Pennefather River July 19 - 20 2019
  Our 8th day at Pennefather River. We finally had a look at the Ranger Station. No longer in use and falling apart inside.

The water tap still works. But we don't need water.

  The phone works. A community phone. Need a calling card for calls to mobiles, 13 and international numbers, otherwise free calls.

It has a number, but one would have to be very lucky to have someone passing to answer.

  A brief look north, across the estuary, towards Mapoon. The water in front is a pond, behind the spit.
  We've hitched a lift across the river. Walking along the riverside we see a small ray. We've seen some larger ones jumping.
  We have 4 hours to walk north along the beach then inland over the coastal dune to "the swamp".

We see a few recent turtle tracks and nests along the way. Unlike the nests to the south of the estuary they aren't marked by rangers.

  We also see a successful nest with small turtle tracks and discarded leathery egg cases.

At least we find ourselves hoping it was successful. We are really getting a feel for nature ......

  Instantly recognisable to us after many encounters on beaches.
  We turn inland where the trees along the shore have a break. A little too early but from the top of the dune we see across the treetops to the river.
  And a little bit of swamp.

The walk up the dune has been a fairly gentle incline with only a little steep for the last bit. On the far side its steep as it falls away to the lagoon.

In our amateur geomorphologising we think the beach is slowly growing out to sea. The sand is full of shells, which are presumably there because they've been covered. In many places they've been uncovered again, easily mistaken for middens, though far too numerous. At the same time its possible the dune is being pushed inland by the wind. Slowly as the sand is coarse (and heavy), which creates the steep inland edge.

The formation of the dune is what traps the water that forms the lagoon. At some past time it probably drained to the river. The vegetation where it meets the river is not as tall. From our campsite we can see signs of the sand ridge meeting the river.

On Fraser Island, where different types of lake have formed, this would be termed a barrier lake.

  The blue line is today's track. 600m across the river. We walked a bit more than 9km.

The track is squigglier (a technical term meaning not in a straight line!) on the way in. We weren't drunk, just navigating along the top of the dune. A dune which is by no means straight, like those in the Simpson Desert, but a series of hummocks and dips and simply a broad ridge that is not in a straight line.

The red line is from our camp to partway onto mudflats to picture all the brolgas, yesterday. The blue line beyond the red line is another walk on the 20th, across the mudflats (round trip about 8.6km).

If I remember I'll also add the tracks to a satellite pic when we have internet.

  As we follow the top of the dune northwards we catch a glimpse of water.

As we get closer we quietly drop down off the dune. There's about 30m of large paperbarks and slightly sticky mud to then stealthily approach the edge of the lagoon.

Brolgas, ducks, egrets and short black and white birds with longish beaks.

  With a pelican and some royal spoonbills.
  The brolgas are the first to sense our not so stealthy presence and fly away.

Others followed.

To the far side of the lagoon. We refuse to call it a swamp.

  Slowly some return. But not the brolgas.

These will require some serious bird book searching.

  We think a mixture of egrets and spoonbills.

There's a large collection of white birds at the limit of binoculars and camera further north in the lagoon. On the edge of some reeds that grow across the whole lake, with more clear water beyond.

  Glossy Ibises.

Apparently Ibis and Spoonbills are of the same family.

  The line of white birds is across the edge of the water in the very far distance.
  The edge of the lake is a little muddy, but relatively easy to walk carefully on. The lake must slowly dry in the dry season.

Its relatively shallow, though still too deep in the middle for the Ibis.

Our limited experience is that Goldilocks helps birds find just the right depth of water for the length of their legs.

  Following the serious bird book searching ....

Probably a young pied heron (also called white headed egret). We've also seen some adults with black caps.

After 10 years of paying attention we are slowly getting the hang of naming birds. If its black and white it may be a pied something.

But we still haven't seen any pied (also called magpie) geese. They seem to live in lagoons further from the coast, and fly across the mud bank between sites.

  Conscious of time, our lift back across the river is at 12, we reluctantly leave ..... just one more pic.

And if we could walk another 5km north we would reach a place called Flinders Camp. On some maps there's a vehicle track to it from the Mapoon road.

As the map shows, we headed directly to the beach then walked back on harder sand where the tide had gone out a bit.

We are aching more than a bit. Our feet are a bit sore from sand in the shoes we needed for the rougher parts, so we took the shoes off. Truck is in sight on the far side of the river.

  Our ferry sees us arrive. We are about 20 minutes early. While waiting we take a closer look at a croc. This is the small one, the larger one is lurking somewhere else.

We learn later that the answer to "where are all the small crocs?" may be that they inhabit the upper reaches of the river. Many were seen in the afternoon by our lift.

  Joining us in watching the croc were three stone-curlews.
  As we cross the mouth of the river we can see our favourite mud bank in the distance.

40 hp outboard makes short work of 600m of water.

Home to rest. And bake a loaf of bread. We don't carry beer, the normal currency, and have no wine. Fresh bread seems a welcome swap for a lift across the river by a couple who have spent the last 4 weeks here and have run out. Nice for us watching the slow dawning realisation that it will be fresh from baking when we deliver it in about 5 hours.  Its not often we have something to offer that people appreciate, we end our day happy.

We now know that the regulars use radio channel 21. And we know a couple of them. But of course we now have to think of leaving.

  As the sun sank the sunbirds joined us for another short visit.

Accompanied by this male mistletoe bird that stayed long enough for the zoom on the camera to malfunction, so this is cut from a wider pic. Nice to have a pic to remind us. We saw a mistletoe bird earlier, near the lagoon on the north side, but weren't quick enough with the camera.

The pics aren't intended to win competitions, and aren't the purpose for being here. They are a reminder of the simple enjoyment of "being here".

  What a bizarre planet I live on. One day there are 1,000 hungry brolgas. Other days none. Their calendar is different to mine. I assume their behaviour has evolved so as not to eat everything in sight so as to leave some for tomorrow. Or perhaps to recognise the state of the tide, though with only one tide per day it changes slowly.

Another morning, day 9, and I set off to the mudflats again. My track is on the map above.

The cacophony is absent this morning. Or I am late. Either way its surely a clue as to what I may find.

The small flock of pied stilts take flight. The wide open space and so many birds make it relatively easy to follow their flight with the camera.

  Otherwise there are few birds visible to me.

This island in front of me is a pimple on the map.

Dingo Creek is another 2km, another hour return, and while the tide is still going out I'm unsure when low tide is. Perhaps another time. Caught by the tide on mudflats, surrounded by an impenetrable barrier of mangroves, surrounded by crocodiles, is not a desirable outcome.

It takes time to become familiar (and safe) with new surroundings. We tend to push the boundaries a little at a time.

  I say goodbye to the spoonbills. Strange, I never see them with bills in water or mud. None of the sideways movement of the bill while walking that I'm familiar with from other sites.

Tomorrow we'll move back to the coast and have a last look for turtles.

We tried fishing a couple of times on a few days, but alas, we failed miserably.

  Of course there's always one more thing. We've spent the afternoon watching the world go by. As the sun sank, instead of sunbirds we watched a Brahminy Kite.
Pennefather and Wenlock Rivers July 21 - 23 2019

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