Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing Possum

Driving through the tablelands on my way south/west, I happened to pass a national park sign that rang a bell in my head - Mt Hypipamee. Last time I was up on the tablelands I didn't get there, but the reason I was suddenly excited was that it's supposed to be the place for spotlighting. It was afternoon already so I pulled in and decided to wait for dark and try my luck.

Most people know this park by it's unofficial title - The Crater. Easier to pronounce than the real name. While I waited I wandered out to take a look at the famous formation.

I was, needless to say, rather impressed. The sheer drop down to the water is about 60 m, and apparently the water tunnel goes down about 80 m before making a turn and continuing. The structure is a diatreme - formed by an explosive eruption of gas.

When darkness fell I donned my torch and went out for a look around. There was certainly lots of eyeshine though most things were high up in the canopy and my light wasn't sufficient to give me a good look - and I didn't really know what I was seeing anyway. I tried taking some photos but they turned out rather rubbish.

Luckily, my night was saved by some kindred spirits who pulled up in to the parking lot. A bunch of wildlife enthusiasts like myself out for a spot. I tagged along and was not only able to see a bunch of animals thanks to their spotlights, but they knew what everything was! Luckily I was able to show them a splendid leaf-tailed gecko (Phyllurus platurus) camoflagued on a lichen-covered trunk that I'd spotted earlier, so I didn't look like a complete klutz.

The next day I drove to Mareeba to avail myself of a sweet little spotlight, drove back to Mt Hypipamee then fiddled with my camera to work out the best methods (my flash is still playing up after its swim in Little Crystal Creek). I was ready for the night to come...

The first possum I spotted was the green ringtail.

Lemuroid ringtails were common too.

It took a bit of looking around but I eventually found a Herbert River ringtail in a nice position to photograph.

Three ringtail possum species and not one common ringtail! The only other possum I spotted was the common brushtail. Alas, no tree kangaroos or striped possums, but I guess one can only be so lucky. I heard the screech of a Sooty owl on a few occasions, perhaps that scared them off!

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