The leaf-tailed geckos (Phyllurus, Saltuarius and Orraya) are amongst the most adorned and best camouflaged of the Australian geckos. I’ve gone looking for all nine Phyllurus species, but dipped out on two of them last year. I thought it was about time I had another crack at them. I needed just four new reptile species to take my running total to 350 (my end-of-year goal), so I hoped to get some collaterals along with these two leaf-tails on this trip.
On the first weekend in October, we loaded up the car and headed south to the mountains around Mackay. We arrived at the first site at around 9 PM and started searching straight away. It didn’t take long to find the first species, along with a number of other interesting beasties.
We then headed to the next site, about 30 mins away. I spent a couple of hours here last year, trudging up the mountain and searching for the geckos. Despite (perhaps spurred on by) my failure, a colleague of mine went looking for them earlier this year. And found them. A few metres away from the parking lot. We searched in the same area, and quickly came across a number of them.
This now leaves just one species of Phyllurus for me to see.
After tracking down our two target leaf-tails, we continued west towards Eungella National Park, but stopped at a gorge on the outskirts of the park. We wanted to track down some of the endemic Taudactylus frogs, seeing as we’re unlikely to see any in the wet tropics.
After getting our froggy fill, we continued up the Clarke Range into Eungella National Park proper. The platypuses (platypods?) at Broken River weren’t showing themselves, so we went for a walk in the late afternoon and into the early evening in a forest outside the park.
There were lots of beasties running around, including the handsome and much-loved Lampropholis adonis, a species I had seen the last time I was here. But a slightly different little brown skink caught my attention. Closer examination revealed it to be Calyptotis lepidorostrum, a new species for me and reptick 349.
It was early October and I was just one species away from my end-of-year target of 350! This was pretty amazing, considering that last year I tried to track down my final two species on New Years Eve. As I continued along the walking track, my senses were heightened. I could hear every rustle. I could see every squiggle of movement. I felt like I could smell every creature in the forest, including my human companions. In fact, one of my companions appeared to have worked up quite a sweat and was decidedly malodorous. I tried to ignore it, but the vile miasma was forcing itself up my nostrils. I couldn’t breath. I was choking. I looked over to the stench-ridden American to try to figure out why his aroma was so over-powering. I froze. I realised the smell wasn’t emanating from him. It was the characteristic musky funk of a blind snake he had just found. A big blind snake. A blind snake I hadn’t seen before. It was Ramphotyphlops polygrammicus, reptick 350 for me. I was overwhelmed by the competing feelings of elation brought on by having reached my target (a full three months early, no less), and disappointment of this milestone having been achieved on the scaly back of a blind snake. To the best of my knowledge, scientists aren’t even sure that blind snakes are true reptiles – they may just be slightly drier earthworms*. I was torn. Should I hurry up the path and pretend I hadn’t seen the offensive ophidian and try to end on a more charismatic species? Or should I just accept the fate the herp gods had dished out and subject myself to the scorn and ridicule of my fellow reptickers? In the end, I opted for the latter.
So here I am. It’s October and already my yearly quest is taken care of. I guess the only thing to do now is see how far over 350 I can get. A friend did promise me a carton of Honeycomb Maxibons if I make it to 400 repticks this year, but I think that’s a slightly loftier goal than I’m prepared to set. Although, a carton of Honeycomb Maxibons is pretty tempting, especially considering the withdrawal symptoms I got when we stopped at a servo on the way home.
Running total of Australian reptiles I’ve seen: 350! In stark contrast to previous years, I’ve reached my goal three months early.
*note: I have no evidence to back up this claim.