Friday, 17 October 2014

A working weekend.

This weekend is going to be a write off at least far as reptile and amphibian photography goes. My neglected garden and yard is screaming for some attention so I hope to get it all organised this weekend and do some serious herping for the next couple of weekends after that.
I did manage some research during the past week though and found through a resource called wildlife online an initiative of the EPA that I may well have a few animals that I need to add to my lists and one or two that probably should be deleted. All of the animals shown below should in theory and according to the wildlife online information be found within the Toowoomba regional area and there also a few that I haven't managed to photograph as yet which will extend my list even further. I intend to check these out with some of my more learned and better informed colleges before I officially alter my lists but I'm fairly confident that some at least will most certainly need to be included.
The two reptiles that I believe may be deleted from the project are the Brown-backed Yellow-lined Ctenotus ( Ctenotus eurydice) and the White's Skink (Liopholis whitii). Both of these are recorded either in the above resource or in the Atlas of Living Australia however the records for the White's Skink are all old and are possibly prior to the identification of the similar Eastern Ranges Rock Skink with which it could easily be confused. The Ctenotus has only one record for the area which may indicate that its presence in the region is doubtful.
The reptiles which appear on the wildlife online lists that I have not yet seen are:
Ragged Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus)
Menentia greyii
Menentia timlowi
Ctenotus spaldingi - which appears to be a taxonomic reshuffle that I haven't heard of as yet.
(Just advised that this name is currently in use to replace C. robustus but may not be a permanent change. Thanks to Scott Eipper.
Brigalow Scaly-foot (Paradelma orientalis)
All of the photographs below were taken outside of the South East Queensland region. Some were close to and no more than a hundred and fifty kilometres from the western and south western borders of the region.
The Eastern Snapping Frog
These guys are giants and are often recorded consuming other frogs not much smaller than themselves. Usually only seen after soaking spring and summer rains.
Golden-tailed gecko, in my opinion one of the most attractive Australian geckos. I hope that I do get to include them in the book.
The Shingleback another Aussie icon and also on my long list of favourites.
Lerista punctatovittata one of a large genus of burrowing skinks.
Oops my bad this one is actually an Eastern Mulch Slider (Lerista fragilis) which happens to be a photo that I require anyway. Thanks for the correction Scott.
Eastern Spiny-tailed Gecko.
In the same genus as the Golden-tailed Gecko, not as colourful but still striking in its own right.
I have to check this fella out. On the wildlife online lists they mention Gehyra versicolor which is a name that I am not familiar with. This is Gehyra variegata which I believe is the gecko they are referring to. Once again it is probably a taxonomic change that I haven't kept up with.
I have just been informed that Gehyra versicolor is the correct name for these geckos in the eastern half of their range. Thanks once again Scott.
The Holy Cross Frog or Crucifix Toad.
One of the trippiest frogs you will ever see. Once again a burrowing species that is usually only seen after heavy rain. I am not really sure if they will be included as the Toowoomba region records all date back to the early 1960's.
If anyone can offer some advice through recent personal experience with the animals listed above within the South East Queensland region I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
That's it for now hopefully have some fresh pics next week.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Promises, promises

I am going to have to stop making promises that I can't keep. As I said last post the hope was to bring you some outstanding mammal photographs this week. Well turns out that wasn't quite right. Saturday just gone saw us a family, my wife, son and I head off around 3.30 in the morning to meet up with a friend of my son who lives in Hervey Bay a few hours north of the Sunshine Coast. The plan was for a full days whale watching aboard one of the smaller vessels that works that area. The first two photos are of a couple of the local birds which were hanging around the boat as we were waiting to cast off. Arguably the two most interesting photos that I took all day although I didn't know that at the time. As we cruised out of the harbour the skipper informed us that as this was the last whale watching day of the season we probably wouldn't get to see too much whale action and if we did they might not be all that active. turns out he was right although that information given at the time of booking might have been a little more useful. Anyway we did see two whales a mother and a very small late season calf and they were quite happy to spend a fair amount of time at the surface, though mum was obviously conserving her energy for the long swim south.
A view of Fraser Island in the distance on the way out to Platypus Bay.
The whales. Despite the fact that we were some distance from them most of the time and they made no effort to approach the boat it was still an awe inspiring experience to come that close to some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet.

