The latest issue of Australian Geographic is out and was a great read as usual. The cover story this issue is about the great variety of butterflies located on the Cape York Peninsula:
CAPE YORK Peninsula’s Iron Range National Park (NP), which encloses the country’s largest wedge of lowland tropical rainforest, is a confounding place to go chasing butterflies. To be sure, the butterfly diversity here, midway between Cairns and New Guinea, far outstrips and outshines that of any other slice of Australia – more than half of the country’s species occur here, and many nowhere else. But the distractions are no less dazzling.
One hot and heavy day last December, at the height of the build-up to the Wet, I joined a pair of dedicated butterfly hounds in a small clearing on a bank of Gordon Creek, a tributary of the Claudie River. Naturalists Peter Valentine and Steve Johnson had been coming here almost every year since 1976. They’re butterfly “twitchers” – of Australia’s 400 or so butterfly species, they’d tracked down and collected nearly every one – but they’re much more than that. As well as netting and preserving butterflies for identification purposes, they like to nut out life histories and conservation needs, often from scratch. This necessarily involves finding and fitting together the various pieces of the metamorphosis puzzle – matching caterpillars with butterflies by identifying food plants, detecting eggs, hatching them into larvae, watching them pupate and documenting the butterflies’ short but glorious bursts of reproductive life.
Still, come daybreak at Gordon Creek I awoke to a din of a different order. Rapturous coos, peals, squeals, whistles, staccato gasps and myriad other siren calls, testament to a forest teeming with yellow-billed kingfishers, red-bellied pittas, trumpet manucodes and magnificent riflebirds. A white-faced robin clung curiously to a nearby tree. A superb fruit-dove sat on its flimsy nest at chest height and only 20 m away. Beyond it, eclectus parrots flew in and out of a hubcap-sized hole in a tree, caaark-ing like crows with megaphones, while a cuscus – a 75 cm long tree-dwelling mammal – mooched about in the canopy. [Australian Geographic]
This story of Queensland’s amazing butterflies is just another example of the great biodiversity of the Cape York Peninsula that also includes the Hercules Moth which if people didn’t know better would think was a butterfly.
The magazine this month also has a number of other great articles about the various land reserves in Australia, the rock art of the Kimberly, a profile of Dimboola, Victoria, and my favorite article about a group of convicts that escaped a remote Tasmanian prison and were forced to turn to cannibalism to survive. Of course there is plenty more to read so check it out.