Rainforest Camp, Iron Range National Park July 9 2019
  As we leave Chilli Beach we retrace our steps along the Portland Roads Road.

After depositing our rubbish at the Portland Roads Rubbish Dump that is.

The geography is a bit contorted. It seems far to our west is the Great Dividing Range. Nearer us is the Dorriwill Ridge, which is probably part of the Nelson Range. Closer again is the Iron Range, which is what we think we are driving through.

  The high point of significance is probably Mt Tozer, 543m, in the Dorriwill Ridge. Probably about 12km from us. The road, along with the West Claudie River, passes through the Tozer Gap, to the right of the mountain, beyond where we will stop for the night.
  There are three campsites in the Iron Range rainforest. Gordon Creek, Cook Hut, and Rainforest. We chose the latter because of its proximity to the start of the Old Coen Road walking track.
  Its a bit squeezy, we were lucky we chose site one which has lots of space. Sites two and three are another couple of hundred meters into the rainforest, beside Middle Claudie River, and would have been very tight for us.
  We venture forth to the walking track. Tripping over frogs near the river.

Yup, there's a frog in the pic.

  The water is flowing, the effects of the March cyclone are very evident.

There are two signs before the track. The first advises of crocs. The second has an arrow to the track, which fords the river.


We disturbed a large pig while exploring the bank.

We also saw a riflebird but weren't quick enough with the camera.

  I took gps and radio. Ali decided not to cross the river.

It proved to be a bit over knee deep (for me, it would have been deeper for Ali) at the ford with a reasonably solid sandy bottom.

The track hasn't been used for a long while, even without the effect of the cyclone its overgrown and difficult to see. A bit surprising for an old road.

  Probably on the right track. The locked gate is a clue.

The track beyond the gate is both overgrown and blocked with fallen trees. I persevered for another 100m with the track becoming increasingly indistinct and confused by many pig tracks.

I called Ali on the radio and said I'd see her at the river in about 10 minutes.

Half an hour later I found the gate again. Even with gps it was difficult to return the way I had gone. Perhaps I should upgrade to one that has a proper compass rather than one that derives its info from a gps signal - I had to be moving for the compass to work, but the bush was so dense I couldn't walk fast enough. I had to keep checking I was actually on the reverse of the way I walked in - which is surprisingly difficult.

I'm reasonably experienced at recognising tracks and where I've walked but this mess proved a bit of a challenge. When I analysed the track on the computer when I turned around I strayed at most 20m from my track in. It may as well have been a km.

When I found the gate again I automatically assumed I had correctly retraced my steps and I was on the far side of it from the river. After a few steps I realised I was walking the same way I walked in, the bush looked just familiar enough to sew the seeds of doubt and I was proceeding cautiously lest I make my situation worse. I compared the pic I took of the gate to where I was and the line on the gps. Then turned around and headed the correct way to the river. Still proceeding cautiously.

Perhaps I should mention that the sky was overcast so no clues from the sun. And flat land beyond the river bank meant no clues from the terrain. Add the effect of pigs and fallen vegetation a recipe for potential disaster.

It would have been so easy to become lost. Perhaps I'm pleased I realised it was possible before it happened.

  Ali was waiting patiently at the river. We had a few radio conversations while I stumbled around in the bush. Each of us reassuring the other perhaps. We both have years of experience in a variety of bush.

Just before this pic was taken we saw a snake swimming down the river. Not quick enough with the camera. Ali had seen no sign of crocs, we would have been a bit surprised, they would have the same problem with fallen trees in the river as we had in the bush.

So I forded the river again. Pleased to be home after a short, unplanned, less than smooth, (possibly over dramatised!), rainforest bush bash.

  The campsite was a delight. We parked our chairs next to the truck in front of the bush and waited.

We are in Australia's most northerly lowland rainforest. The variety of birdcalls is a clue for us. A forest that is silent for most of the time, but every few minutes a different bird call.

First along was what we think is a mistletoe bird. Not uncommon. We watched it finish off a juicy bright green caterpillar.

Very difficult for us to photograph, the small birds are a long way away and rarely still. We see some movement from the corner of our eye, and by the time we've realised what we are looking at its moved again.

  We briefly turn our attention to the bush. Some epiphytes have survived the cyclone, but otherwise the canopy has numerous broken branches which have fallen to the ground. Plus one tree is uprooted and takes another, and another, like dominoes.
  Next was a white faced robin. Much more cooperative it stayed still a few milliseconds longer, and wasn't hidden by leaves.

We have no chance of matching calls to birds we see. We can only marvel at the skills of the people who can. Maybe time to upgrade from bird book to "app".

  The best we can do is suggest its a creeper. The auto focus was working overtime, we are surprised we managed any pics at all.

It hung around for many minutes, looking in the bark of tree trunks for grubs.

  A frilled monarch flycatcher.

We didn't know such birds existed. A quick visit before it disappeared into the bush. The camera focus never quite works as well as we hope, but then this 100mm long bird is at the limit of the camera zoom (equivalent of 1200mm optical zoom for a 35mm camera). To our naked eye the birds appear as dark silhouettes. Its not until we look with binoculars and camera the wonders of nature are visible.

Of course they are common, and sedentary, according to our bird book. Its range is rainforest in Cape York Peninsula south as far as the Chester River (100km south of us) on the east coast and Archer River (75km south) on the west coast.

  We think another robin. The light is fading inside the rainforest, the sky remains overcast.
  There's apparently a resident riflebird in the triangle of bush at the campsite entry. A short evening stroll we saw a hint of bright colour on the ground, and got all excited. Even though we knew that it was unlikely to be a riflebird, feeding off the ground is not their normal behaviour.

It was a green winged pigeon. Pecking its way through whatever has been disturbed by the occasional vehicle that was driven along the track.

  Next morning we packed up ready to move. The dawn chorus wasn't as overwhelming as we'd hoped, more a slow awakening as different birds called then fell silent.

We had thoughts of repeating yesterday's chair sitting bush watching but didn't have sufficient patience. We are restless.

However, high in the trees we spotted a scrub fowl. We've seen the resident brush turkey around a few campsites and for a while were confused. This doesn't have the turkey's squashed flat vertical tail, nor its red neck. It does have a bit of a crown and the right coloured legs. Therefore its a scrub fowl.

We leave with an impression that if we'd stayed a few days the birds would have become used to our truck (as they usually do wherever we are) and we should have booked longer.

We also leave with an impression that this is a very different rainforest to the Daintree.

Lockhart River and Gills Moon Lagoon (Again) July 10 - 11 2019

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