Friday, 23 December 2011

Ma:Mu Canopy Walk

One of the best kept secrets in the Cairns-Innisfail area is the Ma:Mu Canopy Walk. This should be one of the top tourist attractions in the region but it is never advertised in the media and few tourists seem to know about it.

located on the Palmerston Highway near Crawford's Lookout, it is very easily reached. There is a charge for entry, $20, and it is a about an 600 m walk from the carpark to the canopy walk itself. The canopy walk is about 350 m in length and some 15 m hight. In addition to the elevated walkway and tower, there is a cantilever jutting out from the mountain that provides a great view.

It was with considerable anticipation the the members of the Cape York Herpetological Society joined for a night walk in the canopy. Unfortunately, there were few reptiles and amphibians to view but a disturbing number of Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) greeted us along the track to the walkway.

Insects and spiders, as one might expect, were everywhere. Here are a few photos taken both from the walkway and the track leading to it. It is obvious that there is a lot of insect activity at night,. Have a look around your property after dark and you'll see what I mean.
 Night-time is great for dragonfly photography. This is the Green-striped Darner, Austroaeschna forcipiata. It would be virtually impossible to photograph this dragonfly during the day.
 One of the silent crickets, Aphonoides lowanna. Many cricket genera have lost the ability to sing. They probably rely on pheromones to get together.
 An example of the cricket genus Unka, an Australian endemic genus with several species in the  rainforests of north Queensland.

One of several species of Raspy Cricket, probably Xanthogryllacris sp., stopping on the handrail to consume a caterpillar it has found in its night searching. These crickets construct shelters from leaves which they tie together with silk from their mouthparts. They have a complex means of finding their way back to their enclosures after a night's searching that involves both memory and pheromones

A common leaf beetle, Chrysomelidae.
A not-so-common longicorn, family Cerambycidae.
One of the advantages of  a canopy boardwalk is the ability to see things that you would otherwise miss down on the ground. Biroella grasshoppers are on example. They live on vegetation high in the treetops and are relatively poorly known. This is Biroella tardigrada Sjøstedt, longtime considered to be in the family Eumastacidae but now in the Marabidae; Biroellinae.
A rainforest grasshopper, Desmoptera truncatipennis Sjøstedt, Pyrgomoprhidae. These grasshoppers spend the day in leaf litter on the ground but ascend the vegetation at night to feed. Inadvertently, they avoid being the food of the ever-present marauding Cane Toads that would find them were they to be on the ground at night.
 A catacoline fruit-piercing moth high in the tree tops feeding at night on fruits.
 A beautiful male of the genus Chloracantha; Tetttigoniidae; Pseudophyllinae
 A pair of a related species of Chloracantha. Males often ride around on the backs of females and facing in the opposite direction.
Night-time is the time when many insects moult their skins. Reasons for this are several. The relative humidity is high, there is generally less wind that would interfere with this delicate procedure and the "cover of darkness" reduces the chance of vertebrate predation. This species of Mastigaphoides is just about ready to begin the moulting process.
 The beautiful Eumundi, Leucopodoptera eumundii Rentz & Webber, Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae; Holochlorini. named, in part, after an extinct beer of the same name!
 Rentz's Sipyloidea Stick Insect, Sipyloidea rentzi Brock & Hasenpusch, Diapheromeridae; Necrosciinae
 Probably the Cyclone Larry Sitck Insect, Siplyoidea larryi Brock & Hasenpusch
Queensland Beak-abdomen Stick Insect, Rhamphosipyloidea queenslandica (Sjøstedt)
 A blattodean, Neotemnopteryx sp. resting on one of the guide-wires. Ectobiidae; Blattellinae; Parcoblattini
 Another blattodean, this one in the family Blaberidae, Molytria sp. Females of this genus are seldom seen unless the collector looks for them on purpose. They live in the ground and are flightless. Males are regularly encountered after dark on leaf surfaces where they "graze" on the particulate matter than rains down from above. This is all part of the recycling process.
 Methana convexa (Walker), family Tryonicidae; Tryonicinae, a common blattodean of the rainforests in the Cairns vicinity. This one is feeding on some minute food substance that is on the handrail.
A tessaratomid, Lyramorpha rosacea Westwood. This is one of several bugs where mothers look after their children!


Boobook said...

Fantastic blog. I must get out at night more often! My New Year resolution.

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Boobook. You may even see an owl!

Psych Tutor:Mentor said...

I haven't been to the walk yet, but it is on my Bucketlist; especially given the locals discount ~:-)

Denis Wilson said...

Terrific collection of beasties there, Dave.
Marvellous stuff.
I am going to recommend that Martin Butterfield (from near Captains Flat) seek your advice on an interesting "nymph" which he suspects is a Katydid.

Patricia K. Lichen said...

Oh, fantastic! I admit I'm scared of such heights, but would still go (I think!) on this adventure. Thanks for sharing it!