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Volume 49


pp. 1-13

The North Queensland Natural History Group conducts flora and fauna surveys of properties using the volunteer efforts of members. Here, we report on a survey of the western half of Wyndham Sandy Creek Nature Refuge near Mt Garnet over six days in November 2017, with motion-sensor cameras left in place until January 2018. The vegetation, reptiles and amphibians present in six 2-ha plots in granite landscapes were assessed, incidental observations noted, and ten motion-sensor cameras left in place for more than two months. We identified variation in vegetation on granite substrates associated with slope and rock cover, and recorded 90 species of woody plant, 48 birds, fourteen reptiles, six amphibians and seven mammals. Sixteen faunal species were detected in images from motion-sensor cameras including six not otherwise recorded. Four plant species recorded are strongly associated with an area of endemism centred on Irvinebank, two of them being listed as threatened. Prevalence of one of these, the leguminous shrub Large-flowered Lamprolobium (Lamprolobium grandiflorum) is particularly noteworthy as it has a highly restricted range and is listed by the IUCN as Endangered. Wyndham Sandy Creek is the first conservation reserve from which the species has been recorded. This survey demonstrates the value of even short-term surveys conducted and recorded within a systematic framework. A professionally prepared video of the survey can be viewed at (select “The Pinnacle Field Weekend”).

Michael S. Anthony, Donald C. Franklin and members of the North Queensland Natural History Group

A flora and fauna survey of the Wyndham Sandy Creek Nature Refuge near Mt Garnet in north Queensland

Anthony et al 2019

pp. 14-16

Victoria’s Riflebird (Ptiloris victoriae) is known to feed on fruits and invertebrates. On rare occasions, it has been reported feeding at flowers, but it was not clear what food was obtained from them. Here, I report observations and provide video evidence of one adult male Victoria’s Riflebird clearly feeding on nectar from Blue Quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis) flowers.

Patrick De Geest

Victoria’s Riflebird feeding on floral nectar

De Geest 2019

pp. 17-24

Two field observations of mating in the Coastal Taipan Oxyuranus scutellatus involving the same female, but with two different males on consecutive days, are described and their significance is discussed.

Grant S. Turner

Field observations of mating in Coastal Taipans (Oxyuranus scutellatus) (Elapidae)

Turner 2019

pp. 25-33

Australian tall eucalypt forests have been the subject of awe and admiration since early colonial days. In the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, such forest occurs in transitional or ecotonal patches between rainforests and open woodland savannas. Rainforest species are commonly interpreted to be encroaching into the understorey of these tall eucalypt forests, namely those with statuesque Rose Gum (Eucalyptus grandis) dominants. This has led to concerns for the long term persistence of E. grandis forests, and ongoing debates over their need for active fire management. In this essay, I highlight the enigmatic ecology of these ecotonal forest habitats, and make the case that the management of these habitats should be grounded in ecological principles within a broader perspective of patterns in global vegetation change.

David Y. P. Tng

The enigma of Eucalyptus grandis (Rose Gum)/rainforest ecotones in the Australian Wet Tropics – the plot thickens

Tng 2019

pp. 34-37

The Giant Shovel-nosed Ray (Glaucostegus typus) is a large member of the Galucostegidae family of rays, for which there is still much to learn of their biology in northern Australia. Here I document the observation of a previously unknown nursery site for this species on Milman Island reef on the northern Great Barrier Reef, far north Queensland.

Alastair Freeman

A nursery for the Giant Shovel-nosed Ray (Glaucostegus typus) in the northern Great Barrier Reef

Freeman 2019

pp. 38-46

There are few studies of the butterfly fauna of north Queenslands’s Einasleigh Uplands. We conducted a preliminary bioinventory of the butterflies of Talaroo Station which is 40 kilometres east of Georgetown on the western bank of the Einasleigh River. We detected 40 species, 37 during 26 spot surveys (½ to 3 hours each) and three incidentally. Pieridae, Nymphalidae and Lycaenidae were the best represented families. Records of twelve species represent westward extensions to known ranges into drier country, and three species represent other extensions to known range, confirming that the region is poorly surveyed. The larval food plants of five species are associated with semi-evergreen vine-thickets, small patches (mostly much less than 1 ha) of which occur among rocks in remote and largely inaccessible parts of Talaroo. Further surveys concentrating on these patches, particularly in the wet season, and also surveys of butterfly larvae are likely to yield more butterfly species.

