This, the second section of the five week Queensland trip covers the week of travel from Eungella North to Ingham – continued from Queensland Wildlife 2019 – Part 1 of 4 – Tolderodden Regional Park to Taunton National Park and Australia’s Rarest Wallaby
After the final night at Taunton National Park I made the five hour drive to Eungella, a town situated high up in rainforest in Queensland’s Clarke Range. The primary reason for visiting the Eungella area was to view Platypus, and the beautiful Broken River 10km North of the township is one of the best places in Australia to see Platypus.
The Pioneer Valley seen from Eungella.
Whilst researching wildlife for the trip I made particular use of Rohan Clark’s recent trip report in the Australian Mammal Watching Facebook Group. This report mentioned the Eungella Dam Road, West of Broken River, was good for glider species, and so I spent three nights in total in Eungella area in the hope of seeing gliders.
The first night I camped at Eungella Dam Campsite 36kms West of the town along Eungella Dam Road. The campsite was situated in a beautiful location right on the water with stunning views. After I had set up camp I explored the campsite and found a Brushtail Possum sleeping in a log on the ground.
Eungella Dam Campsite.
All three nights in the Eungella area I spotlighted Eungella Dam Road and the area was indeed rich in gliders, but also possums and owls. I found three species of glider common in this eucalypt woodland, the Greater Glider is the species in highest numbers with 36 animals seen over three nights.
The Greater Gliders were often high up in trees given away by lime green eyeshine, fortunately these trees were not as big as the forests South of Sydney where I had previously seen this species. The Greater Glider is Australia’s largest gliding marsupial, about the size of a cat, and they can glide an impressive 100m between trees!
The other two species of glider seen along Eungella Dam Road were the Sugar and Squirrel Glider with a total of four and three animals seen respectively over three nights. I was unfamiliar with the Squirrel Glider prior to this trip, but I was happy to find they freeze obligingly in the spotlight!
Apart from the gliders the other arboreal marsupials encountered during the three nights in the area were 15 Brushtail Possums, 9 Common Ringtail Possums and a Koala.
The two species of Owl seen spotlighting Eungella Dam Road, were Boobook Owls in eucalypt woodland, and Eastern Barn Owls seen adjacent to grass/crop fields.
Eastern Barn Owl.
The second and third nights in the Eungella area were at Broken River Mountain Resort situated right next to the tranquil Broken River.
Platypus were easily seen, not only at dawn and dusk but throughout the day, with up to three Platypus seen in the river at one time. Specially constructed Platypus viewing platforms are situated along the river, but I found the traffic bridge over the river was the best place to view Platypus, here it is possible to look directly down on the animals.
Spotlighting the grounds of Broken River Mountain Resort and paths leading to the Platypus viewing platforms produced good numbers of species, over the course of the two nights (when I wasn’t spotlighting Eungella Dam Road,) I saw Sugar Gliders, Red-legged Pademelons, a Northern Brown Bandicoot and a Fawn-footed Melomys.
Ever Northwards I drove two hours to the industrial town of Proserpine. I stopped overnight here to visit Peter Faust Dam, 25kms West of the town, reputed to be good for Unadorned Rock Wallaby. I set up the tent at Proserpine Tourist Park and drove West on what was a sultry humid day in the sugar cane fields.
Sultry day in the Sugar Cane Fields.
Peter Faust Dam was massive and in common with other such infrastructure these days was fenced off. Disappointed that any rock wallabies seen would be in the distance, I remembered a great recent trip report by Valentin Moser who mentioned the rock wallabies had been seen at a campground on approach to the dam.
The campground was Kanga Lions Campground on the right hand side of the road 500m before the dam. After seeking permission and advice from the helpful caretakers, I found out that the rock wallabies appear each day around 4pm to graze.
Right on cue at 4pm around ten rock wallabies emerged from the surrounding bush, these animals were unsurprisingly quite habituated to people.
Unadorned Rock Wallaby.
A second species of rock wallaby in the Proserpine area is called the Proserpine Rock Wallaby, and I spent the last hour of daylight unsuccessfully searching roads that passed through suitable habitat between Proserpine and Airlie Beach for this species.
After dark, I returned to Peter Faust Dam and warm humid conditions had enticed out a python, that sadly had become roadkill. I stopped to examine the python and flushed a Boobook Owl from trees adjacent to the road.
As the road traverses the dam wall there were several Unadorned Rock Wallabies grazing on the road verge and adjacent vegetation. A spotlight near the quarry to the left of the dam wall produced a singular House Mouse and Sugar Glider only, so I returned early to Proserpine. At the caravan park was a Brushtail Possum foraging in the tree above my tent.
The following day I continued North to Bowling Green National Park 25kms South of Townsville. The scenery at the Mount Elliot section of the park was magnificent with both rugged mountains and beautiful forest.
Alligator Creek and Mount Elliot – Bowling Green National Park.
Mid-afternoon temperatures were warm so I took advantage of beautiful Alligator Creek and had a cooling dip, watched on by a sunbathing Saw-shelled Turtle.
Townsville and the surrounding area had suffered catastrophic flooding during the previous wet season and I had read prior to the trip that Alligator Creek Campground was closed for camping due to erosion, although the day use area was still open. Agile Wallabies were common late afternoon grazing at the campground and day use area.
Allied Rock Wallabies are another species reputed to be common at Alligator Creek Campground, although at the time of my visit they were scarce, possibly due to all the recent rain they had dispersed throughout the park now there was abundant graze.
Brush Turkeys however, were abundant here, as indeed they are along most of Australia’s East Coast, and it was a real joy to watch their amusing territorial antics.
