View Full Version : Mt. Warning, Wollumbin NP

18-May-2011, 08:21 PM
Hello everyone,

My wife and I have just returned from a short break to Mt. Warning (Wollumbin National Park) in northern New South Wales. This area is about a 12 hour, 1000 km drive from Wollongong. Mt. Warning is located near the town of Murwillumbah and is in what is known as the northern rivers region of New South Wales.

We always stay in a cabin at the base of the mountains. For us, this place holds fond memories since we sometimes spent holidays here with our kids when they were young.

I think that this is one of the prettiest parts of New South Wales with rugged hills, subtropical rainforest and lovely nearby beaches. Cape Byron is only 45 minutes away. We always do lots of walking when we visit and climb the mountain at least once. In the past, birding was my main pursuit but on this trip I wanted to see and photograph the subtropical butterflies.

May is the final month of autumn in Australia and it was cool. It was particularly cool this year since our trip coincided with an unseasonal cold snap in southern Australia. Temperatures usually ranged from 10C-20C on most days although it was warmer yesterday with a high of 24C in the early afternoon. Because of the cool conditions, butterflies were active from about 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon. I did not see much outside of those hours. This region remains warm enough for at least a few species of butterflies to be active all through the winter.

Mt. Warning is the core of what once was an enormus shield volcano. According to the literature, this mountain was once about 2 kms in elevation and was surrounded by rainforest about 20 million years ago. As Australia drifted north, it moved off the hot spots in the crust, the volcano became extinct and erosion began to eat away at the mountain. Now, the volcanic plug of Mt. Warning is all that is left of the central core of the volcano. The outer rim is still visible in all directions from the summit.

Mt. Warning from the Uki area:

Mt. Warning from the Murwillumbah area:

Mt. Warning from Tyalgum area in the late afternoon:

My wife and I usually climbed the lower third of the mountain each morning for exercise. She would then take the car and drive back to the cabin while I slowly walked the 6 km and photographed butterflies along the way. I passed through lovely rainforest that often had dense patches of lantana in the understory.

Staghorn and birds nest ferns were numerous. These are great places to see Paradise Riflebirds, a bird-of-paradise that lives in southeastern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales. The birds probe the base of the fronds with their long, decurved bills.

I found a good variety of butterflies on my walks. Unfortunately, most of my photos are "record shots" (e.g., not very good). I rarely could move to a position where I was parallel with the butterflies but instead had to shoot upward and on an angle to the butterflies. They just rarely landed low enough for "proper" photos.

18-May-2011, 08:33 PM
I was happy to get to know the Jezebel Nymph (Mynes geoffroy), a species that I had previously seen only twice in far northern Queensland. These butterflies were by far the most abundant species of this area. Sometimes, I saw 10 or more at the same time as they chased each other through mid-levels of the forest.

Here is a male that settled quite low one morning:

... and another feeding from lantana:

The males were territorial. They generally would land head downwards on leaves or trunks of trees from 3-6m above the ground. They would chase any other butterfly that flew into the area.

I watched a couple cleaning their tongues. They seemed to be removing pollen that had accumulated near the tip.

Stinging Trees are the host plant of Jezebel Nymphs. Here are photos of young plant with huge leaves. These plants inflict an extremely painful sting as I discovered a couple of years ago!

18-May-2011, 08:42 PM
Black Jezebels (Delias nigrina) looked rather similar to the Jezebel Nymphs. These were reasonably common but were the most active early in the morning.

I also saw a few Yellow-spotted Jezebels (Delias nysa):

Yellow Admiral (Vanessa itea) were occasionally seen in open areas along the road.

I saw several Bordered Rustics (Cupha prosope) one afternoon but then did not encounter these again. This area would be the southern distributional limits of the species.

Another interesting species at the south end of its range was the Leafwing (Doleschallia bisaltide). This was a pristine individual but I could not get close to it. I photographed it from the opposite side of the road while it basked in the sun about 3m above the ground. I have only seen these butterflies a few times and all were in the northern tropics of Queensland.

This is a female Wonder Brown (Heteronympha mirifica). The males are bright orange and look completely different to the pattern and colour of the females.

Brown Ringlet (Hyposysta metirius) were common along the roadsides.

... more tomorrow night

18-May-2011, 09:29 PM
Nice Jezebel shots. I'm sure Les would be proud of them. :)

Interesting name for a mountain.... "warning". What's the background behind this name? That it served as a warning against something? :thinking:

18-May-2011, 11:24 PM
Always nice to see butterflies from around the world. A nice cool sunny weather is perfect for a hiking trip.

Painted Jezebel
19-May-2011, 08:58 AM
Nice Jezebel shots. I'm sure Les would be proud of them. :)

Oh, so true! Though, I must admit that, ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I have always had a soft spot for the Mynes geoffroy. It is great to see it again. Thank you.

The name of the mountain intrigues me as well.

19-May-2011, 05:43 PM
Thanks, all.

Mt. Warning was named by the English captain, James Cook, on his voyage of discovery along the east coast of Australia in the 1770s. The peak is visible from the sea and soon after observing it, the Endeavor encountered a dangerous reef. Cook then named the peak "Mt. Warning" so that future sailors would take care when passing along this portion of the coastline. Wollumbin was the aboriginal name for the peak. It now is used as the name of the national park that includes Mt. Warning.

