North Queensland Naturalist
Volume 48 (2018)
Natural heritage values and management of the Camooweal karst and caves
David Gillieson and Keith McDonald, pp. 1-17
The Camooweal caves and karst lie close to the Northern Territory border in northwest Queensland. The karst provides a good example of semi-arid dolomite karst, a style under-represented globally in protected areas. Although a great deal is known about the geology and geomorphology of the Camooweal karst, little is known about its biology, especially underground. Over fifty caves have been explored and mapped since the 1970s, with the longest being in excess of 5000 m. The caves descend in a series of steps to the regional water table about 75 m below the surface. The caves have populations of endangered or vulnerable bat species, specifically the Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas and the Orange Leaf-nosed Bat Rhinonicteris aurantius. A new species of amphipod of the genus Chillagoe has been collected from the Nowranie caves. An extensive karst groundwater body is fed by seasonal runoff and is subject to pollution from cattle grazing within the Camooweal Caves National Park. Weed invasion and fire management are ongoing issues for protected area management.
Crimson Finches feeding repeatedly on nectar
Patrick De Geest and Donald C. Franklin, pp. 18-20
The Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) eats mainly seeds of grasses and forbs and some insects and other arthropods. Here, we report repeated foraging by a flock of these finches on nectar obtained from Desert Bloodwood (Corymbia terminalis) flowers, with observations over four days in Boodjamulla National Park, and provide links to videos of them doing so.
Nesting by Square-tailed Kite and Little Eagle at Mount Molloy in north Queensland
Rupert A.W. Russell and Donald C. Franklin, pp. 21-25
The Square-tailed Kite and Little Eagle are uncommon in far north Queensland and when present they are usually non-breeding visitors in the dry season. However, at Mount Molloy a pair of Square-tailed Kites nested in 1997 and in every year from 1999 to 2010, demonstrating remarkable faithfulness to the site and nests. Little Eagles nested 45 to 75 m away in at least five years between 2000 and 2009 inclusive. Collared Sparrowhawks also nested close by. Both the kite and eagle nested from June to November. These kite and eagle records are, we believe, the northernmost breeding records for these species, and their close association (along with the Collared Sparrowhawk) is intriguing.
Rose Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) seedlings arising in burned rainforest: a small case study
Rupert A.W. Russell and Donald C. Franklin, pp. 26-29
Boundaries between upland rainforest and wet sclerophyll forest dominated by Rose Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) are dynamic, being influenced by climate and fire, with recent expansion of rainforest attributed by some to the exclusion of fire from eucalypt forest. We document a case in which an intense fire burnt an area of rainforest in 2002, a year of severe drought; subsequently at least two Rose Gum seedlings germinated within it, 90 m from the nearest potential mother tree. These seedlings were revisited in 2012 and 2017. Fifteen years after the fire they are trees with diameters of 43 and 48 cm at 1.3 m above ground. This small case study shows that the occurrence of Rose Gums within rainforest is not necessarily evidence of rainforest expansion, so offering an important caution in interpreting the dynamics of these vegetation boundaries.
Eucalyptus grandis (Rose Gum) in northern Queensland: a species under fire
Matt Bradford, pp. 30-38
Eucalyptus grandis W.Hill (Rose Gum) is one of a few dominant large tree species in the tall eucalypt forests of northern Queensland. Contrasting views are held over the role of fire in the management of the species. I review current information and present new data on the ecology of E. grandis in northern Queensland to inform management to ensure the continued recruitment of the species. Eucalyptus grandis is a facultative seeder able to recruit every 2-3 years if its habitat is burnt or otherwise disturbed. Establishment of seedlings and saplings is most frequent in communities with a grass/sedge ground layer and the maintenance of this layer is vital. The species lacks the ability to root sucker but can survive fires by basal coppicing; individuals as small as 2 cm DBH can survive a medium intensity fire while those top-killed will repeatedly coppice. At present a number of drivers, most notably rainforest encroachment, limits both prescribed and wild fires reaching communities in which E. grandis occurs. Consequently, recruitment is limited. Regardless of the fire regimes that shaped these communities, I recommend they be burned at a 3-5 year frequency. To ensure this occurs an emphasis should be placed on opportunistic prescribed burning at any intensity and in either early or late dry season.
A new locality and range extension for the Water Mouse Xeromys myoides
Tina Ball and Andrew C. Mitchell, pp. 39-45
The Water Mouse, Xeromys myoides, is confined to the coastal zone of Queensland and the Northern Territory, Australia and Papua New Guinea. There is a knowledge gap on the distribution of the species between the most northern records for the species at Airlie Beach, Queensland and East Arnhem, Northern Territory. Two sites were surveyed in Cairns with remote cameras and Elliott traps. Three cameras captured images of water mice and remains from one predated specimen were found at one of the two survey sites. This survey confirms the presence of a population of Xeromys myoides in Cairns, Queensland, thereby significantly extending the known distribution of the species in Queensland.
Mixed-Species Foraging Flocks of birds in rainforest at Kuranda, Queensland
Gary W. Wilson and Robyn F. Wilson, pp. 46-53
Thirty Mixed-Species Foraging Flocks (MSFFs) of birds were observed in rainforest at Kuranda, Queensland in the period January 2013 through June 2015. The flocks comprised Nuclear, Regular and Occasional Attendants comprising four, eleven and five species respectively. The Nuclear species, Spectacled Monarch Symposiachrus trivirgatus and Pied Monarch Arses kaupi (Monarchidae), Fairy Gerygone Gerygone palpebrosa and Large-billed Scrubwren Sericornis magnirostris (Acanthizidae), were insectivores less than 20 g in weight; one or more of these was present in every MSFF observed. The mean number of species in flocks was 6.93±2.24 SD (range 2–11). More flocks were observed in the Dry Season (n=24) than the Wet Season (n=6). Equal numbers of flocks were observed in the morning and afternoon but none after 1700 hours. The findings are compared with those from other studies in the region and opportunities for further studies of MSFFs in the Australian tropics are discussed.
Even a few mangroves make a difference: observations of juvenile Mangrove Whiptail Rays (Urogymnus granulatus) in Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island
Alastair B. Freeman, Tessa E.G. Freeman and Amanda N.D. Freeman, pp. 54-56
Inshore habitats are well known to be important to the ecology of a range of stingray species. Here we report the use of a very small area of mangroves by juvenile Mangrove Whiptail Rays (Urogymnus granulatus) as high tide refugia on Magnetic Island, North Queensland.