Butterflies have been happily fluttering around our butterfly walk on the Araucaria property, Scenic Rim. Queensland, although none of them are captive. And although most people hope there plants don’t get eaten, we’ve been happy to see caterpillars munching away on the leaves.
We’ve added a few features recently:
colour-coding the butterfly families on our walk with coloured ropes along the tracks
planting additional caterpillar foodplants
planting extra plants for attracting adult butterflies
planting low-growing herbaceous and shrubby plants with flowers to match the colour theme for the butterfly family
constructing a cement path in the shape of a caterpillar leading from the wildlife ecology centre towards the start of the walk
construction a “pupa” to walk through after the caterpillar just before the butterfly walk begins
completing the life cycle by painting an egg on the step outside the centre before stepping onto the caterpillar tail
(just as well Darren wasn’t still on that ladder when it fell)
We were worried the wildflower season would be almost one in November, but in our three-day custom tour this year we still saw plenty. We also saw black cockatoos, yellow–tufted honeyeaters,red wattlebirds and other birds, and plenty of kangaroos.
Here’s just a sample of the flowers and birds plus some kangaroos and general scenery , and our accommodation with observatory:
KANGAROOS (Eastern Grey)
Instead of our usual accommodation (Girraween Environmental Lodge) we stayed this time at Twinstar Guest House, a delightful little place run by an Environmental Science graduate and her partner who is a very knowledgeable amateur astronomer. The guesthouse includes an observatory, and we were able to view globular clusters, nebulae and other features of the night sky. They also had an amazing variety of roses in the garden
(their meals were good too)
Girraween is not one of our regular tours, but can be arranged with sufficient notice, for a three- or four-day tour. It is quite different from the country around Brisbane, largely because of the huge granite boulders and the unseen granite that influences the soil type, and the lesser rainfall, being further from the coast.
We headed out west last month (October 2012) with two Americans (one an avid life-lister of bird spies) an amateur bird photographer from Hong Kong keen to see parrots and cockatoos, and two Aussies, one of whom had never been to the outback but dreamed of seeing large flocks of budgies, plus Darren and myself as guides. .
The famous bilby fence of Currawinya National Park s still off-limits to visitors (and has tragically been damaged recently, allying feral cats and foxes in once more with devastating results), so we decided to call at the little council-run zoo in Queen’s Park, Ipswich to see bilbies and also the red-tailed back cockatoo (for our bird photographer).
While there we had the good fortune of meeting ‘Bilby Brother‘ Flank Manthey, a very effective campaigner for the protection of bilbies and for the funding and construction of the bilgy fence, and he introduced us to Lester.
He also asked if we could help put pressure on the fed era government to do more about controlling the feral animals that threaten our wildlife, whichI intend doing in my capacity as chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia. The fact that so many bilbies were killed so soon after the damage to the fence points alarmingly to the danger any wildlife outside the fence is in constantly, and on all our trips out west we see far more ferals than small native animals (although we always see lots of kangaroos)
We hadn’t traveled too far west hewn we saw our first reptile – a shingleback lizard, one of our largest skinks.
We spent our first night in Eulo, and visited a neighbouring lagoon, where we saw a coolish tree (an outback Eucalyptus species made famous by the song ‘Waltzing Matilda’. Everey Australian has sung (or at least heard many times) about the jolly swagman camping iunder its shade, but I wonder how many have actually seen one.
At the lagoon we saw yellow-billed spoonbills, pelicans, dotter ells and other waterbirds, and also saw woodswallows, rainbow bee-etares, crested bellbird, brown treecreeper, whistling kite and other land birds.
Very early next morning we headed to the waterhole about 16kn from Eulo, well-known for sighting of Bourke’s parrot and Hall’s babbler, neither of which we saw that morning. We did however see Major Mitchell cockatoos, parrots honeyeaters, finches and other birds coming to drink, and further back saw kangaroos and red-capped robins.
In Eulo itself we saw apostle-birds, grey-crowned babblers, spotted bowerbird and various other species
A surprise was a bird that looked like one of those very common noisy miners until I took a better look and found it was a yellow-throated miner, which we were then to see quite a lot of over the next few days
One of the Aussies decided to indulge in a mud bath at the Eulo Date Farm, and I bought a couple of bottles of their delicious date liqueur for Christmas. Unfortunately they won;t be making this or their wines any more, but the mud baths will continue.
We were to have moved on to Kilcowera, a vast cattle station now run as an ecotourism destination, with plenty of birds and other wildlife, as well as continuing as a working cattle station, but we received a phone call to say there were severe bush fires raging nearby and it would be safer not to come.
So we changed plans and headed into Currawinya National Park a day early, first arranging to spend three nights at Bowra instead of two.
