Lakefield National Park - Welcome Waterhole August 14 - 15 2019
  The burning question of the hour concerns the visibility, or otherwise, of Jabirus. We have stopped referring to them as black-necked storks as patently their necks aren't black. But if they continue to hide behind vegetation, or even fly away, how will we know?

We explore a couple of small lagoons on the way out of Dingo Waterhole but, apart from seeing a dead pig with a collection of kites waiting for it to be sufficiently rotten to devour, we simply admired the landscape.

  A quick detour to Kalpower Crossing.

Having realised the extent of the catchment that drains into the Normanby River, the source is some 150km to our south east with many tributaries. As far south as Lakeland, west of the coastal ranges south of Cooktown. We sought to see how much water was flowing at this time of year. We have already observed its a wide flowing river but its difficult for us to know which is the main channel. River crossings tend to be at the easiest, and narrowest, part.

  At New Laura Ranger Station there is mobile phone reception. We suspect a small cell rather than a tower or reception from Laura.

We are due to visit a rock art site on Friday, today is Wednesday. The most convenient campsites are booked. We decide on Welcome Waterhole, for no apparent reason apart from its a single site and within early morning driving distance of Laura.


  To get there we turn left at Old Laura. Well worthwhile reading some of the history displayed on the ground floor.

We think the tree in front of the house is the largest frangipani we have ever seen, and wonder what it looks ike in flower.

  A lot of the early cattle and horse history is related to supplying the Palmer Goldfields.
  We cross the Laura River for the second time. To retrace our steps about 20km along Battlecamp Road.
  The track passes a campsite at Horseshoe Lagoon, then deteriorates. A slow last 7km.

This is where it encounters Cabbage Tree Creek.

  Once camped we walk back to the creek for our evening constitutional.

We assume they are the cabbage trees for which the creek is named. They are like the strange "tree on top of a palm" we saw at the edge of Nifold Plain.

We think this one is in flower.

  This one in seed.
  They really look like seeds.
  And this one in flower with some leaves still remaining.

Once the seeds have fallen the bare branches that supported the flower remain. And perhaps slowly decay and fall off.

We ponder what then happens. Whether the flower structure falls away and new leaves form, whether the plant stops, or some other process.

We haven't seen infinitely tall specimens, nor have we seen dead trunks still standing.

We will have to ask.

Edit:- Corypha Utan (Cabbage Palm) is hapaxanthic, it flowers once, with up to one million flowers, fruits, then dies. Its also a bit disproportionate, a big trunk with few branches. In the Philippines the buri palm is considered a "tree of life", providing fibres, edible fruit, materials for shoes, even temporary aquaducts.

  The couple of small lagoons we passed are fenced.

Which limits access for pigs.

  But to wallabies, these are Agile Wallabies (we know because of the white streak on their faces), the fence is not an obstacle.
  Rather than lilies, of which there are a few, there is this water weed with purple flowers.
  At the end of the larger lagoon a couple of the cabbage trees are in flower.
  Having walked around the edge of both lagoons we retire to the truck after what has turned out to be an unexpectedly busy day.
  Next morning a couple of quick snaps. Early morning there was a wonderful dawn chorus. The afternoons are almost silent.

A Yellow-Spotted Honeyeater. The small birds are very adept at hiding in the foliage.

  And an immature Spectacled Monarch Flycatcher.

Also very busy, stopped for only very brief moments.

The low early morning light makes catching pics a bit difficult.

  Ali stayed home for a lazy day. I decided to follow a vehicle track further west along the Normanby River.

But first to negotiate Cabbage Tree Swamp and cross Cabbage Tree Creek.

Neither difficult, just that the swamp was a large lagoon, unfenced but with grass. The two cattle grazing when I arrived decided they ought to be elsewhere and lumbered off.

Progressively the birds followed them.

  The Jabiru was the last to leave.
  It flew further down the lagoon, around a corner.
  The lagoon looked a bit big for me to walk around. Its not marked on maps and probably is seen as part of the creek or the larger swamp.
  After all the activity (really very little) there was a single remaining duck. A Black Duck.

One of the park noticeboards refer to them as Pacific Black Ducks, although they are common this is the first we are aware of having seen.

  The vehicle track is reasonably well defined, but very little used. There's a "no vehicles without permission" sign. There's a couple of tyre marks into the lagoon.

Most times we are moving and stationary wildlife sees us and moves. Time to reverse the process. I was stationary when these three wallabies (also agile wallabies) came casually hopping along the track towards me.

Apparently not a care in the world ...... until after a few minutes I moved .....

  The Normanby River is braided. We are camped on the main channel. This is a side channel that the track follows, its parallel and about 300m from the main channel.

A very rocky bottom, the same sort of rock we have seen exposed throughout the park.

  Rocky Yard is near where the end of the track is marked on maps. Though maps show it on the opposite side of the track to where I found it.

Mustering at Lakefield was apparently timed for the end of the wet season. During the wet the cattle move to the high ground at the edge of the water that forms a huge lake. As the land dries the cattle disperse. They were mustered before they dispersed.

  On maps there's a "pool" near the end of the track. A bit muddy, presumably something I can't see stirs it up. Or the clay is so fine it never settles. Part of the secondary river channel.
  The track didn't end where the map said it did. So neither did my walk.

The gateposts are concrete, and the gate steel. A termite mound has grown around the hinge. Just guessing it hasn't been closed in a long time....

I walked another km past this, thought about walking north to find the main branch of the river, but turned round. In total I walked about 14km by the time I returned to the truck. Enough for one day.

  One (almost) last fascination. This plant is growing in a spiral. Some are right-handed and some left-handed. The tallest have at least three turns. I tried to look at the top but couldn't find it. Reminiscent of taking apart two leaved buds on bushes, or opening Russian dolls, but without end and not actually opening anything, just looking.

Perhaps its an Agave - maybe a sisal hemp, which is South American though they are also grown in Aus. It doesn't look like it belongs.

There are lots of subtle differences in vegetation between here and just a few km nearer the coast. This particular plant is too obviously different for even me to ignore.

Ali suggested there's probably a mathematical formula for the spiral ...... of course there is!

Shortly after my return to the truck three Laura Rangers arrived. A day off from Quinkan Country, looking for fish. Their fellow rangers are on holiday in Kakadu. Nothing to do with Lakefield national park. A magical conversation, one of them was born before WWII at Lakefield, in the days when it was a station, and before everyone had birth certificates. Time for fascinating stories about the area. A better sense of what its like in the wet. The stories that don't appear on notice boards.

We asked about the orange fruit we picked at Dingo Waterhole but alas these rangers seemed to not recognise it.

We asked about the cabbage trees but were also unlucky. And no fish were caught. Though, no connection, I later saw an odd looking leaf in a tree that turned out to be a lure.

Quinkan Rock Art August 16 2019

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