PEAKING on the Peninsula December 1, 2010Posted by lulu79 in CVA, Monsoon vine thicket, SKIPA Excursions, Uncategorized.
Travelling up and down the Peninsula for the last couple of years, it had been a while since I had seen a good hill, and I, like a number of others jumped at the chance of undertaking a day trip to Carnot and Kings Peak just south of Beagle Bay. With a name such as these, one could be forgiven for imagining the peaks to be mountainous cloud forests towering into the heavens. I started wondering why I hadn’t noticed them before and began to seriously doubt my general observation skills. But when Doc assured us that they were only 500 metres from the track, and we still couldn’t see them, we knew then, that the title of PEAK might have been a little generous.
With GPS in hand we wandered up and down the track having a dig at Doc’s dodgy Google earth coordinates, only to find ourselves facing a recently lit fire trickling through the scrub. Hessian shopping bags in hand we thought we might have a go at putting it out, but we soon realised that rather than roaring into the scrub, this low September fire, after much recent rain was of little threat to people, property or nature.
We resumed our search and were soon climbing the first of Carnot peaks. Bush fruit/medicine species, more often associated with coastal dunes and monsoon vine thicket were scattered throughout. We came across Ficus opposita Sandpaper fig, Sersalisia sericea Mangarr , Capparis lasiantha Bush caper, and Capparis jacobsii which is only found on the peninsula in 3 other localities; all monsoon vine thicket patches. Other species spotted included; Terminalia canescens Joolal, Acacia monticola Red Wattle and Sarcostemma viminale Caustic vine.
We were also lucky enough to stumble upon the Kimberley endemic Calandrinia strophiolata, a most beautiful annual flower with petals that are bright pink/purple from the top and golden yellow on the underside.
The most outstanding plant was the giant Ficus platypoda, Rock Fig, perched on top of one of Carnot peaks, behaving as though it were a Strangler Fig F. virens. A giant rock eater, caught, almost as if on pause growing through and breaking up the ferruginous sandstone, it left us to wonder how old it was, and how old it would become.
From the top, it was easy to see the extent of the fire damage (occurring) and from previous years. Despite being an obvious refuge to fire-sensitive vine thicket species, the vulnerability of the plants and animals to fire would likely be realised by fires rushing up the hill, doubling the forward spread of the fire for each 10° of slope. Burnt stumps and charcoaled rocks evidenced this having occurred from time to time.
A few kilometres away, Kings Peak supported a different plant assemblage again. Most striking was the mass of butterflies attending the gloriously flowering Calytrix exstipulata Kimberley Heather, and a more intact grassy understory supporting flowering Gomprena flaccida Bachelors buttons and sweet smelling Cymbypogon procerus Citronella grass, between the peaks.
There was also a strong variation in flowering and fruiting between the patches with the Capparis jacobsii which had not shown any signs of budding up at Carnot Peaks, showing off its graceful and delicate white flowers.
Carnot and Kings Peaks are among the occasional outcrops of early Cretaceous (Emeriau) sandstone scattered throughout the Peninsula. Other outcrops include those near Cygnet Bay, Mount Jowlaenga and Pender Bay. It would be very interesting to see what plants and animals are using these areas in contrast to the surrounding countryside. Perhaps we might get to visit them in 2011?
Reaching the top, we realised why they are called Peaks and not disregarded as mere rocky rises; taking in the view, looking out to Carnot Bay and across the incredible and seemingly endless flat country, it felt as though we were on top of the world, as though nothing in this great landscape could take place without us witnessing it.
Photos and article by Lu (Louise Beames)
SKIPA wouldn’t exist without the tireless enthusiasm of Mr Phil (Doc) Docherty
A big thank you to Conservation Volunteers Australia and Kimberley TAFE who have supported a bunch of deadly community volunteers to SKIPA around in 2010.
SKIPA is also supported by EK through the West Kimberley Nature Project and funding from Caring for our Country.