The day was warmer and more humid than anticipated and the track was steeper than I remembered but that did not stop us from enjoying a beautiful day walking the Nelly Bay to Arcadia track through Magnetic Island’s hills. The sign at the start suggest a 2.5 hour completion time but in our well-established tradition we managed to stretch it to six!! In our defence there was much to look at – plants, birds, skinks and butterflies – not to mention the stunning views. And, as the temperature and gradient increased, so did our need for drink stops.
This is such an interesting walk passing through rainforest vegetation alongside the sun-dappled pools of Gustav Creek, to more open eucalypt and acacia woodland as we gained the ridge, then entering savannah grassland dotted with grass trees (Xanthorrhea johnsonii) on the descent. As the track curled around to return us to Arcadia, we found ourselves back among the mixed woodland trying to spot koalas while not tripping over the rocks and roots at our feet. The delectable gelati ice-creams at Arcadia reinvigorated us enough to make the walk along Geoffrey Bay – the beach well shaded by its fringing casuarinas – to connect with the new Gabul walkway and so back to our starting point.
It was lovely to see the bush so green and vibrant. Birders were happy to get good sightings of the Orange-footed scrub fowl at several points along the track, a brief glimpse of an emerald dove, and a close view of a juvenile Red-tailed black cockatoo plaintively calling for Mum. Currawongs gave their joyful calls from the hilltops, fantails and flycatchers darted among the trees and, reaching the saddle, a Brahminy kite and White-bellied sea-eagle soared above Horseshoe Bay.
The plant people were engrossed by the variety of species especially on the long ascent from the end of Mandalay Avenue, where the track began. Beth was excited by a Cupaniopsis wadsworthii or Duckfoot tuckeroo, named for its odd-shaped leaves. Nearby she also noted the shrub Cryptocarya triplinervis, or Three-veined laurel, and the Poison peach (Trema sp.). While the golden orchids (Dendrobium discolor) on the trees were not in flower, a species of Clerodendrum was displaying its pretty pink and white flowers. A very-large leafed fig, with cauliflorous fruit was almost certainly Ficus hispida or Hairy fig – identified from a wonderful online resource compiled by a local resident Donald Simpson. Check it out here – you will find it easy to use, comprehensive (note that it also includes non-natives) and seems to be continually updated with great images.
Burdekin plums (Pleiogynium timorense) were noticed where the rainforest gave way to the open woodland and along the higher, and drier, ridges we noted Moreton Bay Ash (Corymbia tesselaris), Poplar Gum (Eucalyptus platyphylla) and the Narrow-leafed Ironbark, either E. drepanophylla or E. crebra. Nanette also observed how the Lemon-scented grass was very dominant on the higher part of the hills. The Townsville wattle, Acacia leptostachia, thrives on the island but we were uncertain regarding one specimen that seemed too tall. Possibly it was the similar A. leptocarpa which does form a taller tree but, being undecided, we dubbed it “Acacia dilemma” and left it at that. Later in the year these hillsides will be spangled with the brilliant yellow flowers of the Native kapok (Cochlospermum gillivraei) but their distinctive fluffy seed capsules were here and there on the ground.
It was a special pleasure to welcome 2 island residents, Annie and Catherine, on our walk and hope we will see you again sometime on island or mainland. Our feeling was that we should include at least one Magnetic Island walk in our programme each year. Huge thanks to Denise and Joan for the bird list, Nanette for the grasses, Jane and Beth for other plant information and Denise (again) for the photographs. Click on images to enlarge.
Additional plants recorded, with location where noted:
Proiphys amboinensis – Cardwell lily – track-side, halfway up from start.
Schefflera actinophylla – Umbrella tree – track-side, near lunch stop
Livistona drudei – Halifax palm
Planchonia careyi – Cocky apple – in drier area, behind Horseshoe
Trichodesma zeylanicum – Camel bush – track-side, near lunch stop
Maytenus disperma – Orange bark
Ipomaea pes-caprae – Goat’s foot convolvulus – robust vine on the beach
Scleria sphacelata – no common name.
Mallotus philippensis – Red kamala – near the track junction to HB road and Arcadia
Gahnia aspera – Saw sedge – track to Sphinx lookout
Dianella caerulea – Blue flax lily – track-side, Nelly Bay to highest water tank
Gossia bidwillii – Refrigerator tree, Python tree – on first part of climb
Jasminum didymum ssp. racemosum – Native jasmine – Nelly Bay end of track
Passiflora aurantia var. aurantia – Red passion flower
Tacca leontopetaloides – Arrowroot – in drier part, back of Horseshoe Bay
Drynaria sparsisora – Rock fern – near the top of the range.
Native grasses recorded: