Eungella National Park
|Eungella National Park location;|
Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Our first leg of the road trip saw us drive six hours to spend the night with our Dad in the mining town of Calliope, just outside of Gladstone. The next day, another six hour journey was needed to reach our destination of Finch Hatton, in the Mackay Hinterlands. We pitched our tents in 'Platypus Bush Camp', a creekside property owned by the no-nonsense 'Wazza' and patrolled by his dog, 'Dog'. It is an incredibly beautiful location.
It didn't take long for the local wildlife to come out of hiding, with Long-nosed Bandicoots (Perameles nasuta) hopping through the undergrowth beside us as we assembled our tents in the evening. There were plenty of these marsupials around the campsite, in all sizes and ages. The key to their breeding success is an incredibly fast gestation period of 12 days - the female bandicoot pretty much gives birth to an embryo that does most of its growing in her pouch. Fifty days later, the breeding cycle starts all over again! Mostly though, I'll remember them for their cheeky personalities as they hopped around the campfire, looking for crumbs.
On an early walk around the property the next morning, I had fleeting glimpses of an Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica), as well as this Brown Cuckoo-Dove (Macropygia amboinensis).
|Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Finch Hatton|
On a roadside near the camp, I almost stepped on this beautiful Four O'clock Moth (Dysphania fenestrata).
|Four O'clock Moth, Finch Hatton|
North Queensland has quite a large number of day-flying moths, many of which rival butterflies in their beauty. This particular species is named for the time of day it is most commonly seen in summer.
|Finch Hatton Gorge; Photo by Lana Perrin|
On a moss-covered sunlit boulder, I spotted a Lemon-barred Forest-Skink (Eulamprus amplus). Restricted to just a few localities in the surrounding mountain ranges, I believe this is the rarest species I encountered on my holiday.
|Lemon-barred Forest-Skink, Finch Hatton Gorge|
Not far away, the skink would have done well to avoid a patrolling Lace Monitor (Varanus varius). Growing up to 2.1 metres long, this massive reptile is one of the apex predators of the Gorge, using its sharp talons to tear into nests, burrows and shelters to eat the inhabitants inside.
|Lace Monitor, Finch Hatton Gorge. Main photo by Lana Perrin|
Walking back down the track after a swim, the tropical sun lured another reptile out of hiding, this time a Common Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus). If this beautiful, friendly and non-venomous species doesn't convert you into being a snake fan, then nothing will!
|Common Tree Snake, Finch Hatton Gorge|
|Broken River; INSET: Saw-shelled Turtle and Long-finned Eel|
And then we saw it - a Platypus!
|Platypus, Broken River|
Known to scientists as Ornithorhynchus anatinus, the Platypus is as puzzling now as when it was first discovered (and initially dismissed as a hoax). The most obvious physical anomaly is the duck-like bill, except it's nothing like a duck's bill at all. Not only is it pliable and rubbery, the bill is also an electro-magnetic receiver that can pick up the slightest pulse from worms and shrimps under the water. The Platypus is also famous for being one of only two mammals in the world to lay eggs - the other is its relative, the Echidna. To top off all the strangeness, the males of this appealingly cute creature are highly venomous, developing a fighting spur on their hind legs as they mature. In theory, you should be more scared of the Platypus than the Tree Snake!
|Platypus and Saw-shelled Turtle, Broken River|
Less pleasant was dealing with the creepy-crawlies back at the camp. The toilet block came alive both nights with Brown Huntsman Spiders (Heteropoda species) and Crickets, including this Penalva species.
|King Cricket, Finch Hatton|
A walk around the property with a spotlight revealed a Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) of the dark-orange Northern variety. Down by the creek, the water teemed with long-armed Macrobrachium Shrimps that nimbly avoided the beam of light needed to take a photo. A sleeping Purple-spotted Gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) proved a more stationary photography subject.
|Purple-spotted Gudgeon, Finch Hatton|
Back at the camp, one last toilet stop went well, with a friend to protect me from the spiders.
|Green Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea), Finch Hatton|
The next morning, we packed up our tents and set off for Airlie Beach, where the adventure continued!