We were in pursuit of a tawny frogmouth on the back roads of eastern Queensland. It was blazing hot and although we were not lost, we were definitely on the edge of civilization. Our guide from yesterday (Jonathan Munro) was certain it would be here.
We had arrived in Granite Gorge, a privately-owned campground and park outside of Mareeba, Australia. It is an outcropping of gigantic granite boulders, and is a small nature park and campground. The highlight was the rock wallaby sanctuary.
The owner of Granite Gorge Nature Park is very engaged in her park and was on the premises that day. Usually in our search for a “lifer,” we walk around, take photos, scan for the bird, and avoid the humans. But if you knew how camouflaged a tawny frogmouth is, you’d understand that we needed her guidance on where to find this tricky bird.
While she talked, her pet lizard crawled behind her neck. As part of the entrance fee, she gave us each a little packet of food pellets for the wallabies; and explained why it was okay to feed them (conditions are tough). She is devoted to protecting this near-threatened population of rock wallabies, and has created an impressive sanctuary.
Petrogale mareeba is a 20 inch tall marsupial. There are nine species of rock wallaby, the one pictured here is named for the area in which it lives. Mostly nocturnal but also active in daytime, they feed on plants and shrubs (and pellets), take shelter in rock piles and caves. They were gregarious and tame, comfortable and happy in their private sanctuary.
Although we had just planned to find the bird and leave, we ended up spending most of the day here. And we found the bird! We concluded our adventure that day by making a picnic out of what we had in our rental car. We sat at a picnic table and listened to the melodious offerings of a magpie lark. It was the perfect day.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander and Jet Eliot