Into the Wet Tropics part III – Black mountain

Black Mountain Panorama

… Well, the next day eventually came. I stank of rotting matter, the tent was full of water and Phil was floating about on his airbed as wet as a drowned rat. We emerged and set off for the town Of Wujal Wujal on the Bloomfield River. The road wound its way up and down steep, wet clay and eventually we reached the small community. A quick look around was enough, so we set off north for Black Mountain, or Galgajuga (Kalkajuga). A massive pile of black granite rising up from rather normal looking surrounds, it is full of mystery. The road takes you right to a lookout.

Black mountain nursery frog (Cophixalus saxitilis)

Black mountain nursery frog (Cophixalus saxitilis)

The attraction to this place is the sheer beauty of it, the stories of people going there and never being found again (no doubt from slipping down between boulders) and the unique wildlife. There are three endemic vertebrates – the Black Mountain Skink, the Black Mountain Gecko and the Black mountain boulder frog – probably the weirdest of them all.

After dinner at the Lion’s Den pub, with its “unique” collection of dead animals in jars, most of which will kill you we set off after dark. Expecting a long walk over the boulders before finding anything I was shocked to immediately, in the carpark, spot a boulder frog (Cophixalus saxitilis). One of the largest Microhylids in Australia, like its close relatives, it has no tadpoles. Males call from crevices and females lay eggs for the males to guard. Tiny fully formed frogs then hatch and bounce away. Both sexes are bright yellow, though the females more so than males. They really stand out on the black boulders, making them by far the easiest Microhylid frog to find. Other species call from hidden localities and are tiny (some 17mm long!)

Coastal ring tailed gecko (Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus)

Coastal ring tailed gecko (Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus)

We also found many large Ring Tailed Geckoes (Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus) on the boulders looking for a feed.

Black mountain gecko (Nactus galgajuga)

Black mountain gecko (Nactus galgajuga)

The endemic gecko was very hard to spot, though quite common. Only the eyeshine gave them away.

A small furry animal peered out from a crevice, backed in, then re emerged. We got quite a shock to discover it was our first ever wild Quoll! A Northern Quoll, these animals are near extinct in many areas due to feeding on the deadly introduced Cane Toad. For years I have been all through the bush at night and never, ever seen one. What a treat! It was too fast for a photo though…

To top off Black Mountain, one male Boulder Frog started to call, so I managed a recording of this unique species.

Nactus cheverti feeding on cockroach

(Nactus cheverti) feeding on cockroach

 

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