The Laura Sandstone

After leaving Tully, we had to cover a lot of ground to get up to Laura before nightfall. We were looking for a gecko at Laura, but had only a rough idea of where to look for it. We did, however, know what sort of habitat we should be looking in. The Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna) is known only from the tall cliffs of the Laura sandstone formation. We needed to get to Laura while it was still light so we could look for these big sandstone cliffs.

Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna) habitat
Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna) habitat

We were late setting off from Tully, and we got distracted along the way. Despite this, we arrived at our destination before dark. Rather fortuitously, we had passed a local landholder as we drove in and he told us the best place to find the sort of habitat we were after. A few of my friends have seen this gecko, and the location the landholder had told us about matched the description my friends had given me. I had been warned by these same friends that the track up into the escarpment was rough (so rough, in fact, that softer gecko-hunters had been forced to abandoned their attempts to drive in), but I had complete faith in the Critter Cruiser. That faith was well-placed, and we got up onto the escarpment ridge with ease. We located some cliffs and started walking there as the sun went down. We arrived at the top of the cliff. Jordan and I struggled to find a way to the bottom of the cliff, until Chris yelled out that he could see a gecko on the cliff face. Somehow (I think gravity might have been involved) I was magically transported down to the bottom (I think a gentle push from Jordan may also have been involved). I raced over to where Chris was pointing his light, to find one of the largest ring-tailed geckos I’ve ever seen in my life.

We found a couple of other lizards down in this gorge, but no Quinkan velvet geckos.

Coastal ring-tailed gecko (Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus)
Coastal ring-tailed gecko (Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus)

Dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia)?
Gehyra dubia or Gehyra baliola or undescribed Gehyra sp.

We had a look at some satellite imagery on the trusty iPhone, and walked out the bottom of the gorge towards another set of cliffs about one kilometre away. We were in what appeared to be a wide, shallow gorge, with a creek running through it. While walking, we disturbed a number of animals, including many black-throated rainbow-skinks (Carlia rostralis) and wood frogs (Rana damelli), and a Lygisaurus malleolus and Nactus cheverti.

Wood frog (Rana daemeli)
Wood frog (Rana daemeli)

Black-throated rainbow-skink (Carlia rostralis)
Black-throated rainbow-skink (Carlia rostralis)

Chevert's gecko (Nactus cheverti)
Chevert’s gecko (Nactus cheverti)

Red-tailed litter-skink (Lygisaurus malleolus)
Red-tailed litter-skink (Lygisaurus malleolus)

We also came across a northern velvet gecko (Oedura castelnaui), which caused my heart to stop momentarily when I first spotted it (one Oedura can look very much like another Oedura when spotted out of the corner of your eye in low light). We still had another 500m to go until the next set of large cliffs, so we continued on. As we walked, we went by a small outcrop of sandstone, about 1m tall. It was nothing like the 15-metre-tall cliffs mentioned in the description of the species, so I considered it boring and not worthy of inspection. My interest, however, was piqued somewhat when Chris yelled out “Got one!”. He was standing next to the small termite mound both Jordan and I had walked past, beaming at the soft-skinned, yellow-tailed gecko he’d spotted. We photographed the beast on the termite mound, then proceeded to find another three specimens on the low sandstone outcrop and one more on the trunk of a dead tree just next to the sandstone.

Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna)
Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna)

Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna)
Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna)

Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna) habitat. If you squint, you can see the gecko.
Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna) habitat

We were elated, and it was a very pleasant birthday present for me. Needless to say, we didn’t walk to the other sandstone cliffs. We headed back to the car, got back out on the main road, and headed north towards Artemis Station. The next morning we had a date with a very special bird.

The previous day had involved lots of driving, late night wanderings (and subsequent late night elation) and more driving. Fatigue eventually set in, and we stopped for a rest on the side of the road a couple of hours south of our destination, Artemis Station. We woke up a few hours later and continued on, arriving on sunrise. The station owner was expecting us and took us out to a special location. The four of us wandered around for a while, then Chris’ ears pricked up. “Look! Do you hear that?”, he yelled. We looked hard, and then we we heard it. It was the sharp, scratchy, metallic-yet-musical ‘chwit, chwit’ of a golden-shouldered parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius). There were a couple of them flitting around the tree canopy, but we couldn’t get a good look. We stayed there for a while, but eventually the pair flew off. The station owner then suggested we head down to an area that was regularly used by the parrots as a feeding ground (because the station owner put bird seed there). We sat patiently in front of the bird feeder and were eventually rewarded with amazing views of a male golden-shouldered parrot. Unfortunately, I’d left my camera back in the car. I did get a photo of a female earlier on, though.

Golden-shouldered parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius)
Golden-shouldered parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius). A rubbish photo, but a pretty special bird.

During our wanderings, we also came across Carlia vivax running around in the grass, and Gehyra dubia (sitting on the wooden bird feeder).

Dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia)
Dubious dtella (Gehyra dubia)

Running total: 354

Repticks:
Oedura jowalbinna
Lygisaurus malleolus

Avitick:
Golden-shouldered parrot (Psephotus chrysopterygius)

About Stewart Macdonald

I'm a wildlife ecologist living and working in Queensland, Australia. I spend most of my time in the bush finding and photographing wildlife.
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