Wildlife of the Scenic Rim, Southeast Queensland
Background to wildlife: the landforms and vegetation
(photos from Araucaria Ecotours)
The Scenic Rim is a relatively mountainous, well-watered and fertile section of of a primarily flat, dry continent with infertile soils. Our continent as a whole does of course have a rich biodiversity and the world’s highest level of endemism (i.e proportion of species found nowhere else. The Scenic Rim is part of the region (southeastern Qld and NSW) which has the third highest biodiversity in the whole country.
When Australia broke away from the great southern land-mass of Gondwana about 50 million years ago, it drifted northward, taking the east coast over a ‘hotspot’ of volcanic activity. Our part of it was over the hotspot from about 25 million years ago to about 22 million years ago, and there is some indication that we might have stayed above the hotspot longer than most other parts of the east coast. Three enormous shield volcanoes grew, erupted many times and finally became extinct:
- the Main Range Volcano west of Brisbane, forming the highlands that now include Towoomba, Cunningham’s Gap and Mt Superbus
- Focal Peak, near Mt Barney, responsible for most of the mountains of this region (but Mt Barney itself was pushed up as a monolith when the volcanic activity was dying down)
- the Tweed Volcano, the centre of which is Mt Warning, and which formed the Border Ranges, Lamington Plateau and as far north as Tamborine Mountain
Collectively these three great volcanoes – three of the largest shield volcanoes ever to have existed on the planet – formed what we now call the Scenic Rim
The Scenic Rim is especially rich in wildlife because:
- the long volcanic activity has given us more fertile soils than most of the continent, and we also have some of the older sedimentary soils dating back to before the days of the dinosaurs. Different kinds of volcanic soil supports different kinds of vegetation (broadly speaking, basalt supports rainforest and rhyolite supports some of our eucalypt forests), and other soils support other vegetation. This provides a diversity of habitats.
- the topography gives us different climatic conditions and further habitat types. The mountains to the east catch the moisture-laden clouds from the Pacific Ocean but areas to the west are left in what we call a ‘rain shadow’, the annual rainfall gradually decreasing towards the west, but with another pocket of relatively high rainfall as we reach the Main Range. The altitude varies from about 300m to about 1500m, allowing us to move from warm subtropical rainforest up to cool temperate rainforests, and from eucalypt forest and riparian sheoak vegetation on alluvial soils up to mountain heaths. Even just the combination of low-lying, gently undulating land, creeks and rivers, steep rugged gorges, cliffs, small caves and high plateaux provide many habitats and microhabitats.
- We are near the edge of two climate types – the Mediterranean climate of wet winters a d dry summers that the southern coasts of Australia experience are not too far away, but here we have the tropical pattern of wet summers and dry winters. Maby southern species reach their northern limit here or not far from here, and many northern species are close to their southern limit. Thus we are getting diversity from both directions.
- Migratory birds, bats and insects pass through here (or settle for breeding or non-breeding seasons) on north-south journeys, and nomadic birds from the west head our way when droughts are bad
Mammals of the Scenic Rim
Most Australian families of mammals are found in the Scenic Rim, and include the world’s three great mammalian groups: monotremes, marsupials and placentals.
Platypus are found in many of our local creeks. The first hour after dawn and the last hour before sunset are the best times to watch for them. Their eyesight is not great, but they will see you if you are standing conspicuously next to the creek or making sudden movements. Try to sit or stand quietly against a tree or behind low vegetation.
Echidnas are occasionally seen in many parts of the Scenic Rim, mostly in open eucalypt forest or grazing land with scattered trees and shelter such as logs, builders and shrubs.
Marsupials – carnivorous
The spotted-tailed quoll, the largest truly native mammalian predator on the mainland, is a shy, nocturnal, forest animal spread sparsely throughout its range. It lives in both rainforest and eucalypt forest. They are occasionally seen in Lamington National Park, and searches by Wildlife Queensland’s quoll-seekers in 2013 revealed they are still living near Boonah.
The brush-tailed phascogale is a squirrel-sized marsupials, silvery-grey with a bushy black tail, pointed nose, big dark eyes and – like other carnivorous marsupials – two rows of sharp pointed teeth. It lives in a number of open forest and woodland habitats, including she oak woodland along our creeks, and spends much of its time in the trees.
The Yellow-footed antechinus is the most commonly-encountered carnivorous marsupial, which sometimes enters houses for warmth during winter and lives in many forest and woodland habitats. It’s a little bigger than a mouse (and it eats mice, as well as insects, lizards and frogs), and looks superficially mouse-liike but has a pointed snout and sharp teeth, walks in a different way, and of course is marsupial. It doesn’t have a well-formed pouch, but instead has loose flaps that the young shelter between.
The subtropical antechinus (which used to be regarded as a brown antechinus, but has now been split from that species) is mostly found in rainforest and tall wet eucalypt forest nearby. It is generally a bit drabber in colour than the yellow-footed.
The dusky antechinus is a little larger, and has been found in Laimngton National Park as well as the contiguous Border Ranges National Park just over the NSW border..
