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 Post subject: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 2:40 am 

Joined: January 14th, 2011, 6:41 pm
Posts: 52
Location: SE QLD, Australia
For those of us that are interested in herps, winter time in the southern parts of Australia can be a really crappy and boring time of year.. So what do you do when it's cold? Get in a car with friends and drive nearly 3000km north to where the temperatures are at a much more reptile friendly level! That is what myself and three others decided to do to escape the ridiculously cold winter that we were experiencing in South-east Queensland this year.
The destination was Iron Range National Park which is located towards the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, an area that is inaccessible for half of the year due to the rainfall during the wet season.
The plan was to spend three weeks up there targeting Green Tree Pythons Morelia viridis which are not meant to be an easy species to find during winter time as they seek out the sunlight at the top of the rainforest canopy to keep warm.

The first day three of us drove flat out for 16 hours to get to Townsville where we would pick up the fourth member of the group, an American obsessed with all things small, brown and skink-like ...he was quickly given the nickname Hank the Yank. We managed a few hours sleep and then quickly were up again to continue our journey north. First stop the Atherton Tablelands where the temperatures were still far from ideal! However we managed a few small critters...

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Pale-lipped Shade Skink - Saproscincus basiliscus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Robust Whistlefrog - Austrochaperina robusta by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Green-eyed Tree Frog - Litoria serrata by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Prickly Forest Skink - Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Northern Leaf Tail Gecko - Saltuarius cornutus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Waterfall Frog - Litoria nannotis by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Wasn't too bad of a night at all considering the low temperatures, however our target species, the Chameleon Gecko Carphodactylus laevis wasn't as silly as us to be out in the cold so it was to go unseen unfortunately.
The next day we were to head to the bottom of the Cape to target another species of gecko Oedura jowalbinna, however after driving 30km of the worst dirt road I had ever seen, vehicle clearance issues got the better of us and we had to accept defeat and turn around and drive the horrible 30km back to the main road again... not a good start as far as target species go! Instead we decided to poke around a rock escarpment close to the main road...

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Nactus cheverti by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Ring-tailed Gecko - Cyrtodactylus tuberculatus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Many Gehyra dubia were also seen but I took no pictures as this was a species I had seen many times before. After looking around the rocks we continued north without seeing much at all besides the odd frog, soon fatigue got the better of us and it was time to sleep.
We rose fairly early with excitement knowing that by night fall we would reach our destination! Hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of heavily corregated dirt road was getting the better of me and I really couldn't wait to get to Iron Range!.. The drive was broken up though with the odd stop to poke around for animals..

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Northern Velvet Gecko (Oedura castelnaui) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Two-lined Dragon (Diporiphora bilineata) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Iron Range National Park turnoff by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Only about a kilometre after the turnoff we were greeted by our first snake of the trip, a species I had been dying to see after seeing a lot of roadkills before but never a live one.

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Black-headed Python - Aspidites melanocephalus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

The rest of the drive into the National Park was fairly uneventful besides a couple of creek crossings and a flat tyre. We continued on through the rainforest of Iron Range and out into the heath land heading towards Chili Beach in the hope that there would be a vacant camping spot, but we weren't so lucky. However having to camp back in the rainforest would soon work to our advantage.

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Chili Beach - Iron Range National Park, QLD by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Nactus eboracensis by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Once night fell we set out on our first walk in search of the target species. The rainforest is an amazing place once darkness falls and the calls of frogs echo through the trees, White-lipped Tree Frogs and Wood Frogs can be seen nearly everwhere you look!

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White-lipped Tree Frog - Litoria infratrenata by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Wood Frog - Rana daemeli by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Within only an hour of walking I heard the words GREEN PYTHON come out of the mouth of a very excited Hank the Yank as he quickly dropped to his knees and looked down in a tangle of vines just above ground level. As I ran over I had to do a double take at what I was looking at ....it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! The snake was quickly nicknamed Hank. Success on the first night!