Searching the campground area I eventually saw an Allied Rock Wallaby late afternoon. Satisfied I drove to nearby Sunbird Lodge Motel where I was staying the night. I chose Sunbird Lodge because of its close proximity to Bowling Green NP and returned after dark for a short spotlight, seeing two Brushtail Possums.
The following morning I returned to Alligator Creek Day Use Area and had great views of a single Allied Rock Wallaby grazing on the campground grass.
Allied Rock Wallaby.
It was a further hour and a half drive North to the town of Ingham, as far North as I would go on this part of the trip, before returning the hire car to Rockhampton. I stopped at magnificent Jourama Falls to break up the drive. Jourama Falls is one of the few sites known for Australia’s rarest gliding possum, and I hoped to get back here after dark to search for this species.
At Ingham I set up camp at Ingham Tourist Park then drove to the Botanical Gardens on Mcllwraith Street. Here there is a flying-fox colony, which at one time had all four Australian species of flying-fox resident, but at the time of my visit contained two species, Spectacled and Black Flying Foxes.
Black Flying Fox
Later that afternoon I made the long drive to Mt Claro, West of Mt Fox a site where there had been previous sightings of the Sharman’s (Mt Claro) Rock Wallaby. The first 40km of the drive is flat terrain through sugar cane fields, before the road becomes incredibly narrow and windy for 15kms as it passes up into the Seaview Range. The final 20km on top of the range was sealed as far as the township of Mt Fox but past that the road is unsealed, although it was in good condition at the time I visited.
I had unsuccessfully tried to obtain the phone number of the Kilclooney Station at Ingham Visitors Centre prior to my visit, so I had resigned myself to driving the 8km past Mt Claro to the homestead to seek permission from the landowners. Fortunately, I came across the owner on the road shortly after passing Mt Fox who was happy for me to view the rock wallabies.
After parking the car I made the 1km walk to Mount Claro where immediately I saw Sharman’s Rock Wallabies. I saw around ten rock wallabies over the course of an hour, although these animals were flighty compared to other rock wallabies I had seen previously in Queensland.
Sharman’s Rock Wallaby.
It was dry Savannah country out at Mt Claro and on the walk back to the car I saw both Common Wallaroo and Emu.
The following day I explored the excellent Tyto Wetlands in Ingham and was impressed by the sheer numbers of birds at this fantastic location, including remarkable species that had long been on my to-see list like the Comb-crested Jacana..
In addition to the prolific birdlife there was an impressive Saltwater Crocodile resident in the wetland and a good reason not to get too close to the water!
That night I visited Jourama Falls 24km South of Ingham to look for the Mahogany Glider, but first I called in at Tyto Wetlands for a quick spotlight and saw both Agile Wallabies and a Northern Brown Bandicoot, as well as numerous Microbats hawking in the insect rich environment.
At Jourama Falls it was a still, moonless night and I couldn’t believe it when within five minutes of spotlighting I found a Mahogany Glider. It was low in a tree between the river and carparking area. The glider froze in the spotlight with its tail hanging low allowing clear views, aiding identification.
The georgraphical range of the Mahogany Glider is a mere 122kms along the Queensland Coast between Crystal Creek and Hull River. It is endangered due to habitat clearance of lowland rainforest. I was very lucky indeed.
Shortly afterwards I disturbed a Giant White-tailed Rat feeding on the fallen fruit, up into a vine thicket, where I got excellent views of this Australia’s largest rodent.
Giant White-tailed Rat.
Despite lots of rustlings in the undergrowth I saw nothing more, and decided to quit while I was ahead to make the short drive back to Ingham.
Returning South, my final stop on the Central Queensland leg of the trip was the fabulous Hidden Valley Resort West of the Paluma Range, and 91km North of Townsville. The road West of Paluma township was unsealed and a little rough in places, especially the dry creek crossings, but I managed to get through in my little hired sedan.
The owners at Hidden Valley have marked a couple of walk trails near the property, and after arriving I walked to the Pine Creek Rock Pools, where I saw both Agile Wallabies and Sharman’s Rock Wallabies, the latter on rocky outcrops near where the trail crosses the river.
Both nights I spotlighted around the property, and also along the access road and down the main road to the river, and I found mammals plentiful.
Around the Hidden Valley Cabins after dark over two nights, I saw Sharman’s Rock Wallaby (six animals on the first night alone,) Brushtail Possums, a Sugar Glider in a grevillea and a Bush Rat.
Spotlighting the access road and down the main road to the river, I saw all of Sugar Gliders, Greater Gliders and a Squirrel Glider, around 30 Brushtail Possums over the two nights, as well as Northern Brown Bandicoots in creek lines.
During my first night at Hidden Valley the owners trapped a Bush Rat that had been causing mayhem in the kitchen, and I was delighted to be tasked with releasing the little bandit. After release I managed a few photos of this usually camera shy mammal before it disappeared into a rockpile.
Golden Grevillea was in flower at the time of my visit, and while at night it was attracting Sugar Gliders, during the day they were appealing to the nectar eating birds, including both Scarlet Honeyeaters and Rainbow Lorikeets. Another bird found at Hidden Valley was my favourite bird of the trip, the beautiful Pale-headed Rosella.
L to R :- Scarley Honeyeater, Rainbow Lorikeet, Pale-headed Rosella
Hidden Valley is a very special place and I would highly recommend visiting, not only for the wildlife and location but also for the best cooking in Queensland!
I now had the unenviable task of driving 10 hours South to Rockhampton to return the hire car. From Rockhampton I was flying North to Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands, and ultimately Cape York Peninsula.#QuollingAround