The common dunnart, a little smaller than the antechinus and with larger eyes, lives in some of our more open forests and woodlands.
The smallest of all our marsupials, noticeably smaller than a mouse, is the planigale.
Marsupials – omnivorous
The northern brown bandicoot is common in the Scenic Rim, and we often see the little conical burrows it makes in the soil when digging for grubs, fungi and other underground foods.
The long-nosed bandicoot is less common but also in the district.
Marsupials – herbivorous
Eastern grey kangaroos live in the forests and come out onto grassland to graze late in the day, through the night and in the early morning. They are very sociable, usually seen feeding either in groups of one adult male with several females and juveniles, or in larger groups consisting of several of these smaller groups. Kooralby is a good place to look for them, and they can also be seen in the low country between Mt Barney and Mt Maroon, around Gleneagle, between Beaudesert and Tamborine and other places.
Whiptail wallabies are one of Australia’s most elegant wallabies and also come out to graze towards the end of the day. They are sociable, and usually seen in a group of half a dozen or so. Kooralbyn and the country around Mt Maroon are good places to look for them.
Black-striped wallabies are also in the region but not commonly seen, but this is partly because they generally do not emerge to graze until after dark, while the others tend to come out while still light although late in the day, and are often still grazing in the open in the early morning.
The swamp wallaby is smaller than the others just mentioned, and tends to stay in denser vegetation. It is a darker wallaby, with very dark face and hands and a yellowish belly.
The brush-tailed rock wallaby used to be common, but is now a threatened species and is almost confined to high, rocky areas such as Mt Barney, Mt Maroon and Mt French.
The red-necked pademelon is often seen near rainforests, coming out to graze on grasses towards evening. It is considerably smaller than the wallabies mentioned above. Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s at the edge of Lamington National Park are good places to look for them in the very early morning or late afternoon.
The red-legged pademelon may sometimes also be seen grazing on grasses, but usually doesn’t leave the shelter of the forest for as long or as far as the red-necked, and it eats a greater variety of leaves within the forest than the red-necked does.
The Potoridae family is closely relaed to the kangaroo family, but the animal are much smaller and have some primitive characteristics.
Rufous bettongs are rarely seen, as they are smaller even than the pademelons, and do not get active until after dark. They dig little pits rather similar to those of the bandicoots
The long-nosed potoroo is very important in the dispersal of fungi which live in symbiosis with the roots of forest trees. Like the betting they are rarely seen, but in addition to the populations in Lamington National Park, they were found in Christmas Creek Valley in 2013.
Koalas are still reasonably common wherever there are suitable eucalypts, although diminishing in some areas.
Brushtail possums are common throughout the Scenic Rim, in forest, farmland and town.
Mountain brushtails or bobucks (darker colour, smaller ears) are confined to tall dense forests.
Ringtail possums are common in some of the forests, but not as widespread as the brush-tail.
Greater gliders can be seen in some of the tall wet eucalyptus forests, such as some areas of Lamington National Park. It mostly eats eucalypt leaves, unlike the other glider, which mostly eat nectar, sap and insects.
Yellow-bellied gliders, the rarest of our gliders, also live here including Tamborine Mountain.
The squirrel glider is found in some open forests and woodlands, feeding on nectar, sap and insects. It has been seen in the Jimboomba region just north of Scenic Rim, Running Creek Valley and to the west of Rathdowney.
Sugar gliders are slightly smaller than the squirrel glider but with rather similar habits, and are reasonably common in some areas within the shire, including high-altitude forests the squirrel glider appears to be largely absent from.
The tiny feather-tail glider is far less often seen, partly because of its diminutive size and its habit of usually staying near the tops of tall trees. The tail is quite distinctive.
The eastern pigmy possum is also tiny and therefore seldom seen.
Bats are divided into two major groups – megabats (no echolocation, feed mostly on nectar, pollen and fruit) and microbats (usually much smaller, navigate by echolocation, mostly feed on insects).
The black flying fox is our largest megabat, lives in large colonies hanging from tree branches, and eats nectar and fruit in roughly similar proportions, helping (as do other fruitbats) to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds.
The grey-headed flying fox is very slightly smaller, and its numbers have been dwindling over the years, also living in trees in large colonies and eating similar proportions of nectar and fruit.
The little red flying fox is considerably smaller than the other two and breeds at a different time of year, but also lives in large colonies in trees sometimes along with the other two species. It eats more nectar than fruit, and is more migratory than the others.
The common tube-nosed bat lives in small groups or solitarily, is much smaller (although still a ‘megabat’) and eats mostly fruits. Although called ‘common’ it is rarely seen ,because of its smaller size and more solitary habits.
The blossom bat is also small for a megabat, and because of this and because it also doesn’t live in colonies, it is rarely noticed.
There are many species of microbat in the region, each with its own habitat preferences and foraging style (some forage about canopies, some close to the ground or water, some foraging through winter and others not, some preferring particular insect types). They include bent wing bats, lingered bats, horseshoe bats and various others.
