Saturday, November 29, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna V - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (Part 2)

We continued our almost five day stay at Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania with a long bushwalk from Ronny Creek up to Marion's Lookout and then back down to Dove Lake. Part of the walk took us along the Overland Track which runs through the Park.

View from Ronny Creek
View from Ronny Creek in Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park

The landscape includes button grass (mesomelaena sphaerocephala) which is ubiquitous at Cradle Mountain. The seed pods of the button grass are responsible for coloring the streams in Cradle Mountain a dark coffee color.

Button Grass
Button Grass (Mesomelaena sphaerocephala)

The scenery also is dotted with pandani (richea pandanifolia) which are the largest heath plant in the world and found only in Tasmania. Appearances are deceiving, as the pandani is not related to the palm family. Pandani leaves are very sharp.

Pandani along Overland Track
Pandani (Richea pandanifolia) along the Overland Track

On our way down from Marion's Lookout, we caught this view of Lake Lilla, Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain.

Lake Lilla, Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain

In the evenings, near Cradle Mountain Lodge, we saw more Tasmanian marsupials including the common wombat and the red-necked Bennett's wallaby (Macropus refugriseus). We learned that wombats defend themselves from predators by diving into their holes and protecting themselves with their rear composed of cartilage that acts as a shield (and sometimes can be used to crush and injure the predator).

Common Wombat

Bennett's Wallaby
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus refugriseus)

We also paid a visit to the Devil Sanctuary at Cradle Mountain. There, we observed Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) feeding in the evening. Their fur was very dense and they resembled very small bears. Unfortunately, Devil facial tumor disease is afflicting and killing the small Devil population. Hopefully, a cure will be found so that the Devils will not become extinct. For more information on Devils and the facial tumor disease, click here.

Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Green Thumb Sunday - Cistus Flower

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
visit As the Garden Grows for more information

On an early morning peregrination in Golden Gate Park today, I encountered a shrub with these pretty flowers. Can anyone help me identify this flower? Update -- Thanks to Zoe in the comments below, I now know that this is a cistus flower.

Flower in Golden Gate Park
Cistus Flower in Golden Gate Park

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna IV - Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (Part 1)

From the humidity and heat of Queensland, we next flew due South to the cooler climate of Tasmania. Tasmania was rugged and beautiful and filled with lots of national parks and interesting flora and fauna deriving from Gondwanan heritage. We spent almost five days touring Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

We began with a rainy-day walk around the the King Billy circular track near Cradle Mountain Lodge. The track is named for the ancient King Billy Pines (Athrotaxis selaginoides) (which notwithstanding their name are conifers, not pines) up to 1500 years of age. The walk was an exploration in the many shades of green in the trees and the profusion of mosses and lichens.

Forest along the King Billy Track

Logs and Trees along King Billy Track

Moss on Tree Branch along King Billy Track

Back at the Lodge, it was incredible to observe the many animals that come out to feed in an open meadow near the Lodge in the evening. In the past, the animals had been fed by Lodge staff and guests although this practice was discontinued several years ago (although apparently some guests irresponsibly continue to feed the wild animals). A very bright-eyed and cute Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby) appeared frequently in the evening on the front porch of our room unsuccessfully begging for food.

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Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby)

We learned that these poor herbivorous creatures are common roadkill in Tasmania. In addition, their numbers are large due to the dwindling numbers or extinction of some of their natural predators -- e.g. the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) is extinct and the Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) population has shrunk due to a fatal and incurable facial disease (more about this in a future post). Click here to learn more about the sad tale of the marsupial Tasmanian Tiger and how it was hunted to extinction. Here is another Tasmanian Pademelon feeding near the Lodge in the evening.

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Tasmanian Pademelon (Rufous Wallaby)
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Australian Flora and Fauna III - Daintree Rainforest

After leaving Lizard Island and the Great Barrier Reef, we flew back to Cairns and then drove north into the Daintree rainforest. The weather was miserable on a few days due to heavy rainfall which closed down several road causeways due to rising water. Nonetheless, we managed to spend time in the rainforest in the Daintree Discovery Centre and to take a very informative and interesting day walk with Prue and a night walk with Ziggy through the ancient rainforest at Cooper's Creek.

Stream in Cooper's Creek
Stream in Cooper's Creek

Fan Palm
Fan Palms in Cooper's Creek

Rainforest Floor
Rainforest floor in Daintree Discovery Centre

We managed to see several interesting birds, dragons and a frog on our walks. We did not see the elusive but beautiful cassowary in the wild. Instead, we saw a cassowary claw print in the mud.

White-Lipped Tree Frog
White-Lipped Tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata) on night walk with Cooper's Creek

Cassowary Claw Print in the Mud
Cassowary Claw Print in the Mud at Cooper's Creek

Buff-Breasted or Paradise Kingfisher
Buff-Breasted or Paradise Kingfisher (Tanysiptera sylvia) in the Daintree Discovery Centre

Golden Orb Spider
Golden Orb Spider (Nephila pilipes) in the Daintree Discovery Centre

On our drive back to Cairns for our next flight to Tasmania, we stopped at the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary in Port Douglas, Queensland. There, we were able to see a cassowary, among other animals.

Crocodile Lurking in the Water

Swamp Wallaby Family Photo
Swamp Wallabies

Cassoway in Captivity

Cassowary Claws
Cassowary Claws

Male Eclectus Parrot
Male Eclectus Parrot
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