Blue-winged Kookaburra, nesting at the Palmetum

Just a quick post today to keep the blog ticking over while I’m busy with other things: three photos taken on a visit to the Palmetum in mid November where we were lucky enough to see a male Blue-winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachii, identify his nesting hollow for us by visiting it.

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Male Blue-winged Kookaburra in the rainforest area of the Palmetum
Blue-winged Kookaburra nest
That looks like a nesting hollow
Blue-winged Kookaburra nest
Yes, that’s what it is!

There’s more information about the species and its Laughing cousin on this page.

Blencoe Falls camping ground

I wrote recently about Blencoe Falls and the road to them but didn’t say much about the camping ground. The National Parks page provides all the basic information but didn’t make clear (to me, at least) that what is offered is basically free camping along a two-kilometre stretch of creek: when you drive into the nominal “camping ground”, all you find is an information shelter (under the dead tree) and a toilet in dry scrubland.

Blencoe Falls
Blencoe Falls camping ground

All the campers were settled down beside the creek, in shady sites well off the road. The creek itself was a tranquil string of broad pools linked by rocky shallows but the sandy, rock-strewn banks confirm the implication of the flood marker fifty metres back from the bridge, i.e. that it must sometimes be a raging torrent.

blencoe falls
Blencoe Creek from the bridge
blencoe falls
The flood height post, well back from the creek

I found plenty of wildlife beside the creek – lots of birds, including a Sea Eagle (they are not restricted to the coast), a cormorant, parrots and honeyeaters, and a good number of insects (now here, on my flickr photostream).

The most numerous animals, however, were flying foxes – there was a colony of hundreds or a few thousand just downstream from the bridge. They are Little Reds, a nomadic species, so they may not stay long, but they certainly made themselves known aurally and olfactorily during my visit and were an impressive sight as they swirled into the sky to go foraging at dusk.

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.