Now I really felt as though this is the outback – travelling over red-sand roads
We weren’t far into Currawinya National Park when we saw Major Mitchell cockatoos feeding on Callitris fruits (native ‘cypress’), giving our photographer from Hong Kong a chance to take several photos …
… also plenty of sand monitors (sand goannas)
… a couple of inquisitive emus wandered over for a closer look at our vehicle, …
… and we saw many red kangaroos over the next few days
The lakes were a little disappointing – the same wind that was fanning the fires at Kilcowera was whipping up the water on the lake, so we didn’t see as many waterbirds as hoped, although we still some a few at various waterholes.
The signs informing us about bilbies and the bilgy fence are unfortunately showing signs of bleaching in the sun
And most importantly, we hope the bilby fence itself can be fully mended soon! Also that the ferals can be controlled – we saw lots of goats and quite a few pigs while there
After a night of camping by the Paroo River we headed on to Bowra, a former cattle station long known as a birding hotspot and now owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy
You can see a lot of bits here just by getting out of bed and sitting near the waterhole (not too near – you don’t want to make yourself too conspicuous to the shier birds). Wandering down the tracks from the accommodation or driving to one of the other waterholes in the early morning or late afternoon is also good. Here is some of what we saw …
Then goodbye to Bowra, goodbye to outback until next time (which won’t be until at least April next year – things are likely to be pretty hot out there before then, and at time of writing the bush fires are still raging at Kilcowera and surrounding district)
There is a lady interested in a 4-day version of our usual 3-day tour starting from Brisbane 7 or 8th August, to incorporate a visit to the Minjungbul Aboriginal museum (run by Aboriginals, including indoor display and walk through mangroves, wild foods trail and bora ring). Anyone interested in joining, please contact me on platypuscorner [at] bigpond.com . There’d also be an optional extra of whale-watching
4 day Australian wildlife tour in October, from Brisbane
We are currently planning a 4 day wildlife tour starting Tuesday 9th October. This will encompass our usual 3 day Australian Wildlife Overview tour which gives an expert introduction to Australia’s wildlife as a whole and seeks koalas, kangaroos, patypus, birds, reptiles, dolphins and other creatures in the wild, plus a visit to a wildife park specialising in breeding of threatened fauna but this time also includes an extra night, a visit to an Aboriginal museum (owned and operated by Indigenous people) and a whale watching tour.
Total cost $1067.00 for adults, 2/3 that for children, all meals and accommodation included.
You can find a description of our regular wildlife overview tour on
Araucaria Ecotours have just launched a new day tour from Brisbane:
Australian wildlife and forests
If you are visiting Brisbane for a short time but wanting to see koalas, kangaroos, glow worms and birds and visit forests and waterfalls, you can join us at the Brisbane Transit Centre or your Brisbane accommodation at 9.00am (bookings essential) for a day tour that combines all this and more
Our first stop is Daisy Hill Koala Centre, where we walk through an enclosure with koalas and take a gentle walk through eucalypt and teatree forests with a chance of seeing wild koalas and wallabies, as well kookaburras, parrots and other birds
Heading to Tamborine Mountain, we first visit Skywalk, where we get a bird’s eye view of the rainforest by walking (very safely) through the canopy, looking for birds and butterflies, admiring the tall trees and hanging vines, and whatever happens to be fruiting or flowering at the moment. We also have a short walk through the rainforest at ground level.
Then it’s on to an artificial cave with a colony of very real and happily breeding glow worms. The cave was built (and very convincingly so) to take the pressure off the wild glow worm colonies in our our national parks. We enter the first chamber of the cave to watch a film on their life history and use in cancer research as our eyes adjust to the darkness, then are guided in small groups through the glow worm colony. In warm weather we’ll also see a few eastern water dragons, the males bobbing their heads to indicate they own their respective little areas and ready to defend them against other males, and may also see little green sedge frogs clinging to the reeds by the creek. Taste some local wine if you wish before leaving.
Our next stop: a gourmet picnic lunch under the gum trees and an easy walk to a waterfall surrounded by rugged cliffs and eucalypt forest. In the warm weather we may see goannas (large monitor lizards) lumbering around.
Our final destination is Kooralbyn to seek wild kangaroos and wallabies, and possibly visit a fruitbat colony. The bats don’t always stay throughout the year but head off for a while to wherever has the best fruits and flowers). The kangaroos and wallabies however are year round residents, and we usually see plenty of them.
Our Bunya Mountains tour is a relatively new one, developed because:
We visited with 6 guests on a customized tour a couple of years ago and loved the forests and peacefulness there.
Our name is Araucaria, and althugh we regularly see giant hoop pines (Araucaria cunninghamii) growing naturally in the forests, we don’t see the even more giant bunya pines (A. bidwillii) in the wild on our usual travels – and they really are something to see!
A few days ago we headed off that way on a 2-day tour with a lovely from Germany who were especially keen to see the bunya forests, and their son who is living in Australia.
