Our mountain forests – Field trip October 2013

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Only two adventurous souls made the trek up the mountain on Saturday afternoon with the intention of camping over for the night.  Mind you after we had set up our respective campsites, you could be forgiven for thinking we were staying for a week.  Once this task was out of the way we quickly got backpacks, snacks and water and proceeded to cross over the dam wall and head out on the road towards Mt Spec.

Once across the wall and into the forest, it was absolutely wonderful to hear and see as many birds as we did.  Unfortunately neither of us are as knowledgeable in this area as some other members of the group, and we were constantly lamenting this fact and vowing to pay more attention next time. Highlights were sightings of a spotted catbird, topknot pigeons, king parrots and crimson rosellas. At the campsite a female satin bowerbird perched above one of our tents and we finally got to see a pair of whipbirds, rather than just hearing them enigmatically in the forest. Our walk took us through to a beach area directly opposite the camping ground and just short of the junction with the Foxlee Track. In all the time we spent walking the only other people we saw were two very keen mountain bike riders who were intending to do the whole dam loop the next day. They reported that when kayaking earlier that afternoon they spotted quite a number of platypus in one of the inlets on the far side of the dam.

After a quick meal and just on dusk we headed out along the road back into Paluma for a short walk.  Our nocturnal activity yielded zero birds but we spotted a bandicoot running across the road and, on our return, a pademelon bouncing through Denise’s campsite. Also spotted were some microbats swooping and diving close to the edge of the lake.  The night air was very cool and next time I camp up at Paluma I must remember to bring a warmer blanket even in October.

Next morning on our way back in to Paluma to meet up with the rest of the group we stopped in at Birthday Creek Falls.  As soon as we headed off on the track we could hear what we initially thought were spotted catbirds but then we decided it was a different call but still very bower-bird like.  It was only as we were arriving back at the car that we finally managed to spot the bird making all the noise – a tooth-billed bowerbird which was then quite happy to sit on a branch and be observed closely for about 10 minutes.

Non-avian species recorded: red-legged pademelon, long-nosed bandicoot, unidentified rodent, unidentified insectivorous bats, Boyd’s rainforest dragon.

The non-campers arrived at McLelland’s look-out bright and early on Sunday morning and the whole party set out along the Witt’s Lookout track. Birds were frustratingly elusive but at least the trees, vines and fungi stayed in one place. Melastoma flowers provided touches of bright colour on the forest edge, and among the climbers the notorious but impressive Wait-a-while (Calamus moti) was not hard to find. We were also pleased to see climbing pandanus and to identify the vine Pothos longipes, with its strangely-shaped leaves, climbing up the tree trunks. Florence identified several specimens of the smooth-barked ironwood (Gossia bidwilli). Also known as the refrigerator tree, because its trunk is cool to the touch, the bark is patterned with blotchy camouflage colours.

The trunks of the paperbark satinash (Szyzigium papyraceum) with rich red, papery bark were especially attractive beside the track while, at the lookout, we noted the banksias (B. aquilonia) had finished flowering. From Witts we all embarked enthusiastically on the track to Cloudy Creek (the campers gently making the point that they had already been walking and kayaking that morning) and, among other pleasures, were rewarded by the sight of 3 or 4 king parrots and a pair of rifle-birds cavorting noisily above our heads. The impact of cyclone Yasi is still very visible along parts of this track with fallen or broken trees and large gaps in the canopy. Time will heal, but slowly. At the falls a small tree on the opposite bank was laden with bunches of small, purple fruit which we could not conclusively identify. A delightful lunch-stop indeed but sadly the torrent frogs which used to entertain us leaping fearlessly into the cascading waters are no more – if not extinct altogether, they have disappeared from these upland streams.

Returning we decided to follow a track that led off to the right – this was once part of the National Parks network of tracks which enabled walkers to return from Cloudy Creek to McLellands by an alternative loop. It was good to see it re-opened (though it is not on the National Parks map) and, as we discovered, it is now much longer as it diverges to return walkers to the green recreation area in the centre of the village, rather than the carpark on its edge. All members of the group deserve commendation for following their alleged, and less than confident leader without complaint or mutiny!

From here we proceeded to explore the “H track” which loops through the forest behind Lennox Crescent, on the other side of the village. Here the tooth-billed bowerbirds were in full cry though frustratingly hard to catch sight of – with more time available we would surely have been able to track them down and perhaps find one of their leaf-strewn ‘stages’ to which the males hope to attract their mates. It was a most enjoyable (and cool) mountain interlude.

Thanks go to Chris, Denise and Alison for photos; Chris for Saturday’s write-up; Denise for the species list and Jane and Denise for botanical information and advice. A conservative bird list follows.

Little pied cormorant Sulphur-crested cockatoo Victoria’s riflebird
Little black cormorant Topknot pigeon Lewin’s honeyeater
Australasian darter Chowchilla Dusky honeyeater
Tern (unid.) Eastern whipbird White-cheeked honeyeater
Brush turkey Satin bowerbird (f) Northern fantail
King parrot Spotted catbird Welcome swallow
Crimson rosella Tooth-billed bowerbird (m) White-breasted woodswallow






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