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.