Week 2 July 2004: Our tour, of Queensland, continues. We camped at Karumba, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, for two nights. The first morning was spent, on a boat, travelling down the Norman River. A husband and wife team owns the boat. They are enthusiastic bird watchers and were delighted to find that most of the group was also bird watchers. We cruised close to the mangrove-lined shore. Five mangrove species grow along the Norman River. Mangrove Whistlers and Red Mangrove Honeyeaters were two of the birds that were observed in the mangroves. Two Osprey adults and a chick were sighted in a nest on top of a navigation light in the middle of the river.

The tour guides pointed out clumps of Madagascar Rubber Vines growing behind the mangroves. This is becoming a noxious and obnoxious weed.

In the afternoon some of the tour group went fishing out in the Gulf. They caught enough fish to feed the group for two dinners with some left over for lunch.

After leaving Karumba we stopped to photograph some decorative termite mounds. We also collected some material from a medium-sized Eucalypt that was common throughout the area. The species was identified as Eucalyptus pruinosa.

Our next overnight camp was at Adels Grove. This pleasant camping area is about 10 kilometres from Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park. The next day was spent at Boodjamulla National Park. This was one of the highlights of the tour. The day was spent bushwalking, canoeing and bird watching. Boodjamulla has everything. Waterfalls, spectacular scenery, interesting plants, Aboriginal sites and rare birds are all accessible in this beautiful Park. Some members of the tour managed to see the rare Purple-crowned Fairy-wren. The Aboriginal site protected engravings, rock art and an interesting shell midden.

Eucalyptus aspera and Eucalyptus terminalis were two species of interest. The latter Bloodwood was in full flower and a specimen near our campsite bulged at the seams with honeyeaters. We also came across a Ficus species with fruits growing out of the trunk.

From Adels Grove we travelled to another section of Lawn Hill National Park. This is the famous Riversleigh Fossil Site. On this section of the tour a qualified Savannah Guide accompanied us. He was very knowledgeable about flora, fauna, history and fossils. We had a guided walk around a section of the site that is open to the public. The Site covers an area of 10,000 hectares and is amongst the richest and most extensive in the world.

After the Riversleigh visit we travelled to Mount Isa. On the way there were many flowering specimens of Eucalyptus terminalis.

Two nights were spent camping at Mount Isa. One morning we travelled to Lake Moondarra. This large body of water is part of the Mount Isa water supply. Ian Ross, a local botanist accompanied the group to the Lake. One unusual plant, growing near the lake, that he identified, was Caustic Vine. A very apt name as the latex from cut stems may cause skin irritation.

A huge mining complex dominates Mount Isa. After lunch we were taken on a bus tour by a retired miner around the complex. The tour took two hours and was an interesting and informative change from observing plants, wildlife and the natural environment.

After leaving Mount Isa we travelled to Winton. On the way we stopped at Cawnpore Lookout. We found our first Eremophila here. As we left the Lookout the bus disturbed a large flock of Galahs. As they flew away their pink and grey feathers obscured the view, from the bus.

The last day of the week our bus took the group to the Lark Quarry Conservation Area. After a short bush walk there was a conducted tour of the fossilized footprints of a dinosaur stampede. This was another unique experience on the tour.

Lunch was eaten in Bladensburg National Park. Specimens of Eremophila bignoniifolia were growing beside a creek.

The last night of the week was spent camping at Longreach.

Garden Diary