Just hatched! Shield bugs hiding under a leaf

shield bugs
Shield bug babies under a leaf

I spotted this group of tiny bugs under a hibiscus leaf a week ago and closer examination revealed that they were just hatched: the whitish membranes underneath the middle of the group are their flaccid eggshells.

shield bugs
A closer look reveals eggshells

They are Pentatomidae – Shield Bugs or Stink Bugs, depending on how polite you want to be – but it isn’t possible to identify them to species level without either patience (i.e. waiting for them to grow up) or DNA analysis. My best guess is a Poecilometis species like this one.

Here’s an earlier article about another similar species:

Mother love

Society Flat rainforest walk and Kirrama Range Road

Kirrama Range
View from Kirrama Range Road

Access to Blencoe Falls (previous post) is from the small township of Kennedy, just north of Cardwell: take the only road which turns inland from the highway, follow it for 10 km or so, veer right onto the gravelled Kirrama Range Road, and you’re on the right road. For quite a while.

The top of the range is reached after about 20 km of steep, rough, winding road through dense rainforest. Several viewing spots offer spectacular vistas over the coastal plain and to Hinchinbrook Island.

The road levels off at the top and winds through more rainforest to Society Flat rainforest walk, marked by a towering kauri pine. It is less than a kilometre long but presents the best opportunity to enter the rainforest jungle: no-one takes a casual stroll through this green tangle except on a made, and maintained, path.

It’s an abundant environment, but an abundance of plants, not animals. Certainly there are birds (more often heard than seen), butterflies and spiders, but the trees, vines and epiphytes make it what it is.

Further inland, the country gradually dries out and the vegetation changes to open forest dominated by eucalypts. I stopped there for lunch on my way to Blencoe Falls and again, for somewhat longer, on my way home.

forest
A misty dawn in open forest on Kirrama Range

The distance from Kennedy to Blencoe Falls is about 70 km but that doesn’t give much of an idea of the travel time: if you allow three hours then you may be pleasantly surprised but if you plan on two then you may arrive later than you expected. The road is all gravel except for the steepest section, up the range, which is broken bitumen. All of it is narrow  and has enough blind corners, pot-holes, rocks and fallen timber to keep average speeds low. 4WD vehicles aren’t absolutely necessary in dry conditions but may be after rain, and the gently decomposing corpses of a couple of backpacker vehicles beside the road are reminders that inland roads are unforgiving. The journey is well worth the time and effort, however.

Blencoe Falls and Jabali Walk, Girringun National Park

Blencoe Falls
Blencoe Falls from the lookout

Blencoe Falls are on Blencoe Creek, a tributary entering the upper Herbert River only a few hundred metres downstream of the falls. I visited the area in the interregnum between Christmas and New Year, in what was probably the very tail end of the Dry season. There had been enough rain to keep the creek flowing, but not much more than that.

Blencoe Falls
Close-up of the top of the (dry season) falls

The falls are still spectacular enough. The first drop is 90m, but then there are another 230 vertical metres of cascades down to the gorge floor. The only way I could fit it all into one shot, even with a wide-angle lens, was to tilt my camera:

Blencoe Falls
The whole height of the Falls

The falls would be at their best in the Wet – anytime between now and the end of March – but the road in is challenging enough in dry conditions and might be impassable immediately after heavy rain, so the best time to visit is early Winter.

Blencoe Falls are a good forty km upstream from Wallaman Falls but the Herbert has already carved out a spectacular gorge and there are good views of it from the lookout:

Herbert River Gorge
The Herbert River Gorge from the Blencoe Falls lookout

The Herbert was barely flowing at the end of the Dry season as this telephoto shot of the river-bed clearly shows, but it can obviously be a wild river during and after the Wet. Nevertheless, there is a (tough, long) walking track along it. A four or five day walk begins near the Blencoe Falls camping ground, traversing open country parallel to the gorge for the first day and continuing along the river-bed (“pick your own route”, i.e. rock-hopping) to a pick-up point on the Abergowrie road. For more information, visit the National Parks page for Girringun NP.

Blencoe Falls
Landscape of the Jabali walk between the camping ground and the Falls

The Jabali Walk from the camping ground to the falls is much shorter (5km) and easier, and the return trip can be done comfortably (aside from the heat) in three or four hours. There were plenty of birds to see along the track, but mostly at such distances that good photos weren’t possible.

Insects weren’t particularly numerous, mostly because of the dry conditions, but I saw one exceptionally tough bee-fly laying eggs in gravel which had been in full sun for hours. Numerous small gullies crossed the track on their way down to the creek, all dry except one; the dragonfly and wasp below were amongst many taking advantage of it, and tracks showed cattle and native animals also made good use of it.

When I was nearly back at the campsite, a spot of yellow on a fallen tree caught my eye.

dragon lizard
Small dragon beside Jabali walking track

The lizard, perhaps 25cm from its nose to the tip of its long tail, didn’t move as I approached and then walked around behind it. Perhaps it thought I still hadn’t seen it? It’s clearly a Dragon (family Agamidae) and after looking at Wilson’s Field Guide I suspect its genus is either Diporiphora or Amphibolurus.

Blencoe Falls
The dragon from behind

Rain!

A couple of days ago I said, “We’ve been promised rain every day for a week and seen very little – ‘scattered showers and storms’ is a fairly generous description,” Then it started raining, quite steadily.

A week ago I said, “If there’s a fixed open drain, [grey water on a rural property] might run into a banana patch, since bananas are always thirsty.” Now our bananas are standing in ankle-deep water, run-off from  the higher side of our own block and from our neighbours.

People around the city are reporting falls of 30 – 120mm over the last few days as the patchy showers turned into widespread rain. Townsville’s official records only tell us what fell at the airport and are taken at 9.00 a.m. every day; the total to 9.00 this morning was 34 mm and I expect tomorrow’s reading to be much higher.

Friday, 3 pm