A PASSION for wildlife and more than 40 years of inside knowledge of Cape York’s unique flora, fauna and landscapes has led former ranger and iconic Cape bushman Barry Lyon to become a documentary filmmaker.
Based in Cooktown, Mr Lyon has spent most of his working life travelling the Cape, including 30 years as a ranger and 10 years living in a tent on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.
“I’ve been filming for the last four or five years, but I’ve not done something on this scale before,” Mr Lyon told Cape York Weekly.
“There are so many amazing stories on the Cape and there haven’t been any comprehensive documentaries on the area.”
Mr Lyon has been working on the documentary for the past few years, aiming to make a two-part special featuring the southern Cape up to Princess Charlotte Bay and the second half showcasing the northern Peninsula.
“I’ve got a target list of species I want to film, and I want to do things like the springs that feed the Jardine River, the mangroves, turtles nesting and freshwater crocodiles,” he said.
He said numerous encounters stood out to him, including filming a rare frog which lives exclusively on the barren black boulders of Black Mountain National Park near Cooktown, the only footage he knows of in existence.
“I’ve got footage of the riflebirds doing their display to try and attract females, palm cockatoos and golden-shouldered parrots, as well as flatback turtles.
“There’s a type of rainforest in the Wenlock catchment; they’re like little islands surrounded by woodlands, it’s an ancient relic rainforest that probably covered Cape York once but has shrunk over the years as conditions dried.
“Most of the stuff I film is interesting to me, but for the documentary it has to tell a story, how it all connects and supports the ecosystems that make up Cape York.”
Doing most of the filming himself, and stepping in front of the camera to narrate, Mr Lyon said the documentary had been a challenge.
“Being in front of the camera terrifies me, but you just have to give it your best shot,” he said.
“I’ve got a friend who will co-present and narrate as well, and I’ll also showcase some of the people involved with nature and conservation, including graziers, rangers and Traditional Owners.
“I’m learning all the time and have been doing bits and pieces of filming for other groups as well, a lot of it voluntary.”
Mr Lyon’s showreel has piqued the interest of two different European distribution companies, who are eagerly awaiting the final product, which he hopes will be ready next year.
Mr Lyon has been a Cape York local for more than four decades, working and travelling across the countryside.
“I was really privileged to be the first ranger ever appointed to Cape York back in 1979 at Lakefield – we even had horses for work,” he said.
“I spent 10 years at the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve as a ranger and doing lots of research tracking crocs and speartooth sharks and then worked with Cape York Natural Resource Management doing fire management and threatened species work, but now I’m semi-retired and freelancing.”
Although he’s hard-pressed to admit it, the well-known Cape identity also has a Master’s degree in wildlife ecology and is regularly contracted by the government for his intimate knowledge of the area.
“You can just call me a former ranger,” he said.