The bush rat is the most commonly encountered of the native rodents, in several kinds of forests and woodlands and occasionally in houses (it looks a bit like the introduced black rat but its tail is only about as long as its body, while the black rat has a much longer tail.
The swamp rat is found in areas of dense long grass and sedge vegetation in or near forests. It has dark feet, small eyes and small ears compered to the bush rat
The fawn-footed melomys, related to the rats, is common in rainforests, and the grassland melomys in more open areas.
The chestnut mouse is smaller and not often encountered.
The Hastings River mouse is a threatened native rodent that reaches the northern limit of its Australian distribution in the Scenic Rim.
The Australian water rat is quite common in creeks in the region, but not often seen, as it is nocturnal and spends a lot of its time in the water. It is larger than our other rodents, almost otter-like, with a conspicuous white end to its tail.
There are also three introduced rodents the house mouse, ship rat and black rat.
Birds of the Scenic Rim
Roughly half of all Australian birds, including all its raptors, have been seen in Southeast Queensland.
Common waterbirds include black swan, black duck, wood duck, hardhead duck, grey teal, purple swamphen, Eurasian coot, dusky moorhen, royal spoonbill, yellow-billed spoonbill, white ibis, straw-necked ibis, great egret, intermediate egret, little egret, cattle egret, Australasian grebe, Australian pelican, pied cormorant, little pied cormorant, little black cormorant, darter, comb-crested jacana, white-faced heron, royal white-necked (or Pacific) heron, black-winged stilt and black-necked stork.
Rainforest birds include the brush turkey, pied currawong, satin bowerbird, regent bowerbird, eastern whipbird, Lewin’s honeyeater, log-runner, eastern yellow robin, brown thornbill, noisy pitta, Albert’s lyrebird, paradise riflebird and many others.
Common raptors include the wedge-tailed eagle, the brown falcon, the black-shouldered kite, the white-bellied sea eagle, the whistling kite and the Australian kestrel.
In eucalypt forests, common birds include fairy-wrens (superb, variegated and red-backed), blue-faced honeyeater, yellow-faced honeyeater, eastern spinebill, grey butcherbird, pied butcherbird, red-browed finches, striated pardalote, spotted pardalote, rainbow lorikeet, scaly-breasted lorikeet, laughing kookaburra, sacred kingfisher and forest kingfisher.
Birds commonly seen in grassy paddocks include Richard’s pipit, masked lapwing, cattle egret, Torresian crow, straw-necked ibis, white-faced heron, pale-headed rosella, eastern rosella and (in winter) pied currawong.
Reptiles and frogs of the Scenic Rim
We have all Australian snake families represented in the Scenic Rim – pythons, rear-fanged snakes, front-fanged snakes and blind snakes.
Green tree snakes and brown tree snakes are also fairly common, the keel back a little less so. They are all rear-fanged snakes, and as such would find it difficult to give a good bite to a human. Keel-backs and greens are non-venomos: the brown is venomous but unlikely to be able to bite effectively (although one shouldn’t tempt it) and its venom is not as potent as our really dangerous species.
Blind snakes live underground and are not often encountered. They are non-venomous.
The front-fanged snakes include all of our dangerously-venomous species as well as a number of weakly-venomous ones.
The red-bellied black snake is often seen in rainforest and other moist forests, although less so since the cane toad moved into the region. Although regarded as one of our dangerous snakes, less than 1% of bites were fatal even before antivenin was available.
The eastern brown snake is probably the most dangerous – a try alert and active snake (although like all snakes it doesn’t set out to get us – it knows we’re too big to eat).
The death adder is also highly venomous, and about half the bites were fatal before the days of antivenin. It tends to be lazy, and doesn’t get out of for way as quickly as other snakes – a good reason not to walk through long grass or reeds.
The rough-scaled snake is endemic to this part of Australia, restricted to the forests of southeast Queensland and northeastern New South Wales. It’s highly venomous snake but not often seen.
The tiger snake is site often seen in mountain forests, and one of the first to become active after winter. It is also highly-venomous.
The small-eyed snake is more common and often mistaken for a young red-bellied black snake, but is smaller, and the pink of its belly is not so easily seen from the side.
The yellow-faced whipsnake is another commonly-encountered species.
Other small front-fanged snakes include golden-crowned, red-naped, bandy-bandy, Stephen’s banded snake and several others.
The commonest dragon lizards in the Scenic Rim are the bearded dragon and the eastern water dragon.
Velvet geckos and other geckos come out at night to feed. The leaf-tailed gecko is a resident of local rain forests. The introduced Asian house gecko can often be heard chirping in houses at night.
Flapfooted, or legless, lizards are reasonably common but not often seen because of their burrowing habits.
The short-necked turtle is the most commonly seen turtle in the Scenic Rim, but the long-necked and saw-shelled turtles occur there also. They are mostly active in the warmer months, often seen in the creeks or sunning themselves on emergent rocks or logs.
There are many species of frog in the Scenic Rim, the Mt Barney area having been named as having one of Australia’s richest diversities of frog species. ABout half the species belong to the tree frog family and alf to the “Southern Frogs” family.
This page will be expanded …. stay tuned!