For the last couple of months, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on the first of what will hopefully be a series of electronic field guides. This one is the most comprehensive electronic field guide to the snakes of Australia, co-authored with Stephen Zozaya. It’s available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. There will be an Android version eventually.
Buy it now on the Apple App Store, or find out more about it on the Snakes of Australia website.
After leaving the area around Coen, we travelled south to the Daintree Rainforest. Our main target was a little brown skink on a particular mountain, and we weren’t disappointed. Along the way, we found a few other beasties.
Northern tree snake (Dendrelaphis calligastra). Daintree, Queensland.
After leaving Iron Range, we headed north towards the Jardine River. As we were driving back south, we found a very interesting animal on the road. The stripe-tailed delma (Delma labialis) was previously thought to occur only in a small section of coastal habitat from just north of Townsville, south to some islands off the coast of Mackay. Finding one 1000km north of Townsville was pretty exciting. This was couple with the fact that I had previously found one near Moranbah, which was a south-western range extension of about 200km. The Heathlands population is probably disjunct from the souther population, but the two populations are morphologically and genetically very similar.
We continued south through Coen, stopping to find a Little Brown Skink, and ended up in the Daintree Rainforest.
Stripe-tailed delma (Delma labialis). Heathlands Resources Reserve, Queensland.
After leaving Weipa, we spent the best part of a day driving to Iron Range National Park. This was the main destination for our trip, as I really wanted to find a green python. We found one on the second night, but stayed in Iron Range for another couple of nights so that we could fully explore the place.
White-lipped tree frog (Litoria infrafrenata). Iron Range, Queensland.
After leaving Laura, we headed north to meet up with a friend in Weipa who’d offered to take us out in her boat that night to look for little file snakes (Acrochordus granulatus). We headed to a caravan park to set up camp, and unloaded the vehicle. As I stood up on the side-step to reach some gear on the roof, I felt a strange, soggy sensation underfoot from what should have been a very solid lump of metal. Looking more closely at the sidestep, I realised that the road corrugations had vibrated it to the point of cracking. As it was hanging on by just a figurative thread, I decided to rip it off and be done with it.
A casualty of the heavily corrugated dirt road
Cape York Peninsula, the pointy bit on the top of Queensland, has long held a fascination for me. The Cape contains a wide variety of habitat types, including open woodland, sandstone escarpment, freshwater wetlands, mangrove-lined estuaries and much, much more. But perhaps the most fascinating is the relatively small (by world standards) patch of lowland rainforest found on the Iron and McIlraith Ranges. I say relatively small, but this is actually the largest patch of lowland rainforest in Australia. It’s the remains of the ancient rainforest that extended up the peninsula and across the land bridge to Papua New Guinea back when sea levels were around 100m lower than they are today (a mere 12,000 to 18,000 years ago). By dint of this recent connection, the rainforest of Iron Range is home to many species that are also found in Papua New Guinea. It was one such inhabitant that I was especially keen to see: the green python (Morelia viridis). This emerald-green gem was one of three Australian python species that I was yet to see, but over and above that, it is simply a spectacular snake.
But Iron Range is a long way from Townsville. Before I could even start looking for these bright green snakes, I’d have to contend with untimely departures, writhing taipans, endless roadworks, damaged cars and overpriced fuel.
We left Townsville and quickly came upon a just-hit taipan on the Bruce Highway. When we first saw it, it had clearly been hit but was still alive, but by the time we’d flipped around and pulled up alongside it, at least one more car had been over it and the snake was well and truly dead. At the time, that was the closest I’d come to seeing a live, wild taipan. We continued north to Cairns to pick up another adventurer, then headed to Mt Lewis to meet up with the other carload of wildlife voyeurs who’d be accompanying us up the Cape. It was the start of the Wet Season, so the frogs were out in force up the mountain.
Northern ornate nursery-frog (Cophixalus ornatus)
A friend’s 40th birthday on Magnetic Island was a good excuse to head over and track down a few of the locals, including the island’s endemic skink, Menetia sadlieri.
Allied rock-wallaby (Petrogale assimilis)
I did lots of fieldwork in the second half of 2012, but most of it involved catching a select few little brown skinks. I still managed to track down a variety of interesting beasts (not all reptilian), some of which are presented here.
Cyclops, the one-eyed rufous owl (Ninox rufa), proving that binocular vision in predators is totally overrated. Townsville, Queensland.