Wildlife & Platypus
Kangaroo viewing, Platypus viewing, Nocturnal Wildlife ‘Spotlighting’
Cairns Highlands, Ravenshoe/Misty Mountains region
One of Australia’s most significant areas for wildlife viewing is the Ravenshoe, Misty Mountains and Cairns Highland region of tropical north Queensland. With elevations ranging from around 700 metres to over 1,200 metres the climate is many degrees cooler than on the lowlands and coast. The Ravenshoe area offers the visitor an unparalleled opportunity to explore one of the most bio-diverse regions within Australia. Strategically situated between the rainforest clad Misty Mountains, wet sclerophyll forests on the western edge of the ranges and the dry savannah woodlands, this region, with its great diversity of habitats, is especially rich in wildlife.
Twelve species of kangaroos can be found in a variety of habitats within the region. including Australia’s smallest kangaroo, the Musky Rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus), which exhibits characteristics of ancestral kangaroos and possums and has an unusual quadrupedal gait! In addition there is an impressive list of other animals recorded from the region including around 350 species of birds, 12 of which are endemic to North Queensland.
Lumholtzs Tree Kangaroo
The region is home to 12 species of possums, Platypus, Echidnas, Freshwater Crocodiles, Dingos, Quolls, Brush-tailed Phascogales, bandicoots, fruit bats, rodents, monitor lizards and dragons, and there is even……….a small population of Koalas. All can be found within a 35-kilometre radius from the village of Ravenshoe, if one knows where to look!
Of particular interest are the World Heritage listed rainforests and wet sclerophyll woodlands of the region. These are considered to be one of the most ecologically rich and evolutionary significant sites in the world. These restricted forests support a unique assemblage of flora and fauna and contain the highest amounts of biological diversity and endemism within Australia. Fifty-four vertebrate species are unique to the Wet Tropics region of North Queensland including two tree-kangaroos and five species of possums. The charismatic platypus is found throughout most of the regions freshwater wetlands
This area has the greatest diversity of habitats, landforms and elevations on the Continent. The main populations of arboreal mammals, occur above 900 metres elevation in the climax highland rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests of the Misty Mountains/Ravenshoe and Cairns Highlands region, 100 kilometres south-west of Cairns
To maximize the opportunity of seeing wildlife, timing, temperature and lighting situation are critical. Platypus are crepuscular and nocturnal and the very best time to observe them is very early morning around 06:00-07:00am before the sun reaches the water and before there are too many people moving around! They are relatively common and not too difficult to find and observe, providing certain procedures are observed.
Possums and tree-kangaroos are mostly nocturnal. We quite often find Tree kangaroos in some locations sleeping in favourite trees during the morning, warming themselves after a cool winters night. Possums and tree-kangaroos retreat into dens and vine thickets as the day warms up. They are then more difficult to find, unless one knows where to look! We regularly see Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos on our tours during the daytime. Kangaroos/wallabies are best observed either early morning or late afternoon/early evening as they emerge from their daytime haunts to feed.
Australia’s arboreal mammals are mostly active at night and are best observed with the aid of a 30-watt spotlight. The main populations occur in the highland rainforests above 900 metres and appear to be most concentrated in forests growing on basalt soils. Because of their limited distribution, we must journey to the higher regions to view most nocturnal mammals.
Mammal species we most often encounter while spotlighting in rainforest are Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo, Lemuroid Possum, (including occasional sightings of the rare white morph), Herbert River Ringtail Possum, Green Ringtail Possum, Coppery Brushtail Possum, Striped Possum, Long-tailed Pygmy Possum, Sugar Gliders, Long-nosed and Northern Brown Bandicoots, Red-legged Pademelons, Tiger quolls, antechinus, bats and some rodent species.
The wet sclerophyll woodland adjoining the rainforest, south-west of Ravenshoe is the habitat for 5 species of gliding possums, Greater Glider, Sugar Glider, Squirrel Glider, the tiny Feathertail Glider and the endangered Fluffy Glider. The Common Ringtail Possum and Common Brushtail Possum also occur in these tall, wet eucalypt woodlands
Herbert River Ringtail Possum
Other species that we also encounter while spotlighting include 6 species of owls, Tawny and Papuan Frogmouths, nightjars, Bush Stone-curlews, Echidnas, Northern Quolls, Giant White-tailed Rat, Leaf-tailed and Chameleon Geckos, Carpet and Amethystine Pythons, Pink-tongued Lizards and many other reptiles and myriad frog species, depending on local and seasonal conditions.
Macropods (kangaroos/wallabies) can also be observed, usually at dawn and/or dusk, but sometimes in the daytime on a dull and overcast day. These include Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Common Wallaroo, Whiptail, Agile and Swamp Wallabies, Mareeba Rock-wallaby, Red-legged Pademelon and Rufous Bettong. Other macropod species are also occasionally seen in the daytime or while spotlighting. They include Antilopine Wallaroo, Spectacled Hare-wallaby and the rare Northern Bettong. In addition many reptiles and birds are also often seen in the daytime including Frilled Lizards, Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Bearded Dragons, Eastern Water Dragons, monitor lizards, turtles and flocks of Brolga and Sarus Cranes, bustards, ibis, Magpie Geese, Red-tailed Black and Sulphur-crested cockatoos, Red-winged Parrots and Emus and many other bird species. All are frequently seen during the daytime on our wildlife tours.
Cape York Wilderness
Wild Watch offers excursions to the Cape York wilderness region, with the cooler, drier months being the best times for observing wildlife. The wetlands of this region support large populations of Estuarine and Freshwater Crocodiles.
In Lakeland and Lakefield National Park areas we also frequently see Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Common and Antilopine Wallaroo, Agile and Northern Nailtail Wallabies, Godman’s rock-wallaby, Dingo and Northern Quoll. Reptiles such as Gould’s Sand Monitor, Bearded Dragon and Frilled Lizard are also often encountered.
Further north, the monsoon forests of the Iron Range offer some exciting species, including Spotted and Southern Common Cuscus, Striped Possum, Rufous Spiny Bandicoot, Cinnamon Antechinus, and the beautiful Emerald Python and Emerald Monitor
We commonly find Platypus throughout the Ravenshoe/Misty Mountains region and most often observe them at dawn and dusk. On our excursions we regularly have excellent views of this often shy and elusive animal.
Wild Watch Australia offers personalised wildlife and bird watching tours to Cape York/Iron Range, Kakadu and the Northern Territory, Tasmania and most other notable regions around Australia.