Donald C. Franklin and Scott C. Morrison

A preliminary bioinventory of the butterflies of Talaroo Station in north Queensland’s Einasleigh Uplands

Franklin & Morrison 2019

pp. 47-64

Wedge Shells or Pipis (Donax cuneatus) are abundant on the Cairns Northern Beaches and are the dominant macrofauna present in the swash zone. They migrate up and down the beach to remain within the swash zone as tides of up to 3 m rise and fall. Waves are used to ‘swash ride’ to a new location. The ability to select waves suitable for swash riding appears to be critical to survival as errors in wave selection could be fatal. If Pipis are swept up the beach above the active swash zone or swept into deeper waters below the toe of the beach, as far as is known, they have no ability to move themselves back into suitable habitat. This paper records how Pipis swash ride in variety of wave conditions in order to reveal aspects of wave selection. In north Queensland, wind-driven, choppy wave conditions prevail and provide a contrast with previous studies of swash riding in Donax spp., which have taken place on beaches subject to ocean swells. Beaches exposed to wind-driven chop are steeper and are subject to very wide fluctuations in wave conditions. Pipis manage to swash ride in a variety of conditions including very still weather, long shore winds with waves striking the beach at low glancing angles and when multiple waves travelling in different directions are superimposed at the moment of encounter with the beach. Often Pipis can be seen ejecting from the sand en masse just prior to the arrival of a suitable wave. The variety of wave conditions and the localised responses of Pipis to approaching wave fronts allow investigation of swash riding behaviour at a high level of detail. Small groups of Pipis approximately a metre across will often eject to swash ride when elsewhere on the Pipi-loaded beach there is no visible Pipi activity. These localised responses suggest that Pipis can determine, with a spatial resolution of a metre, whether the incoming waves will combine in a way that provide the conditions they need for swash riding. Reasons why Pipis may need to swash ride in such a difficult environment are also investigated. Being within the swash zone may provide shelter from predators and the ability of predators to obtain Pipis from within and adjacent to the swash zone is described. Beach geomorphology may also drive tidal migration in Pipis, as just below the swash zone is the beach step, a feature which also migrates up and down the beach with the tides. With each tide, waves impacting the beach step churn and rework the sand to a depth of tens of centimetres, probably making the beach step a very hostile environment for in-fauna, including Pipis.

Andrew C. Mitchell

Tidal migration and ecology of Donax cuneatus (Cuneate Wedge Shells/Pipis) on north Queensland beaches

Mitchell 2019

pp. 65-77

The rich diversity of ants in the tropical savannas of northern Australia has been sampled extensively in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but rarely in Queensland. We present a survey of the ants of Talaroo Station in the Einasleigh Uplands, north Queensland, Australia, with 24 sites sampled across a range of habitats, and explore the relationship between assemblage composition and habitat. One hundred and thirty-three ant species were recorded representing 24 genera, six sub-families and seven functional groups. Five genera contributed 83% of all records. Two non-native species, while recorded, were uncommon. Assemblage composition was related to land zone, but aligned more strongly with vegetation along a soil gradient that may reflect moisture-holding capacity and fertility. There was a negative spatial relationship between Dominant Dolichoderinae and non-dominant Opportunists. In its generic and functional group composition, the ant fauna of Talaroo is similar to that of other northern Australian savannas. We suggest that: vegetation at local scales reflects subtleties of soil properties that underlying geology does not adequately encapsulate; ants respond to the same edaphic features as vegetation; and vegetation mapping that hierarchically reflects land zone above floristics has limited value for explaining ant community composition.

Donald C. Franklin and Scott C. Morrison

The ants of Talaroo Station: diversity, composition and habitat associations of a tropical savanna insect assemblage

Franklin & Morrison 2019b

pp. 78-83

Faecal samples from three Eastern Blue-tongued Skinks, Tiliqua scincoides scincoides, from north Queensland’s Wet Tropics region consisted exclusively of fruits of the Red Leaf Fig Tree, Ficus congesta, adding to the broad range of food items consumed by this omnivorous skink. Time-lapse photography over a two-month period showed that a particular F. congesta tree was visited repeatedly when in fruit by six individual skinks, which consumed fallen fruit, as well as fruit attached to the stems and racemes.

Grant S. Turner

Eastern Blue-tongued Skinks, Tiliqua scincoides scincoides, feeding on fruits of the Red Leaf Fig Tree, Ficus congesta

Turner 2019b

pp. 84-99

Currently, thirty species of Hibbertia Andrews (Dilleniaceae, Guinea Flowers) are recognised in North Queensland in an area extending from Townsville to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. However, there is no key to their identification. The aim of this paper is to provide a key to recognised species/taxa, both described and undescribed, using a modified key format. Similar species are grouped together, and short descriptions provided for ease of comparison. Distinguishing features are highlighted to facilitate use by anyone interested in plants. The genus in the area is under-collected.

Betsy R. Jackes

Hibbertia Andrews (Dilleniaceae, Guinea Flowers) in North Queensland, Townsville area to the tip of Cape York Peninsula

Jackes 2019
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