So, off we went out west, up the range to Toowoomba, down again to the flat farming country and finally the climb towards the Bunyas.
While enjoying bunya burgers and bunya pies for lunch (made with meat, bunya nuts and some delicious herbs and spices) at Poppies Restaurant, this red-necked wallaby posed for us in front of an Australia flag and an Aboriginal flag, and a kookaburra joined in, sitting in the tree to the left – nice little collection of Australiana for our visitors!
We all agreed the chalet Silky Oaks (which Darren and I had stayed in with guests on our last visit) was quite delightful. Great views, polished timber floors, bathrooms upstairs and downstairs and fully self-contained.
As soon as we had unpacked our things we walked across the road and into the forest, beneath towering bunyas, although trying not to stay too long under any of them, as this is the time of year they drop their massive cones.
I had been thrown by a horse two weeks earlier when he was startled by a bunya cone falling at home from a tree that was inside our house many years ago decorated for Christmas and is now much taller than the house.
The cones are BIG! Here are a couple that had fallen near the accommodation, one of them open and showing the nuts that are so important to the Aboriginals. They used to gather from many kilometres away to feast on the nuts for several weeks whenever there was a good crop.
The following morning we chose a walking track that didn’t go under too many of the bunyas! Darren let us off at Westcott parking area and we started off on the track to the Paradise parking area, through a great variety of vegetation.
We started off through a ‘bald,’ a grassy area of which there are several on the mountain
We were soon in rainforest, then came out into eucalypt forest with some tall grass-trees that would have been around since before white settlement in Australia.
We stopped to admire good views across the Darling Downs from the clifftops, then continued on into more forest, with tall strangler figs and plenty of ferns and lianas.
Lunch that day was at the Bunya Gallery Cafe, including a bunya salad
A wedgetail eagle (Australia’s largest raptor) happened to pass by while we were dining. Other birds we had seen included king parrot, crimson rosella, superb fairy-wren, brown cuckoodove, brush turkey and various others.
‘Magical’ and ‘idyllic’ were two of the oft-repeated words from our guests during our stay, and we’re looking forward to our own next visit.
We didn’t have a tour booked for this weekend, so I accepted an invitation to attend the Vince O’Reilly Memorial talk – this year by botanist Dr Mike Olsen at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat on Saturday (yesterday) and talks by Dr Margaret Greenway and Barry Fitzpatrick at Eagleby Wetlands for World Wetlands Day.
Then we received a request for one-person weekend wildlife camp, and this lady was only in Australia for one week (from Hong Kong) and really wanting to see some wildlife. She was happy to accept the uncommon routing for the weekend.
Our first stop was, as usual, Daisy Hill STate Forest and Koala Centre.
While walking I encouraged her to feel the texture of the sandpaper fig leaves, and some very alert ants rushed defensively out of the nest they had made between two of the leaves.
A little further on, amongst the paperbark tea0trees, we saw these large caterpillars, which appear to be one of the hawk moth species.
After visiting the koalas in the centre (sadly we didn’t find any wild ones on our walk that day) we headed towards Canungra, making a sudden stop at Tamborine as we saw these impressive black-necked storks striding across the paddock
After a good meal at the Outpost, Canungra we continued up the mountain to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where Denis took our guest walking in the rainforest while I attended Mike’s lecture, which recounted his rainforest experiences from his first-ever camping at the age of twelve, in a gully which was inundated with rain that night, through teenage adventures, a PhD in botany and taking his own children walking and climbing. He was lamenting that universities nowadays don’t teach enough basic natural history or encourage their students to get out and experience the forests firsthand.
I then took our guest (who had already been on the treetop walk and botanic garden) to see a satin bowerbird’s bower (and the artist himself showed up as well) and we found red-necked pademelons grazing in the campground.
On to Kooralbyn, and the usual eastern grey kangaroos, whiptail wallabies and red-necked wallabies still grazing despite the development of more and more residential area around them nowadays. We also drove past the Kooralbyn Resort, which has apparently been recently bought and is to be ‘restored to its former glory’, having languished for several years after the previous owner became bankrupt (owing a massive $60 million)
Maybe it will be looking different soon (and more inviting!).
The platypus didn’t appear at their usual haunts at home, although they had been seen frequently over the past week. After sunset we headed out spotlighting. First stop – the campground toilets. The green treefrogs didn’t disappoint us here: two of them looked down on us from the entry wall, and high in a gum tree nearby sat a barn owl.
On our way to the NSW border we came across a carpet python lying on the road, so after photographing him we gently encouraged him to move into the safety of the long grass nearby
We doubled up the tour with taking some observations of animals along the Lions Road section (on the NSW side of the border) of the proposed CSG pipeline. We are concerned about the effects on the wildlife if this construction goes ahead, but without ‘before’ recordings we’ll have nothing to compare the ‘after’ situation with, so on behalf of Scenic Rim Wildlife I’m recording what animals are present now.
