Last year I thought I’d be moving to Townsville. I got excited by the prospect of living in a new place with new species of wildlife for me to discover (and tick!). Ultimately the plan was changed, a heart was broken and the body stayed in Brisbane. But the mind was left thinking about the repticking possibilities offered by the north. So when some of our work was rained off last week, a friend and I took the opportunity to pack the bags and head to Townsville for a few days. Approaching cyclone be damned!
We arrived in a hot and humid Townsville on Sunday, picked up a hire car, then headed straight to the ferry terminal. We wanted to spent the afternoon chasing Little Brown Skinks on Magnetic Island. Unfortunately, the LBS we were after was nowhere to be found, but we found some other not-quite-as-little and slightly-less-brown skinks to keep us amused.
Eventually, in what was going to be a recurring theme on the trip, we got sick of the mosquitoes and gave up. We caught the ferry back to the mainland and headed off to a patch of bush that we hoped would contain some interesting reptiles. We saw a number of keelbacks, two coastal carpet snakes, a Burton’s legless lizard, a brown tree snake, and lots of frogs.
The next day we headed to the Townsville Town Common to look for some diurnal reptiles and some birds.
That night we headed up to the Paluma Range to look for some reptiles. I wanted to get a decent photo of Saproscincus basiliscus, and I’d heard that a particular creekline up a mountain in Paluma was a good spot to find them. We parked the car and walked about 8km to the bottom of the mountain. Then we hiked about 3km up the mountain to the Saproscincus spot. It didn’t take long before we found one of these unremarkable and widespread animals.
On the way back down the mountain we saw a number of stout barsided skinks (Eulamprus sokosoma) asleep on the rocks. This was my first new reptile species of the trip.
The following day we headed to Mt Elliot in Bowling Green Bay National Park. Near the car park there were allied rock wallabies (Petrogale assimilis), tommy round-head dragons (Diporiphora australis) and lined rainbow-skinks (Carlia jarnoldae) running around the place.
After another 10km walk up the mountain we found our target: a coastal carpet python. I had heard that the pythons on Mt Elliot were bright green, but I think I may be confusing this with another location. Turns out the carpet pythons on Mt Elliot look like every other coastal carpet python. Just as well we walked 20km to find one.
We got back to the car at about 3 AM in the morning. We were soaked with sweat and covered with mosquito bites. My feet had been squelching in my saturated boot for 13 hours, and they looked like the feet of a corpse. The things we do to see reptiles…
The approach of tropical cyclone Ului scared us a bit, so we left Townsville and headed north for unending sunshine and warmth.