More than half of this tropical island in Far North Queensland is a national park. And it really is protected and preserved, because there are no paths or tracks into it. There are a few walking tracks into the edge of the park but none that enable you to explore the interior.
I recently had a week's holiday in this wonderful place. Wildlife, bush, coral reefs - a perfect mix for a perfect nature fix.
These birds are called Bush Stone Curlews. They're nocturnal, and their calls are loud screams. We saw lots of them on the island. When scared, they run really fast. Apparently they can fly, but they are ground dwellers. They are only found in Australia, and mostly in the north.
This Humpback Whale was accompanied by its calf, that was swimming closely alongside. It would have migrated from its summer feeding grounds near the poles, to breed in the warmer waters near the Equator.
We took a boat trip round the island, and were given the opportunity to feed and photograph this Gold Spotted Cod. This species is common on the Great Barrier Reef.
Walking along the beach I saw these tiny balls of sand. They were made by the Sand Bubbler Crab, a tiny crab only 1 cm wide, living in tiny holes in the sand. When the tide comes in, the sand balls are washed away. When the sea retreats again, they dig themselves out of their burrows, use their claws to scoop up sand, put it in their mouths, suck out the nutrients and discard the rest as perfectly round balls.
When I was there, there were no crabs to be seen. They must have all been tucked up safely in their burrows. This photo, from Wikipedia, shows what the tiny crab looks like..
The edible Kapok flowers signal the dry season, the leaves and cotton wool-like seed pods, the wet season. Aborigines and early settlers used the cottony fibres for bedding.
You can't walk for miles along the beach because the island consists of bays separated by cliffs and bush. This is part of the walk from Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay, a nudist beach.
Large granite boulders are a feature of the island.
Hoop Pines grow in cracks in and between boulders. These trees were logged heavily in the early days of European settlement, so there aren't as many as there were.
Livistona australis, also known as Cabbage Tree Palms, are commonly seen on the island, in this case providing a perch for a Pied Currawong (Stepera graculina).
There is a colony of cute rock wallabies on the island. They are called Allied Rock Wallabies (Petrogale assimilis), a species endemic to Queensland. They are quite tame as tourists like to feed them. But the local Parks and Wildlife Office ask you not to feed them or, if you must, don't feed them bread because eating bread can lead to gum disease. Healthy wallaby food includes carrots, sweet potatoes, rock melon, apples and paw paw. But when they forage for themselves they eat grass and the shoots of herbaceous plants.
The one in the middle has a joey in its pouch. Gestation is about one month, then the joey spends the next six or seven months in the pouch where there are teats. They are fully weaned at around a year old.
See the Rock Wallaby on the left of the dead tree?
Another Pied Currawong.
Calliandras, flowering shrubs, are native to the tropical regions of the United States and Mexico. They do very well in the dry tropics of Australia as well, and we saw lots of them on Magnetic Island. For obvious reasons their popular name is Powder Puff. I think this one is C. haematocephala, or Red Powder Puff tree.
This is a breeding pair of Blue-winged Kookaburras - see the second bird in the tree hollow? They share the incubation of the eggs and subsequent feeding, that takes about two months. Blue-winged kookaburras are native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea. They are a bit smaller than the Laughing Kookaburras that I'm familiar with from southern Australia. They also have a very distinctive and very different call to the Laughing Kookaburra, that sounds like this ...
There is a terrible drought in this part of the world, and as one local put it, "the bush is hurting." This place is usually a swamp and full of birdlife, but last year they had no wet season, the bush is dry and dusty, and thirsty birds have to look elsewhere for a drink.
These are the fruits of the Cocky Apple tree (Planchonia careya), a common tree in tropical northern Australia. Aborigines eat the fruit, use many parts of the plant for medicinal purposes, and make boomerangs from the wood.
Pandanus cookii, aka Cook's Screw-Pine, is not a pine tree. It's a tropical tree related to palms, found all along the Queensland coast. These fruit are immature. When they are ripe, they will turn orange.
I've enlarged this photo so you can see the Green Tree Ants. These ants build nests by sticking leaves together. They're very territorial and aggressively defend their territory by biting anything that comes near, including spiders, birds, snakes and humans. They're very common round here. I'm glad they're not in my garden at home.
The Common Crow Butterfly, or Oleander Butterfly, is found in Queensland and northern New South Wales, but has been found in other places in Australia as well. An interesting characteristic of this butterfly is that it has a strong scent to make predators identify it as inedible. They also produce toxins that induce vomiting in some birds if they eat them.
The Blue Tiger Butterfly - aka Tirumala hamata - is migratory. It breeds in rainforest in northern Australia, but adults fly as far south as Victoria. At times enormous numbers of these butterflies pass through Brisbane.
This possum is blind, and comes every night to Man Friday, the restaurant where it is fed. Even if the restaurant is closed someone will come in specially to make sure the possum doesn't go hungry.
For more about nature and gardening in this region, see Bernie's terrific blog Dry Tropics Gardening.