On the trip back to the marina we stopped for a very short time on one of the beaches along the western side of Fraser Island. I would have liked to have had a lot more time to explore here but that wasn't to be.

As there was to be a mammal theme for this post and the fact that I did not see a single reptile or amphibian all weekend I thought that I should probably dig out a few old shots to attempt to make things a little more interesting.
A couple of Humpbacks showing a bit more interest a few years back.

Local Red-legged Pademelons (apologies for the red eyes).

Local Grey-headed Flying Foxes. These guys were roosting in a large group of both Grey-headed and also Black Flying Foxes. Unfortunately in Australia Flying Foxes have become one of the most despised and mistreated native animals that I can recall apart from snakes of course. Correct me If I am wrong but I believe that science has dis-proven the theory the virus they were thought to spread to humans via horses begins in and can only be transmitted by these creatures. The real reason that most people hate them is that a colony close by homes can reduce the real estate values and the virus was the perfect excuse to wipe them out.
I find it strange that we can justify the destruction of the natural world on a grand scale for the betterment of mankind and then complain bitterly when the displaced native creatures attempt to survive in whats left of their habitats. What we all need to come to terms with and very quickly I feel is that once we as a species of animal have exerted our dominance to the point where nothing much else can survive we have effectively signed our own death warrants in the process. It's not called the web of life for nothing!
A Fawn-footed Melomys. A rat like native rodent that appears to be quite common here in the hinterland.
This one fell into one of our feed barrels in the shed whilst foraging.
This Koala spent most of the day perched in a dead tree only a few meters from the ground and less than thirty meters from my home a few months back. It is a truly humbling experience to be able to share our property with such wonderful creatures.
A Ring-tailed Possum.
An Echidna. This fella was on the road out west a few years back. Most of the animals we see locally appear to be smaller, and are becoming increasingly uncommon.
The other Australian monotreme, the Platypus. This guy was photographed at dawn in the Broken River west of Mackay a few years ago.
Once again I am at the end. Talk to you again soon. No promises this week lets play it by ear.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Two days of peace and quiet

With the advent of a long weekend it was decided that a short trip with the specific aim of photographing a few of my target species of reptiles and amphibians would be a good idea. Long weekends are notorious for traffic and people congestion and as it was still school holidays as well I decided to head out west a bit away from the "normal" folk who tend to flock to the coast at times like these. My son was meant to join me but a tiring week of work for him left me on my pat malone for a few days to enjoy some of the delights that the Somerset and Toowoomba regions have to offer. The pop up tent, sleeping bag and roll up mattress along with the billy, camp stove and camera gear all went into my little buzz box (she is fantastic on fuel but not very comfortable on dusty dirt roads) on Friday night and we headed off for a relaxing and hopefully productive weekend.
If I was to quantify the results in purely economical terms it would have to be classed as a failure as I did not manage to find any of the three target species that I had hoped to photograph after driving more than eight hundred and fifty kilometres. Luckily for me I don't give a rats about that crap and enjoyed finding and photographing some superb scenery and critters all beit fairly common ones. For the snake lovers out there, sorry but it was really slim pickings with only three live snakes sighted, two Eastern Browns and one Common Tree Snake all of which were very unco-operative for the lens. Unfortunately many large Eastern Browns were DOR victims and most of the fresh kills seemed to have been targeted with much more damage evident such as skinning and spinal protrusion than you would normally expect from an accidental impact. I have no doubt that they think that they are doing the world a favour by taking out these magnificent though much maligned creatures, fact is they are just shit scared of them.
Friday nights drive was uneventful with only one DOR Keelback and Saturday night was just as poor but I really didn't expect too much from the nights this early in the season.
I was up and about early, around 6am on Saturday in Ravensbourne National Park. It's only tiny in size but is a very special spot with remnant sub tropical rainforest hanging on undisturbed but for the odd bush walker. I found myself imagining what it would have been like out there before the push for prosperity but that's history for ya. Although the Somerset region is generally far more wooded and better off in terms of native vegetation than areas directly to the west, south and south west I cant help feeling that had the early and to a certain extent current farming communities had the for thought and some compassion for the rest of nature that we as a species would have benefited greatly from leaving some natural bush corridors amongst the farms. In terms of natural systems it's a proven fact now that having natural vegetation and the associated natural checks and balances of pests and diseases is invaluable for the reduction of chemical use and also aids in productivity and therefore profit. When you get out further into the areas that have been completely razed for crop production the only trees you see are clumped around the farming homesteads. They obviously knew that they were necessary for their survival and general well being i.e. shade and shelter just didn't care enough to leave a few for the other species of animals that used to live there.
The little Strangler Figs below have begun life almost at ground level in Ravensbourne National Park. The giant stranglers often start off as a seed in bird droppings at the top of another forest tree and send their roots earthwards engulfing the host tree in the process.
Come back in a hundred years or so (provided our governments have not decided that National Parks are not worth preserving any more) and these trees should be towering giants in there own right.


