had recently shed its skin.
In the dark its flickering tongue (clearly visible here) 'tasting' the air would certainly have
let the snake know about us, but it seems we didn't register as a threat. Presumably, like the owl,
this beauty too was hunting bats.
I ended last time with an exhortation for you to visit Undara; I can only hope that this posting has reinforced that recommendation.

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1 comment:

Susan said...

Very nice selection of critters. The moth may be one that protects itself from bats by emitting an alternative ultrasound that blocks and confuses the bats signals (moths in the family Arctiidae certainly do, dunno about Noctuidae).