12 August, 2008

Wetlands and Waterfalls

The Atherton Tablelands is lucky to have some wonderful wetlands. They are under threat however from sedimentation, draining and the excess use of water, mostly for irrigation. Hasties Swamp used to dry out every second decade or so but now it is almost a yearly event.
Wetlands are tricky things to manage and the removal of stock is not always the best thing. Exotic grasses and other weeds can overgrow the edges making them unsuitable for small birds and fences can lead to the death of wildlife.

Plumed Whistling Ducks and Magpie Geese roost at Hasties Swamp which is located just south of Atherton. As the dry season progresses more birds will move in from the ephemeral ponds in which they breed. In the bottom right of the lower picture is a Jacana. Sometimes known as the "Jesus Bird," they have long toes which enable them to spread their weight over many

floating plants and appear to walk on water.

Millaa Millaa Falls

Millaa Millaa Waterfall is one of the most symmetrical falls and thus is very aesthetically pleasing. At the base of the falls is a plunge pool but it is always too cold for me to swim. In the little stream are a number of fish species including Eel-tailed Catfish. There is a leucistic (tending to white but not albino) fish here which often hides under the overhanging gingers.

There are many small farm dams on the Tablelands which contain a variety of wildlife. Always ask permission first before entering paddocks. This is as much for your own protection as being good manners.

Platypus abound in the streams and dams but the best places to see them are in Yungaburra along Petersen Creek and at Tarzalli Lakes Fish Farm. They have a farm tour on which they guarantee you will see Platypus; you can't get better than that! They also have some wonderful smoked goods and fresh produce. Try some of the herb combinations which Dave uses on the fish and chicken.
Chelid turtles withdraw their necks to the side when threatened. Australia has many species and these are the Saw-shelled Chelid, Elseya latisternum.

Six-winged dragonflies? Not really, it is the shadow cast on the rocks. The Blue dragonfly is probably a Blue Skimmer, Orthetrum caledonicum, but it has no yellow on the sides of the thorax. The red one is the aptly named Scarlet Percher, Diplacodes heamatodes. Where you have water and insects there will be swallows. The Welcome Swallow is a migrant is Southern Australia but we have birds all year round. they build their nests out of mud, plant fibres and feathers.

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