 A spot called the caves in the drier section of Ravensbourne National Park.
A few of the furry residents of the dams between Ravensbourne and Crows Nest areas.

 A small termite mound in the same area with some external damage possibly caused by an Echidna or monitor at ground level and an monitor lizard up a little higher on the nest.
The first of the live snakes for the weekend. Shocking photograph and the only one I got but at least he didn't become a victim of the next vehicle.
A few shots of the two dams in the area.

Crows Neat National Park was very different and much drier despite the fact that as the crow flies there's only thirty or forty kilometres separating the two. This little male Nobby Dragon was out and about during the heat of the morning displaying his breeding colours.
An Elegant Snake-eyed Skink playing hide and seek around the trunk of the tree.
The Valley Of Diamonds in the park. I didn't have the time nor the energy to walk it but its definitely on the list for my next visit.
This very dark Lace Monitor was pretty camera shy.
Another smaller male Nobby Dragon.
On the track back the car this little wasp was dragging her unfortunate prey, a cricket of some sort to her burrow. She got very defensive when I moved in close for a photo.
Crows Nest creek from above.
A couple of Martin's Skinks. Pretty ordinary shots from way too far away.

I disturbed something a bit bigger just up the track from the second Martin's Skink and all I saw was this tail disappear into the rocks.
I sat motionless on a rock at the edge of the track for about three minutes before this stunning Major Skink made a partial appearance just above where he had disappeared. Unfortunately a large group of walkers followed behind me and he disappeared again but didn't re-emerge.
I would have loved to get a full body shot of him as his colours and pattern were striking.

A couple of shots at the creek. I have become obsessed with reflections for some reason.

A small Eastern Bearded Dragon from a little further west.

This shot made his head appear more elongated than I remembered.

This ferocious looking little beastie was crossing a road at night. You often see spider eye shine on the roads at night glinting like tiny diamonds but this one was very bright which is the reason I stopped to check it out. I have no idea of the species I will attempt to have it identified and let you know, unless someone can offer an identification in the mean time.

 One of my target species was the Olive Delma which as I said proved elusive. I did however manage to find this little Excitable Delma.

Another case of sit and wait for a photographic opportunity. I heard the rustle in the grass between the boulders and sat down as still as possible until this Eastern Striped Skink showed itself. Unfortunately he didn't like the camera either and took off again but at least I found out what it was.

 None of my subjects this weekend were very co-operative with this little South Eastern Morethia Skink preferring to hug the protection of cover as well.

 A sleepy looking Tree Skink.
And a scruffy looking Eastern Ranges Rock Skink, displaying battle scars  probably from a mating season scuffle.
A Maquarie Turtle in the Japanese Gardens at Toowoomba photographed from the shore of the pond quite a distance from the subject.
A mob of them on the shady side of the island with the sun shining into the camera.
Closer to the coast on the way home I stopped for a break and this colourful Lace Monitor was much more obliging than his western relatives.

He was starting to get a bit wary as I got closer though.

Here he has decided that I was too close and dropped as low as possible to the rock in order to become "invisible".
Two very common and very different looking members of the same species of small skink.
The Garden Skink would be a familiar sight to many Australians living along most of the eastern coastline.
That was quite a mission writing out this post certainly a lot harder than the previous few days had been that's for sure, it was a very invigorating and enjoyable weekend. It's good for the soul now and again, I reckon there should be more of it. All the very best, hope you enjoyed the read and the photo's and I'll talk to you again soon.
I do have something planned for next weekend, possibly not too many reptile photo's but hopefully some interesting mammal shots so please stay tuned.