This night (Saturday 4th February) we saw a sugar glider, a great barred frog and a beautiful bandybandy and heard several other frogs (emerald spotted tree-frog, sedge frog and several others). The bandybandy was crossing the road that leads down to the Border Loop lookout, and this appears to be the route to be taken by the pipeline from the valley, to join Lions Road, which it will then follow. Many thousands of animals have been falling into the trenches dug for similar pipelines out west, and if this construction (very unpopular amongst residents of the area) goes ahead, we want the company to ensure that they will at least erect temporary wildlife-proof fences until everything is covered over again.
When we started to move the bandybandy off the road he threw himself into the defensive loops they use to startle their predators, which made it very easy to gently slip a small branch underneath him and lift him to the safety of the forest floor.
After dinner that night, Darren set up the spotting scope to view the moon’s craters, and took our guest spotlighting on our own property, seeing bandicoots, wallabies, barn owls and a brushtail possum, and our guest settled down for her second-ever night of camping (and first time ever in Australia)
On Sunday morning, after looking through the wildlife ecology centre and the butterfly trail and exploring a scrubby gully on the Araucaria property, we headed to Everyday’s Cafe for lunch and on to Beenleigh to view the fruitbat colony and Eagleby Wetlands for the World Wetlands Day talks, which I attended while Darren led a walk looking at pelicans, black swans and other waterbirds.
[photos coming soon]
Dr Margaret Greenway told us how the Ramsar Convention was formed many years ago in Iran, and how Australia was one of the 18 countries involved (now there are over 100) in the international agreements for conservation of wetland habitat. Eagleby is part of a larger wetland area connected with southern Moreton Bay. Barry Fitzpatrick spoke on how the current legislation on development and the emphasis on finding threatened species and then ways of mitigating threats to these is not sufficient to protect the remaining, unreserved wetlands in this driest of all continents.
Not our usual schedule for a wildlife weekend camp, but our guest agreed it was a very interesting and rewarding one.
A male regent bowerbird sitting on our picnic table and a dispute between a rosella and a bird of paradise were two of the memorable events at our first birding trip for 2012 to the O’Reilly’s section of Lamington National Park.
Red-browed finches, crimson rosellas and king parrots awaited us when we first alighted from the tour vehicle, the finches seeking scraps from the parrot-feeding area.
Our walk through the forest to the treetopsproduced the usual three species of scrubwren (white-browed, yellow-throated and large-billed), brush turkey, eastern yellow robin and logrunner. We could hear noisy pittas, black-faced monarchs and eastern whipbirds but failed to spot them. We did also see lewin’s honeyeaters, brown thornbills, pied currawongs and satin bowerbirds.
In the botanic gardens section was either a female or an immature male paradise riflebird (the world’s only subtropical bird of paradise) having some kind of dispute with a crimson rosella in one of the trees.
The riflebird seemed to have the most formiddable ‘weapon’ but suddenly flew off to another group of trees.
Our picnic was keenly watched by several birds, and we were joined by the beautiful fellow in the picture above, but he finally got the message that we weren’t feeding him.
A stroll down Wishing tree track to the little swinging bridge above the pretty gully of treeferns revealed either a Bassian thrush or a russet-tailed thrush (we saw him to briefly to be sure), a red-legged pademelon (they don’t come out of the forest as often as the red-necked) and finally a glimpse of the monarch.
Our birdlist for O’Reilly’s that day included paradise riflebird, regent bowerbird, satin bowerbird, green catbird, eastern whipbird (heard), logrunner, yellow-throated scrubwren, white-browed scrubwren, largebilled scrubwren, brown thornbill, black-faced monarch, noisy pitta (heard), Lewin’s honeyeater, eastern spinebill, thrush (russet-tailed or Bassian), rufous fantail, red-browed finch, pied currawong, Australian magpie (in the open grassy area), Torresian crow (ditto), crimson rosella, king parrot, wonga pigeon, white-headed pigeon (heard), fan-tailed cuckoo (heard) and (of course) brush turkey.
We called at Eagleby Wetlands on our return trip to Brisbane, where we saw a pair of swans with young cygnets (they may look like ducklings but we agreed they were not ‘ugly’)
Other birds we saw that day at Eagleby included azure kingfisher sitting prominently on an exposed tea-tree branch above the water, greater egret, cattle egret, wood duck, hardhead duck, black duck, grey teal, purple swamphen, dusky moorhen, Eurasian coot, masked lapwing, little black cormorant, darter, rainbow lorikeet, crested pigeon, welcome swallow, noisy miner, magpielark and red-backed fairy-wren.
Galah, pheasant coucal, laughing kookaburra, white-faced heron and Australian white ibis were also spotted while driving.