Many of the natural features along the east coast were named by Cook and the names have been retained. Some of you may know of Botany Bay in southern Sydney. Cook landed here along with his aristocratic botanist, Joseph Banks. Banks was overwhelmed by the incredible diversity of the plants and how different they were from anything he encountered before. He named the place "Botany Bay" because of this. One of my favourite genera, Banksia, was named after Joseph Banks and his contribution to the knowledge of Australian plants.

19-May-2011, 06:36 PM
David: As always, I enjoyed the wide breadth of your "reporting" as you visit various parts of Australia. William

19-May-2011, 06:45 PM
My wife and I climbed to the summit of Mt. Warning one day. The trail was good but it was steep with many switchbacks and steps. The 9 km return walk took us a about 6 hours although we spent quite awhile enjoying the view at the top.

Here is a shot of the summit from the parking lot area and trail head.

The lower section of the trail passed through nice rainforest with lots of Bangalow Palms. This side of the mountain remained in the shade for much of the day so conditions were dark along the trail even at mid-day.

Most of the larger trees had buttressed roots.

This Stinging Tree was huge:

There were a few clearings along the way usually where there had been treefalls.

This young Land Mullet (Bellatorias major) was one of the few reptiles encountered on the trip. It sheltered beneath logs at the above clearing. Land Mullets are impressive lizards that can reach about 2/3 m in length. Adults are glossy black in colouration.

19-May-2011, 06:57 PM
Thanks, William.

View of the forest and a giant, emergent Brush Box tree (Lophostemon confertus).

View of the surrounding area not far from the summit:

The final 400 m was very steep. A chain was attached along the way to help with the climb.

At the top, there were several platforms like this all around the top.

The mountains in the distance were once part of the outer rim of the volcano:

The habitat at the summit was dense heath. I heard one of the special birds of the area here. Rufous Scrub-birds a relicts with a tiny range here in the subtropics. Another relative was discovered on the opposite side of the continent a few decades ago. These are strange birds that lack a furcula (wish-bone). They are feeble fliers but they have an incredibly loud call. Albert's Lyrebirds, another special bird of the area, were also singing near the mountain top.

Several Brush Turkeys called the summit their home. They were happy to try and steal food from packs when these were left unattended.

19-May-2011, 07:06 PM
The weather at the summit was cool. I was surprised to find 4 butterflies including a single Jezebel Nymph, one Bronze Flatwing and two Dingy Grass Skippers.

Bronze Flatwing (Netrocoryne repanda)

Dingy Grass Skipper (Toxidia peron)

Logrunners were common by call and occasionally I would see pairs as they foraged in the leaf litter. These birds were invariably in pairs with white-throated males and orange-throated females. The dig in an unusual manner and push leave out to the side.

The fruit of these Solanum were popular with the gorgeous King Parrots.

19-May-2011, 08:41 PM
David: Your work is much improved. I've been using mine for a couple of months now and still need to work on it.... either that or need a new set of eyes. William

21-May-2011, 03:42 PM
Thanks, William.

Here are a few more shots from the trip.

I saw a few Narrow-winged Pearl Whites (Elodina padusa) each day. This was a new species to me.

The following skipper was large but quite shy. After lots of study in the field guide, I think this to be an Orange Palm Dart (Cephrenes augiades). I could not see a dark tornal patch but the orange streaks along the first few veins of the upper wing were obvious. I could not get close to any of the Orange Palm Darts that I encountered so all of my shots are highly cropped.
http://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c386/moloch05/Mt%20Warning/May2011/31a_400CephrenesaugiadesOrangePalmDart_400.jpghttp ://i31.photobucket.com/albums/c386/moloch05/Mt%20Warning/May2011/29CephrenesaugiadesOrangePalmDart_400.jpg

Wompoo Fruit Dove (aka, Magnificent Fruit Dove). I think that these are one of the most beautiful of the Ptilinopus doves. This species is huge and dwarfs the Rose-crowned and Superb Fruit Doves that also live in the subtropical forests.

Great Mormon
21-May-2011, 03:52 PM
Thumbs up on the Bronze Flatwing! Nice and sharp :thumbsup:

21-May-2011, 03:57 PM
White-margined Grass-Darts (Ocybadistes hypomeloma) were another lifer. These were tiny skippers that were not much larger than a fly.

One of the highlights to me was seeing my first Richmond Birdwings (Ornithoptera richmondia). I only saw two of these and both were males. One of these drifted back and forth along a stream valley. I was able to watch it for about 10 minutes but it unfortunately never landed. These big butterflies are among the most colourful of the Aussie species. Males are a glistening green with gold spots and black stripes. They really are a dazzling sight.

Here are a few more habitat shots of the area.

Australian rainforests usually contain a few confiers. These are Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii). Araucaria are only found in the southern hemisphere and they look quite different to the pines of the north.

I watched platypus as it fed here at dusk.

That is it for my photos from Mt. Warning. I leave for Malaysia in two weeks so I am excited about the possibility of photographing so many species of butterflies, birds and reptiles.

21-May-2011, 05:04 PM
Beautiful photos, David.
Like the Bronze Flatwing (Netrocoryne repanda) :cheers: