Capella Creek originates in the Peak Range or ‘the Peaks’ as it is known locally. The Peaks is series of volcanic plugs and lava flows, running from north-west to the south-east, approximately 30kms north-east of Capella. It is one of the most spectacular and scenic of the region's natural attractions. The creek itself is dry for most of the year, but it does flow during the rainfall events of the ‘wet’ season and holds water in holes for some time following these events.
The cracking clay soil downs that the creek traverses on its way to Capella and the Peak Range give the district its name: Peak Downs.
CAPELLA CREEK CRAB
One of Capella Creek’s common marine residents is the Freshwater Crab (Austrothelphusa transversa). To escape the dry weather, these crabs construct burrows in the creek banks and bed which they seal with mud. The burrows are usually around one metre long, and are found in the areas which experience annual flooding. The humid air trapped inside the burrows provides the crabs with enough moisture to survive in a state of suspended animation until wet weather returns. Young hatch as juveniles, but can be carried under the mother’s body in an arrested state of development for months while waiting for good rains. Look out for shed crab exoskeletons that can occasionally be seen when walking along the creek edge. The shell (carapace) grows to approximately 50mm (2inches) wide.
Vegetation communities associated the Capella Creek range from grasslands - that include Queensland Bluegrass (Dicanthium sericeum) - to trees, such as Tea-tree (Melaleuca), Myall (Acacia), Eucalypts and River Oaks. But as little as 50 years ago, there were very few trees along the creek. Changing land practices and land managements (such as less regular burn-offs and broadacre farming), as well as town water supply requirements and longer dry periods have altered the creek flow and sediment patterns. Vegetation variances have followed.
Coolibahs, Blue Gum and River Oak are the largest tree species found along the creek with smaller amounts of Poplar Box. Coolibahs (Eucalyptus Coolibah) can be easily identified by their large size, with rough grey bark occurring only on the lower part of the trunk and smooth light grey bark on the upper part and branches - an adaptation to protect the lower trunk from both animal and fire damage. Red Bloodwoods (Corymbia Erythrophloia) can be differentiated from the Coolibahs by their rough, tessellated bark which covers the entire trunk. These tree species provide hollows which are important nesting and roosting sites for birds and animals found along the creek. Watch any broken branches or hollows for animal activity.
The composition of the annual and perennial grassland communities are quite diverse and can vary considerably over time and space. Queensland Bluegrass is the most widespread native grass species, however, White Speargrass (Aristida leptopoda), Native Millet (Panicum decompositum) and Yabila Grass (Panicum queenslandicum) are also frequently observed on the surrounding downs country, as is the introduced thickly tufted Buffel Grass. Legumes and herbs are found amongst the native grass species. The grass seen beside the Capella Creek bridge is an introduced Torpedo Grass (Panicum repens).
Shrubs such as Black Tea-tree (Melaleuca bracteata) and Myall (Acacia pendula) generally grow within the low-lying areas of the Peak Downs District, such as that of the creek. Their flowers are an important source of food for the numerous birds and animals living there, while their foliage provides protection against potential predators.
There is an old time ‘rule of thumb’ that says, where coolibahs grow on lower lying country is where the flood will reach.
SOME OF THE SMALL ANIMAL ASSOCIATED WITH CAPELLA CREEK
Capella Creek provides habitat for not only birds, but other animal species such as Echidnas, Dunnarts, Planigales, native mice, reptiles and some marine life.
Both the Common Dunnart (Sminthopsis murina) and Common Planigale (Planigale maculate) belong to the ‘Dasyuridae’ Family, and even though their names suggest otherwise, they are both Threatened Species, frequently mistaken for the introduced House Mouse (Mus musculus). They are small, elusive, mouse-sized marsupials, which live amongst the fallen leaf litter, branches and grasses located along the Creek. They are aggressive insectivores, feeding predominantly at night and obtaining their entire moisture intake from their prey.
The Common Planigale has a more shrew-like appearance than the Common Dunnart and is considered the world’s smallest marsupial. The adult weighs less than 6 grams. It has a remarkably compressed head allowing it to gain access to tight places in search of food.
Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) can also be observed within close proximately to the creek. They use their strong front claws and long stiff nose to plough through forest litter, break open ant and termite mounds, and to overturn hollow logs. Once it finds tasty bugs, it sucks them up with its long, sticky tongue. Because an echidna has no teeth, it grinds its food between the top of its mouth and the horny back of the tongue.