Billabongs? What billabongs?
Thanks to heavy falls in the Cardwell Ranges to the east, Sunday Creek has burst its banks overnight and the iconic “twin billabongs” just below the shed at Yourka Reserve have been engulfed by a sea of water.
Paul woke this morning to the roar of floodwaters as falls in the upper catchment brought Sunday Creek up more than 6m in less than 8 hours! The Poplar flats are flooded, the track network has been drowned and poor Mr Bowerbird’s treasures... well, they’re probably halfway to Ingham by now.
Paul himself is high and dry in the Yourka shed and looking forward to catching up on some office work… when he’s not busy inspecting the creek height and the new channels it has carved. Flood levels have rivalled those of January 2009 when Tropical Cyclone Charlotte was closely followed by Tropical Cyclone Ellie, dumping record rainfall on the Atherton Tablelands and Upper Herbert catchment. That was our first summer at Yourka and, after three years managing Eurardy Reserve on the semi-arid, northern edge of the WA wheatbelt, it's needless to say it was a memorable welcome to the wet, tropical north.
It’s a fascinating time to be on reserve. The burrowing frogs have all emerged to fill the air with their calls and the snakes and scorpians are on the move to higher ground – which just happens to be our laundry!
Of course there’s always a sense of nervousness as to what we’ll find when the waters subside. Repairing damage to tracks and floodgates will be top of the list. Weed dispersal is also a key concern and our siam surveys in the middle of the year will need to extend out to this year's high tide mark, well up from the creek banks and into the woodlands.
Every landscape faces key management challenges. Up here we contend with dramatic seasonal changes. It's quite likely that by early June we will get our first winter frost. Often that happens only weeks after roads finally dry out from a big wet. This has significant implications for our weed and fire management programs, which often get compressed into impossibly small windows of seasonal opportunity. But, unlike 2009, we've got quite a few seasons under our belt now and have learnt a few lessons on how to manage work and life in the north.
Our thoughts are with the flood-affected residents of coastal far north Queensland who are currently facing the unenviable task of cleaning up their businesses and homes. Lucky north Queenslanders are such a resilient bunch!