Northern New South Wales proved to be very fruitful, but we had deadlines to meet so we started north. We stopped in at Girraween and Main Range.
Wyberba leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius wyberba) displaying excellent camouflage
After seeing all there was to see in Brisbane, we headed down to northern New South Wales for Christmas. We stopped at a creek on the way down and found some giant barred frogs (Mixophyes iteratus).
Giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus)
On Christmas Day I was rewarded with a decent look at a grey goshawk (avitick!) circling above me. After the Christmas formalities were over, we spent a few days travelling through north-eastern New South Wales. Despite having lived in South East Queensland for most of my life, NE NSW was largely unexplored territory for me. We had a number of beast we’d wanted to track down, and got a few bonus species along the way.
After driving down from the Whitsunday region, we arrived in Brisbane. We spent a couple of days poking around and found a number of interesting frogs on the Lamington Plateau.
Masked mountain frog (Philoria loveridgei)
Christmas. The season to be jolly. A time when friends and family come together to reaffirm their love for one another and spread messages of peace and joy. Plus you get time off work and you can go looking for snakes. I’m booked down in Brisbane each Christmas to do the family thing, so a few days before the jolly fat man was set to make an appearance, I loaded up the car in Townsville and headed south. Just as I pulled out of the driveway, I caught a glimpse of my own reflection in the rear-view mirror. But my reflection was wearing a different shirt and speaking in an American accent. Hang on! That’s not my reflection, that’s my younger identical twin, Stephen Michael Zozaya the Fourth. He had no friends or family in Townsville, so he wanted to spend Christmas with me (and apparently his wife was fine with this).
We headed south to the Whitsunday region, where we met up with Paul Horner. After a thirty-year career at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, culminating in his becoming Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates and publishing a massive taxonomic review of the genus Cryptoblepharus, Paul retired to Airlie beach. We stayed the night with Paul and went spotlighting in Conway State Forest. I was after a species of leaf-tailed gecko that I’d already seen, but a leaf-tailed gecko sans tail is not a particularly impressive beast.
While walking around, we came across the first reptile of the trip, and a new one for both SMZ4 and me: Saproscincus hannahae.
Hannah’s shadeskink (Saproscincus hannahae)
In November 2011, I was lucky enough to spend some time at Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tablelands. My main task was tracking down little brown skinks, but I managed to track down some other critters along the way. One of them, the northern dwarf crowned snake (Cacophis churchilli), was a reptick for me and completed my set of Cacophis. Another one, the yellow-breasted boatbill (Machaerirhynchus flaviventer), was an avitick for me and I really regret not being able to get pics of them. They’re gorgeous little birds, full of personality. Probably the highlight, though, was getting to photograph a striped possum. I’d managed a dodgy look at this species several years ago, but this time I was able to spend a decent amount of time watching and photographing one. They’re much bigger than I remember.
Northern dwarf crowned snake (Cacophis churchilli)
It had been a whirlwind three days. We’d seen one of Australia’s most recently described geckos, found a bunch of endemic species on what has to be the world’s oddest mountain, and left a friend for dead while we frolicked with some very small froggies. Chris was flying back home early, but Jordan had a few hours spare in the morning before he flew home. We went down to Mt Elliot and poked around the base. Jordan was happy to see Demansia vestigiata, Carlia rhomboidalis and Lampropholis mirabilis. If he had a Flickr account, I’d link to his photos. But he doesn’t, and I didn’t photograph them myself. I did, however, photograph a representative of the most awesome group of skinks, plus some boring skinks engaging in a certain activity behind (I kid you not) the toilet block.
Carlia pectoralis mating
After doing pretty well in the Cooktown region, we headed south along the Bloomfield track and then back up the range to Mount Lewis. I’d been up to Mt Lewis several times, but it had always been too dry to find most of the frogs I was chasing. Aaron was meeting us there, having left Cooktown a couple of hours before us to drive back the inland way. Chris, Jordan and I headed straight up the mountain when we got there, while Aaron was organising accommodation at Kingfisher Park at the base. I knew we wouldn’t get reception at the top of the mountain, so we simply organised to meet Aaron that night up the top where all the good frogging was.
On the winding drive up to the top, we stopped for a number of frogs on the road. The one I was particularly interested in was the Mount Carbine barred frog (Mixophyes carbinensis). The other two species of Mixophyes that are found in the wet tropics (M. coggeri and M. schevilli) are pretty easy to come across, but M. carbinensis is only found at higher elevations on the Carbine Tableland. We stopped at each creek we crossed on the way up and listened for calling frogs. I didn’t know what M. carbinensis‘s call sounded like, but I knew the other two and figured we’d just listen for something like that and then try identify the caller visually. It didn’t take long for Jordan to track a calling mixo down, and we were delighted to ID it as M. carbinensis.
Mount Carbine barred frog (Mixophyes carbinensis)
After the parrot-viewing, we headed back south and then towards the coast and Cooktown. We’d spent longer with the parrots than we’d expected, so we were running behind time (which is to be expected when traveling with me). We had only a couple more days, and many more animals to harass. We wanted to get into Cooktown before dark, because our next target would go into hiding when the sun went down.
Black Mountain rises like a stack of charred meatballs left behind by some careless Swedish giant. Originally a single piece of Trevethan Granite that solidified in the Permian Period, the mountain took its current form as millions of years of weathering caused the rock to fracture into a myriad of boulders. The black coloration is formed from a coating of lichen, with the underlying granite being a pinkish-grey colour.
Black Mountain, part of the Black Trevethan Range in north-east Queensland