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Volume 54


Image credit: Biotropica Australia

pp. 1-5

One criterion for measuring restoration project success is the successful establishment of different microhabitats within the restoration area. An important microhabitat for many species is coarse woody debris (CWD), often one of the last microhabitats to develop naturally. To measure utilisation of restored rainforest habitats by CWD-dependant reptiles, we laid out 24 log piles in a 20 year old restored tropical wildlife corridor, sampling the piles after six and 12 months. Four rainforest-dependant skink species were recorded at multiple sites along with one rainforest-dependant frog and one exotic toad, suggesting restored habitat is suitable for a range of forest-dependent species, in addition to the success of log piles as a CWD analogue.

Nigel I.J. Tucker, Damon Colman and Pete Snodgrass

Using log piles to assess reptile habitat development in Donaghy’s Corridor

Tucker et al 2024

Image credit: J.S. Dobson

pp. 6-10

We report on an observation of a large Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes panoptes, Varanidae) successfully predating upon a venomous Lesser Black Whipsnake (Demansia vestigiata, Elapidae). The medium-sized elapid snake managed to bite the monitor several times before being consumed. The monitor displayed signs of neurotoxic envenoming, including hind limb lethargy, before making a rapid and full recovery. This observation corroborates research findings on varanid resilience to neurotoxic binding and cephalic osteoderms as a defence against venomous prey.

J.S. Dobson, T.N.W. Jackson and M.N. Jacko

An observation of predation by a Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes panoptes) on a venomous Lesser Black Whipsnake (Demansia vestigiata)

Dobson et al 2024

Image credit: David Y. P. Tng

pp. 11-24

An arboretum is a living collection of trees that serve multiple roles in public education and recreation, scientific research, and a means of practising ex-situ conservation of botanical resources. In the mid to late 1980s, local botanists and rangers planted 84 species of native Australian rainforest laurels (Lauraceae) in the Lake Eacham section of Crater Lakes National Park, Queensland, hence establishing the Lake Eacham Laurel Arboretum. In addition, a smaller living collection of native trees from the fig (Moraceae), macadamia (Proteaceae) and myrtle (Myrtaceae) families from the Wet Tropics Bioregion were also planted. The laurels, our focal group in this work, are a biologically, culturally, and economically important group of rainforest trees. As laurels are rather nondescript in appearance and have inconspicuous flowers, public awareness of native laurels is dismal. The collection could serve as a venue for public education and as a scientific resource for this group of trees. Unfortunately, the site has fallen into obscurity over the last decade, and rainforest regrowth has suppressed many of the original plantings. We therefore began the groundwork for rejuvenating the Lake Eacham Laurel Arboretum by resurveying the original plantings of laurels. To this end, we established a grid system over the site and re-identified, tagged, measured, and mapped all surviving Lauraceae. We identified 59 laurel species encompassing seven genera and 164 individual stems, representing a 27.9% reduction from the 84 species planted. Even in their diminished state, these plantings exceed collections in other regional botanical gardens, representing collections from Cape York, the Wet Tropics and the southeast Queensland – northern New South Wales region. The arboretum is of considerable scientific value, and we hope that this study will facilitate management and development of this largely forgotten site and help elevate the site to a significant public recreational and educational space for locals and visitors to the Atherton Tablelands.

David Y.P. Tng, Isabel A. Koerner, Jessie D. Osgard, Samantha J. Surks, Leo J. Sullivan, Ella L. Thompson, Lucas E. Walker, Emily A. Bischoff, Sophia M. Love, Victoria F. Holman, Peter Snodgrass, Julia Hengstler, Gemma Horner, Nigel Tucker and Deborah M. G. Apgaua

Restoring an arboretum of Lauraceae at Lake Eacham, Crater Lakes National Park, Queensland

Tng et al 2024

Image credit: AAK Nature Watch (Yu Ota)

pp. 25-30

Reliability of spotlighting for tracking trends in Northern Greater Glider (Petauroides minor) numbers was assessed by repeating three 1-km transects over three consecutive nights, using the same observers and at the same times for each transect, in Blackbraes National Park, north-eastern Queensland. We found that this repeated spotlighting resulted in a method precision of about 25%, based on a coefficient of variation of 25.0. From this finding, we conclude that spotlighting is a sufficiently precise method for monitoring trends in P. minor populations under consistent and favourable environmental conditions.

