Although it’s the bird du jour around almost any given sub-tropical picnic area and car park, my shots of Australian Brush-turkey in the dark depths of Natural Bridge*, in Springbrook National Park’s lushly magnificent rainforest, all had something missing.
But that’s what you get for driving up the impossibly steep Border Ranges from New South Wales across the Queensland Border, into Springbrook National Park and under a rainforest canopy so dense the temperature drops several degrees and you’re instantly transported into the twilight zone.
All very moody and atmospheric, but for the photographically challenged? Well, check out my turkey shots for yourself …
And although it was mid-afternoon this warm and sunny July day, the sun had already well and truly set at the bottom of the valley to which we descended on the 1 km circuit trail, and the dank chill was rising from the rushing stream below.
Maybe we’d arrived too late. Or maybe the sun NEVER descended down this far …
In the gloom, the Brush-turkeys scuttled through the undergrowth like a pack of giant winged rats at the end of a hunger strike.
Personally, I blame the school holidays.
The unhappy July 2013 conjunction of both the Queensland AND New South Wales winter break had swollen the already high number of tourists gravitating to Natural Arch, a mere 4 km from the border shared by the two states.
As opportunistic as anything I’ve seen in the birding world, the turkeys had – perhaps inadvertently – exploited the social media driven urge to post 100 random photos a day by willingly posing for countless photo shoots of ‘me feeding wild birds’!
Dull though these postings may be to the uninterested (and perhaps uncool!), many turkeys (like their human counterparts) had now adapted to all the worst elements of a Standard Australian Diet.
And ‘hunting and gathering’ had taken on a whole new first world problem meaning!
The Natural Bridge section of Springbrook National Park preserves a small sample of the rainforest native to this area and is part of the 0.3% of Australian rainforest left after ‘civilisation’.
So wandering through this rare fragment of magnificent rainforest can be awe-inspiring – when not dodging errant school holidaymakers, wannabe sporting superheroes defying the warning signs and running amok in the creek and losers getting in my way taking up all of the narrow track to the Arch, that is.
Sadly, in the absence of a camera-wielding Steve Parish**, I was forced to take my own rainforest shots of the green mossy logs, streams running over rocks, trailing vines and epiphytic ferns.
It’s no contest as to who is the better photographer … but does Pilchard the secret ingredient in my shots perhaps give me a unique edge?
I’ll leave that judgement to you …
Formed by erosion and weathering from the full force of the creek as it descends into the valley, Natural Bridge is actually a hole in the rock where water rushes into a grotto below.
Although its resident glow worms weren’t lighting up the darkness of the cave yet, the unearthly glow from light above the hole through which the water fell created a splash of colour in the gloom.
Thankfully, its roar also drowned out the background noise for a rare moment of solitude before the climb back up the creek gorge to a vantage point overlooking the top of the arch, now well below us.
Back in the car park and in increasing darkness, we extricated our car with some difficulty from vehicles parked too close, backpackers preparing dinner and the rampaging turkeys on their never-ending quest for food.
As we left the National Park, the otherworldly gloom of this abundant and spectacular rainforest reserve fell behind us as we emerged onto the New South Wales road – aglow with bright, late-afternoon sunlight.