Lockhart River and Gills Moon Lagoon (Again) July 10 - 11 2019
Unfortunately Gills Moon Lagoon is on private property - no camping.
  We reluctantly leave our rainforest retreat and detour to Lockhart River. A little bit of fuel and a visit to the art gallery.

With the clarity of hindsight we probably should have booked two nights at the rainforest.

  Then, on the way out, a quick look at the Gordon WWII Airport. The gate was open, last time it was probably closed being a Sunday.

We had a chuckle at the incongruous nature of the "keep off the grass" sign in front of the interpretive information signs.

Logistics through Portland Roads, there were apparently up to 7,000 military personnel hidden in the bush beside a sealed road. The bush provided camouflage for both the road and all the camps.

We don't know if the route for the road is the same as the current one. We can understand the rainforest providing cover but when we look at satellite images the road is quite clear. Perhaps the vastness of the landscape helped.

Something we found interesting was the compromise in airfield design, between short taxi runs due to poor engine cooling for planes while taxiing and the need to keep planes hidden and away from the runway when parked. The initial design changed over time as usage grew.

  Presumably one of the original buildings.

May 1942, shortly after the Coral Sea Battle, a Dragon Rapide landed on Chilli Beach on a reconnaisance flight. The team walked to Portland Roads (about 10km on current roads). Gordon was a local gold miner and must have provided some information.

Airfield construction started soon after.

The airfield served as a base for aircraft attacking Rabaoul (in then New Britain) where the Japanese had a large base.

  We leave the Lockhart River area.
  A quick stop at the south west end of the Old Coen Road.
  There's a gate at this end to match the gate I encountered at the north east end yesterday. Its not in such good shape.
  But it doesn't matter. Beyond it the track is as impassable and indistinct as the north east end.

I somehow doubt it will ever be re-opened. But it would be nice.

In the meantime we'll add it to the list of national park attractions that are closed when we arrive.

  We stop for a closer look at Mt Tozer. A mixture of granite and the central tuff of a volcano.

There is a string of old volcanoes down the eastern coast of Australia, all the way to Tasmania. One theory suggests one or more stationary hot spots that the Australian plate moved over. The volcanoes become younger further south so the plate must have been moving northwards. There is a lot of research to be done for someone.

Perhaps Mt Tozer was the source of the granite which has formed Iron Range. There has been no info on the park geology. We imagine the park seems to be east of and separate to the Great Dividing Range.

  We've decided to stop at Gills Moon Lagoon again on the way to Weipa. Its a convenient distance to drive leaving about 175km to Weipa on relatively good road. On the way we admire the hills.
  At the lagoon we find our previous camp spot and are greeted by a kite on the far side.

Time for showers. Though not necessarily because of the kite.

  Probably an Eastern Yellow Robin. But no trace yet of the firetails we saw last time.
  Next morning the clouds have gone, and so has the wind. One of those few days when water is perfectly still. Just the lillies and reflections to tell us where the water is.

The paper barks are quite magnificent highlighted in the sun.


There are no ripples on the far side. Which means the croc Ali saw isn't awake yet, has eaten too much and is resting, has moved back to the river, or is stalking us. We will probably never know. We feel a little better about collecting water for laundry ... make it quick.

A slight breeze arrived a little later to disturb the water. A breeze so slight we could hardly feel it.

  I disturbed the flock last time. I didn't expect to see them in the same spot, but there they were, on the ground among the grass. And this time I was a little better prepared. Most of the flock flew to a nearby tree, then immediately flew further away. This one stayed in the tree long enough for a few pics.

Its a Red-Browed Firetail. A member of the finch family.

We also were visited by Tony who informed us we were on private property, with camping not allowed. The site has been removed from WikiCamps. If I understood correctly we can leave tomorrow, and don't leave a mess. A generous approach to moving people on that can never be an easy task. We appreciate the extra night in a beautiful spot.

Perhaps too close to a new commercial campsite?

The land is part of Picaninny Plains, about 20km to our west for crows, longer by road. If we recall correctly from the very large gate where the road north and the Weipa road separate, an Australian Wildlife Centre.

  We watched the robin catching insects. Stand on a branch, take off and perform some aerial gymnastics, return to branch. Sometimes the same branch, but only a couple of times then move to another.
  This time the firetails came to us. Look out of the truck window and there they are. Still at the limit of the camera, and way beyond our normal eyesight. They occasionally flew up from being invisible in the grass for a look around then back to feeding.

While they are decidedly (in our ever so humble opinion) red-browed firetails there's a marking near their necks that is indistinct or absent.

Since we don't consider ourselves particularly skilled at bird watching (we've eventually had to accept that is what we are doing, though we are more opportunistic than its our main purpose in being here) there is a small sense of achievement in just seeing them, and moreso in taking a pic.

Perhaps also a bit of excitement as we see parts of nature we wouldn't have seen without really looking. We have a sense of seeing more than we used to, while there is even more that we miss.

We are beginning to connect vegetation and birds.

  Mixed with the firetails were a few wrens. Even more elusive. This is as close as we got.

There are lots of forest noises. We wondered what the raucous sound was from the far side of the lagoon, that carried on for about a half hour.

We should have recognised the sound of blue-winged kookaburras. Though we last heard them at Millstream in May last year. Here we have just a brief glimpse of them in trees a hundred meters away. But sufficient to recognise them and take a hazy pic for the archives. Their sounds traveled a long way.

For some reason we endeavour to ignore crows.

  Then there were two. The flock moved through the trees like a wave. These two just happened to stop for long enough where they could be seen. Perhaps about 20 birds in the flock.
  Watched through the slightly quizzical gaze of a black-faced cuckoo-shrike.
  As the sun lowered in the sky the birds came out to play. I watched these two wrens preening each other for a while. They looked a bit "fluffy" so may be young. The wrens were still mixed up with the firetails.

A honeyeater (possibly white-throated) made an appearance but insisted on hiding behind leaves. There have been other birds that are even more elusive.

Croc watching will have to wait for another day. We haven't seen any indications. Just more secretive than the birds?

The lilly flowers opened as the sun shone on them in the morning, and have now closed for the day.

Pennefather River July 12 - 14 2019

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