John W. Winter, John Ludwig and Ceinwen Edwards

Spotlighting as a reliable method for estimating relative numbers of Northern Greater Gliders (Petauroides minor) in eucalypt woodland

Winter et al 2024

Image credit: David Cook Wildlife Photography (

pp. 31-43

In mid-1924, a trapper, Wilson B. Sinclair (1894?–1935), shot some small wallabies that occupied rocky outcrops near Dajarra in north-west Queensland (21o41’S, 139o31’E). He noted an unusual, very marked, pink colouring on the fur around the neck and donated skulls and skins to A. S. Le Souëf, Director of Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney. It was a new species, the Purple-necked Rock-wallaby (Petrogale purpureicollis), but the composition and function of the pigmentation are still not understood. Three museums hold a total of 17 macropod specimens that can be attributed to Sinclair, and he has now been identified as the W.B.S. who was the author of regular Nature Notes in the Cairns Post newspaper from August 1925–May 1928, the first resident nature columnist in Cairns. Many of his Notes included local field observations and he also raised conservation issues, such as the need for reserves and public education on the values of wildlife. Sinclair’s field notes from elsewhere in Queensland suggest that while making his living as a trapper, he had the eye and memory of a naturalist for the wildlife he encountered. Sinclair is the only trapper-naturalist known to have extended his role to nature writing for the Queensland public. However, he also made extravagant, unverifiable claims to have had experience collecting overseas (possibly based on information from contacts in zoos), and service in WWI (possibly based on the experiences of another trapper-naturalist, Benjamin Hore). There are clues to Sinclair’s life and movements from 1924–1935, including through his association with his partner, Kathleen Finn. During the 1930s depression they moved to New South Wales, where Sinclair was unemployed, was convicted of illegal trapping, and died in November 1935. However, Sinclair’s origins (said to be in the USA) and his life prior to 1924 cannot be traced, and his identity remains as mysterious as the pigmentation of the Purple-necked Rock-wallaby.

Elinor C. Scambler

The mysterious Wilson B. Sinclair (1894?–1935): dingo trapper, natural history columnist and discoverer of the Purple-necked Rock-wallaby Petrogale purpureicollis

Scambler 2024

Image credit: Isaac Clarey

pp. 44-47

The Australian Swiftlet (Aerodramus terraereginae) forages on the wing in daylight and roosts in colonies in inland and coastal boulder piles and in inland limestone caves at night. There are no previous records of foliage roosting by this species, or by any member of the Collocaliini. Here, we report five observations of foliage roosting by the Australian Swiftlet.

Patrick De Geest and Dermot Smyth

Foliage roosting in the Australian Swiftlet (Aerodramus terraereginae) in the Wet Tropics bioregion of Queensland

De Geest & Smyth 2024

Image credit: Dermot Smyth

pp. 48-68

This article presents breeding data for colonies of the Coastal Australian Swiftlet, Aerodramus terraereginae terraereginae, on the Family Islands, off the coast midway between Townsville and Cairns, Queensland, Australia, obtained on visits to the islands between 2015 and 2022. This information is supplemented by published data going back to 1908 to provide an indication of population trends over a time span of 114 years. While colony sizes appear to have fluctuated significantly from year to year, possibly in response to cyclone impacts, the island populations of this swiftlet have remained fairly stable over the longer term – despite well-documented population declines in their main food source, insects. The breeding season of the island colonies was found to extend from July to April, with some variability between colonies. Peak egg-laying occurred between November and February. We also provide a population estimate for a previously unrecorded Australian Swiftlet colony on nearby Hinchinbrook Island. This colony, which shares its sea cave with a large colony of insectivorous bats, is by far the largest known island colony of the species. Daily time- lapse photography on a swiftlet colony on Dunk Island in 2016 and 2017 revealed that up to three sequential clutches, each comprising a single egg, were laid per nest during the breeding season. Incubation of the second and/or third egg by a nearly- fledged older sibling confirmed that sibling incubation, which had previously been observed in the Chillagoe Australian Swiftlet, A. terraereginae chillagoensis, also occurs in the coastal subspecies.

Dermot Smyth, Leonard Andy, David Blair, John Grindrod, Whitney Rassip and Richard Pearson

Swiftlet Isles Revisited: Population trends and sibling incubation in colonies of the Australian Swiftlet, Aerodramus terraereginae terraereginae, on North Queensland Islands

Smyth et al 2024

Image credit: Nigel Tucker

pp. 69-78

Re-establishing ecological connectivity between remnants and continuous forest can counter the effects of fragmentation and climate change by strategically increasing habitat area and improving movement potential. To evaluate the effect of restoring habitat between an isolated fragment and adjacent intact rainforest, we re-surveyed vegetation, birds and ground mammals in a restored wildlife corridor over a 12-month period in 2021, comparing results to data from 1996-1998 (birds) and 2000 (vegetation and mammals). Over 150 naturally regenerating plants were recorded; birds were primarily responsible for seed dispersal. Numbers of large-seeded (>30 mm dia.) and late successional species dispersed by birds and mammals have increased. Bird and mammal assemblages are increasingly similar to adjacent reference forest, although some endemic birds remain absent. Germination of some large-fruited species coincides with colonisation by the only mammals capable of their dispersal; generalist mammals have been replaced by rainforest specialists. After nearly 25 years, plantings have produced a structurally complex habitat inhabited by many species, and tropical restoration projects in similar settings may achieve comparable responses.

Nigel I. J. Tucker, Amanda N. D. Freeman and Tracey J. Marshall

Structural and functional connectivity in a 25-year old restored wildlife corridor - an example from the upland Wet Tropics of north-eastern Australia

Tucker et al 2024b
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