Change of sea­son

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

PINK clouds in the af­ter­noon. Cooler nights. The strong but beau­ti­ful caramel smell of the weep­ing pa­per­bark, or melaleuca. It’s def­i­nitely a change of sea­son. Kath­leen Walker, one of the Kuku Yalanji peo­ple from Wu­jal Wu­jal says that there are many in­di­ca­tors of the change - the fruit, the flow­ers, the di­wan (or scrub turkey) com­ing down from the high coun­try, the wukay (a type of yam) start­ing to be har­vested and pro­cessed for food.

Soon the mul­let will swim up­stream to lay eggs and the baway (black bean) will ripen and fall to the ground.

The Tor­res Strait pi­geons, metal­lic star­lings and buff-breasted par­adise king­fish­ers have mi­grated to New Guinea, to be re­placed by the rain­bow bee-eater which in turn has come to this re­gion from the south of Aus­tralia.

The colder wa­ter means that croc­o­diles are much more vis­i­ble, warm­ing them­selves on the river banks at low tide.

Fly­ing foxes and rain­bow lori­keets are hav­ing a field day among the fruits and nec­tar, and the free National Parks Board­walk ( Mar­rdja Botanic Walk) be­tween Cow Bay and Cape Trib is a great place to see some fly­ing foxes close up.

A num­ber have set­tled tem­po­rar­ily among the low man­groves at the far end of the walk, over­look­ing Noah’s Creek. It’s great spot to visit any­time.

At dif­fer­ent places along the coast, an early morn­ing stroll might take you along­side the bar­ring­to­nia asi­at­ica tree, with its es­pe­cially beau­ti­ful flower.

The flow­ers are like radiating spikes of white sta­mens tipped with pink and yel­low.

They open at night but by mid-morn­ing, they’re usu­ally on the ground.

Hence, they’re pol­li­nated at night by large moths and nec­tar-feed­ing bats at­tracted by their heavy scent. You need to be up early to see them at their best.

It’s also called the bishop’s hat or bishop’s mitre, be­cause the fruit has a typ­i­cal lantern or bishop’s hat shape.

The seeds are light and can drift around the world’s oceans for up to two years. The seeds and other parts of the plant con­tains saponins, which are of­ten used around the world as fish poi­sons.

Plants like this re­mind us that Aus­tralia is not alone. We are joined by the world’s oceans. Many sea­side plants and man­groves es­pe­cially are spread across is­lands and con­ti­nents not just by the con­ti­nen­tal drift of Gond­wana times, but by the ocean cur­rents.

Happy trav­el­ling.

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