Late December 2012 we had an expedition along the McPherson Range and into Springbrook National Park in Queensland. This was the first of a series of surveys in south eastern Queensland and northern NSW. We are specifically surveying for Cherax and Euastacus crayfish but are recording all crustaceans captured. Paul and I surveyed all the popular tourist areas within Springbrook National Park as well as some of the more unusual areas.
Our surveys of Springbrook National Park and the McPherson Range was extremely enlightening and we will revisit the area for more intensive surveys in the future. Our thanks to the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service for all their help and assistance with our preliminary surveys.
In October 2012 we conducted a survey of the upper Clyde River with the priority being to determine the freshwater crayfish species present within the upper catchment. It is currently unknown which freshwater crayfish species occur in this pristine and mostly inaccessible area. Our survey aimed at filling this knowledge gap and also record the other species present within the upland creeks and swamps.
The survey was a team effort with a group of us getting together to find and survey as many watercourses in the area as possible. The team consisted of;
David Crass – Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority
Hugh Jones – Office of Environment and Heritage
Rob McCormack – Australian Aquatic Biological and Australian Crayfish Project volunteer
Paul Van der Werf – Earthan Group and Australian Crayfish Project volunteer
The area of interest is entirely within the Morton National Park and with the aid of Libby Shields and Rob Perry who are the local National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers for the area we gained access to the whole park which has a series of maintenance roads through it. It was very fortuitous that we could gain access as it would have taken us ages to cover the area on foot. Libby told us some of the roads were currently impassable but we had Hugh Jones at the wheel of his Toyota troop carrier and though some of the roads proved extreme they were all passable for Hugh and his V8 diesel troop carrier.
Unfortunately, they were far too extreme for both Pauls and my Great Walls so we left them discarded along the side of the track and loaded into Hugh’s beast for an exciting 4 wheel drive adventure. We came within millimetres of rolling the troopy in a pothole at one point but Hugh ground us up and out of what we described as a bomb crater. Much of the area we were surveying was part of the old bombing range and there were signs up everywhere warning of unexploded ordinance.
The upland streams in the area were relatively cold being 9-12⁰C and very low pH (4-5) without much biodiversity. The upper streams were without fish though they did occur at lower altitudes. We were unable to find any shrimp, crabs, snails or mussels but both macro invertebrates and tadpoles were common and freshwater crayfish were abundant in many of the larger streams. The area was pristine and a tribute to the NSW National Parks for the management and protection of the area. This survey is part of a series of the area and a report on our findings will be submitted to the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority and we are thankful to them for assisting with funding for our surveys.
An Expedition into “The Myall Lakes National Park” – Gramastacus crayfish and Amphipods – and watching the dingo on my back trail!
I was surveying freshwater crayfish in the Myall National Park the other day and spent the day hiking by myself up the old Hawks Nest Seals Rocks Road and surveying the surrounding swamps. 20 years ago I used to drive this road and it was potholed then. Now it’s all a National Park and closed to vehicles and heavily overgrown in sections and still quite good in other sections. I think it’s an old mining road that is a raised, rocky road through the centre of the Myall swamps. Either side on the road is wet swampy areas that are impenetrable, reeds, saw grass, tee trees, paperbarks and swamp banksias, etc.
The procedure was to hike along the road and stop every kilometre or so, put on my waders and wander into the swamp to sample the aquatic fauna. I’d stop on the road, drop my pack, take off my hiking boots and put on my waders, grab my scoop net and bash my way through the scrub and scoop the underlying swamps. At the second site about 2 km in I noticed a large dingo about 50 metres up the track watching me. For the next several hours this large dingo just kept following me along the road always staying 50-100 m back. The track was alive with other life, mostly birds, the odd lace monitor and occasional snake. At the 7 km mark the dingo was still there and again I put on the waders, bashed about 6 mtrs off the road into the wetland and scooped the shallow water. All up less than 5 minutes scooping then back to the road to sort the catch, I would see what I had then take the tadpoles and macro inverts back and release them. As I climbed back onto the old road I looked back for my dingo and couldn’t see him, not a worry as he was a sneaky critter and liked to hide just peeping out to watch me. Anyway, I sat down on the road to sort the catch and glanced up the road in the direction I was heading and with a start there was my mate the dingo. The sneaky critter had passed me within 7 mtrs and I never saw or heard anything. It was a relief to have him in front as hiking along and watching my back trail was a hassle. For the next kilometre I followed him, then he disappeared and just before the 9km mark I saw him way in the distance heading north.
The crayfish were restricted to the smaller pools that still retained water as the swamps were drying out. Many of the Gramastacus crayfish were in berry. They are a small species and females with eggs weigh in at only 1.73 grams.
Much of the Myall freshwater swamps have large sphagnum moss areas and I was scooping the sphagnum looking for the freshwater crayfish that hide in it and was surprised by the large number of amphipods that were also hiding in the moss. Most of the larger female amphipods were also in berry with the eggs tucked up under the carapace between their legs. I don’t know the genus but they had very large gnathopods and very spiny legs. Perhaps sometime in the future I will identify the species. If anyone knows amphipods and can identify them please let me know.
Australian Aquatic Biological P/L Report 100056-8 to Gosford City Council included a survey of Green Point Creek at Pearl Beach, NSW. The creek was surveyed at the crossing on Diamond Road.
Here the creek here was strongly flowing over a sandy stream bed. There were shallow areas and deeper holes. The banks had some rock retaining walls but were well shaded with ferns and palms, etc. The creek was extremely healthy with abundant aquatic species present. Some plague minnows Gambusia holbrooki were present, we observed a small long finned eel, several flat headed gudgeons, many striped gudgeons and common jollytails.
Further upstream at Tourmaline Avenue the creek was surveyed again, here the stream was again sandy based with deeper holes and looked in excellent condition. We surveyed the stream finding only dozens of striped gudgeons and surprisingly the White Cloud Mountain minnow Tanichthys albonubes. The White Cloud Mountain minnow is an exotic freshwater fish. It is a species that would normally be found in a fish tank so it is alarming that this exotic species is established in numbers within this stream. It is a robust species and a member of the carp family being a native of China. Their robust nature and bright colouration makes them popular as an aquarium species and they are not normally found in natural waterways of NSW.
I did some research on this species and found that, NSW DPI has known about this feral population since late 2002 and continues to monitor the situation. Unfortunately, one of the specimens collected was gravid so conditions were suitable for breeding which is a big worry. Discussions with residents in the area report Australian Bass and eels in the deeper holes and freshwater crayfish further upstream.
Discussions with the Australian Museum also record this species from Piles Creek at Somersby, NSW. We did a preliminary survey of this creek specifically targeting the White Cloud Mountain Minnow but were unable to find it. That does not mean it’s not there however, it does indicate that it’s not proliferating well and numbers are either very small or scattered, etc. Unfortunately, we did find invasive Cherax destructor proliferating in the stream so that was not so good news.