Nature, culture and history
Dry woodlands, wet and dry sclerophyll forests, upland rainforest and wetlands provide for a large range of birds within a relatively small area of the Atherton Tableland. These diverse habitats support more than 300 species of birds, 12 of which are endemic to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
Hasties Swamp National Park protects a wetland refuge and is renowned for its diverse populations of local and migratory birds. The seasonal changes in the wetland are the major contributor to the diversity of wildlife in the park. Variations in the water level influence the type and quantity of habitat, which in turn attracts different animals. More than 220 bird species have been recorded in the park, mainly in the wetland and surrounding woodland.
Look in the swamp area for magpie geese Anseranas semipalmata, grey teals Anas gibberifrons, Australasian grebes Tachybaptus novaehollandiae, Pacific black ducks Anas superciliosa, plumed whistling-ducks Dendrocygna eytoni, wandering whistling-ducks Dendrocygna arcuata, hardheads Aythya australis, green pygmy-geese Nettapus pulchellus, pink-eared ducks Malacorhynchus membranaceus and various egret and ibis species.
In the woodland are white-breasted woodswallows Artamus leucorynchus, bar-shouldered doves Geopelia humeralis, rainbow lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus, laughing kookaburras Dacelo novaeguineae, yellow-bellied sunbirds Nectarinia jugularis, figbirds Sphecotheres viridis, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes Coracina novaehollandiae, yellow-faced honeyeaters Lichenostomus chrysops, Lewin's honeyeaters Meliphaga lewinii and scarlet honeyeaters Myzomela sanguinolenta and many others.
In the skies over the swamp, look for raptors like the white-bellied sea-eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, wedge-tailed eagle Aquila audax, Pacific baza Aviceda subcristata, black-shouldered kite Elanus axillaris, brahminy kite Haliastur indus, whistling kite Haliastur sphenurus and black kite Milvus migrans. These predatory birds use trees for roosting and breeding—building large stick nests in the branches.
Local birds, following seasonal changes and food sources, make regular movements to and from Hasties Swamp. Sacred kingfishers Todiramphus sanctus, forest kingfishers Todiramphus macleayii, comb-crested jacanas Irediparra gallinacea, sarus cranes Grus antigone, rufous whistlers Pachycephala rufiventris, black-winged stilts Himantopus himantopus, spangled drongoes Dicrurus bracteatus bracteatus, silvereyes Zosterops lateralis cornwalli, swamp harriers Circus approximans, spotted harriers Circus assimilis, Horsefield's bronze-cuckoos Chrysococcyx basalis, little bronze-cuckoos Chrysococcyx minutillus and black-eared cuckoos Chrysococcyx osculans can all be seen at different times of the year.
International visitors to Hasties Swamp include common sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos and Latham's snipes Gallinago hardwickii, which stop over around August and September on their way from Japan to southern Australia to escape the northern hemisphere winter. They return again in March through to April to rest and feed on their way back to Japan. The sharp-tailed sandpiper Calidris acuminata also arrives at Hasties Swamp around August and September—escaping the severe winter in arctic Siberia. During this time they are common in wetlands throughout Australia, returning to Sibera in March. From New Guinea, summer migrants like rainbow bee-eaters Merops ornatus, common koels Eudynamys scolopacea and channel-billed cuckoos Scythrops novaehollandiae visit the swamp.
Hasties Swamp is a rich environment for frog species. Common green treefrogs Litoria caerulea, eastern sedgefrogs Litora fallax, graceful treefrogs Litoria gracilenta, stony creek frogs Litoria jungguy, striped rocketfrogs Litoria nasuta, northern laughing treefrogs Litoria rothii, ruddy treefrogs Litoria rubella, striped marshfrogs Limnodynastes peronii and tableland gungans Uperoleia altissima have been recorded here.
Hasties Swamp's mammals and reptiles include the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula, agile wallaby Macropus agilis, freshwater snake Tropidonophis mairii and common tree snake Dendrelaphis punctulata.
Hasties Swamp is located on the transition zone between the rainforest, which once covered land to the east of the park, and the dry sclerophyll woodland which persists on the lower slopes of the Great Dividing and Herberton ranges, immediately to the south and west of the park.
The eastern boundary of the park contains pockets of wet sclerophyll forest dominated by blue gum Eucalyptus tereticornis on basalt soils. The western side of the park is open woodland with pink bloodwood Corymbia intermedia, poplar gum E. platyphylla and swamp box Lophostemon suaveolens. A narrow band of tea-tree Melaleuca sp. fringed by tall sedges borders the north-western edge of the lagoon. The main lagoon supports a variety of aquatic plants dominated by slender knotweed Persicaria decipiens. Water snowflake Nymphoides indica and the common wetland fern Cyclosorus interruptus are also present.
Hasties Swamp lies in a depression between the older granites of the Great Dividing Range on the west, the Herberton Range to the south and the western margin of the more recent Atherton basalt flows to the east. It is part of the Scrubby Creek system which drains into the Barron River catchment. The swamp's location, on the western edge of the basalt soils, indicates it may have formed when lava flows impeded the flow of Scrubby Creek.
Deeply weathered, highly permeable basalt soils underlie the 5–30 cm layer of a relatively impermeable base of clay and peat-like material, formed over time by rotting vegetation. In places this has been overlaid by up to 20 cm of more recent, decaying vegetation which acts like a giant sponge, retaining water during the drier months. Records indicate that Hasties Swamp has completely dried out only a few times during the last 100 years. Many aquatic plants are rooted in this 'sponge' layer.
Culture and history
The Yidinji people know Hasties Swamp as 'Nyleta' which means 'where the waters meet'. Nyleta was a seasonal camp and the Yidinji people followed strict laws regarding the collection of plants and hunting of animals.
In the 1880s the Hasties Swamp area was established as an important camping and watering point for bullock and horse teams working between the coast and the newly-established tin mines in Herberton. The permanent water and pasture on the western side of the swamp meant it was an attractive stop over for the teamsters, and a stockyard was built at the southern end.
Cedar and kauri pine cutters also moved into the area, collecting timber from the eastern side of the swamp and building saw pits and a steam driven sawmill. Chinese immigrants, displaced from the gold fields to the north and west, lived and established market gardens on the eastern side of the swamp.
The swamp was set aside as a permanent reserve for travelling stock in the 1890s and, over the following years, various applications to convert the land to leasehold or freehold were rejected.
By the 1970s the wetland habitat importance of the area was starting to be recognised and applications were made to the government to set aside the area for conservation. On 5 April 1980, 47.8 ha of the swamp were declared national park, extended to 56.6 ha on 21 June 1986.
The 56.6 ha are part of a greater catchment of 360 ha which includes forest, agricultural land and urban property. These types of land use usually draw large quantities of water from the catchment, reducing water available in the swamp. To counter the effects on water levels caused by this development, QPWS built a low earth weir at the main outflow to retain water within the swamp system.
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