Little Hank in all his glory!
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Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Now that the target species had been found we were now free to see what else was in the area...

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Black-tailed bar-lipped skink (Glaphyromorphus nigricaudis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Brown-headed Snake (Furina tristis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

On the second night we went walking through vine-thicket looking for Giant Tree Geckos Pseudothecodactylus australis. We didn't manage to find the gecko but did stumble upon one of these.... not another one!

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Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Green Tree Python (Morelia viridis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

A few more herps from the area...

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Northern Banjo Frog - Limnodynastes terraereginae by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Scrub Python (Morelia kinghorni) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Spotted Tree Monitor (Varanus scalaris) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Common Tree Snake - Dendrelaphis punctulatus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Burton's Legless Lizard - Lialis burtonis by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

On our final day/night we walked for many hours trying to locate Giant Tree Geckos and saw a few animals along the way (water pythons, slatey grey snakes and the odd gecko). Finally a Giant Tree Gecko was spotted way up a tree, unfortunately I didn't have my zoom lens with me so didn't get to take any photos of it, but the others did so if they see this maybe they could add a picture :)

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Slatey Grey Snake - Stegonotus cucullatus by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Zig-zag Velvet Gecko - Oedura rhombifer by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

It was now time to head south back towards home, the aim was to get to Black Mountain National Park near Cooktown by the next night. It rained nearly the whole way back down the Cape which made driving on the dirt road like driving on ice!

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Mertens Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Mertens Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Black Mountain is an amazing place and some of the boulders are the size of a house! It is quite easy to get lost on the mountain at night. The aim here was to find a species of gecko and frog that are endemic to the black boulders of the mountain.

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Black Mountain National Park, Queensland. by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Black Mountain Gecko (Nactus galgajuga) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

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Female Black Mountain Boulder Frog (Cophixalus saxatilis) by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

It was now a very long drive home but not without seeing one more reptile..

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Freshwater Crocodile - Crocodylus johnstoni by Mattsummerville, on Flickr

Now looking back on the trip, seeing not one, but two Green Tree Pythons in the wild just seems like a dream!

Cheers.
Matt


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 7:41 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
Posts: 1207
Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Awesome post and great photography man! Thanks a lot for sharing.


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 8:09 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 8:33 am
Posts: 454
Location: SF Bay Area
I know I'm going to be in the minority here but The banjo frog and the black mtn gecko are my favorites. Bad-ass animals throughout! Well done.


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 8:47 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Posts: 2519
Location: San Antonio, TX
Great critters + great story + great photos = great post.


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 9:50 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:05 pm
Posts: 837
Location: Kansas
World class photography. You have a real gift.

Thanks for posting!

Dan


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 9:51 am 
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Joined: June 29th, 2010, 5:50 am
Posts: 320
Location: northern Westchester co., NY
Man. Have any room over there for another yank?


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 10:01 am 
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Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Posts: 312
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Fantastic stuff. Keep it coming!

John


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 10:59 am 
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Joined: October 28th, 2010, 4:34 am
Posts: 132
Location: based in UK
Schell, I'm with you on the Banjo frog, the Robust Whistlefrog is also awesome. Great photos and a great post.


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 2:16 pm 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 10:19 am
Posts: 258
Location: Jyväskylä, Finland
Reading the subject, I was thinking: "Chondros or it didn't happen".

Got me.

Great post!


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 8:19 pm 

Joined: October 19th, 2010, 12:38 pm
Posts: 41
Great post! Love the Iron Range. It is a total thrill to see a GTP in their natural habitat.
Justin


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 9:37 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 am
Posts: 144
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Man, that 'Hank the Yank' fella must be incredible!

Good post, Matt


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 12th, 2011, 3:59 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 533
Matt,

Wonderful photos! I love the first GTP hanging from the small tree. It really is a good one. Looks like you guys did very well but I am disappointed not to see shots of an Orange Jezebel along with the herps. ;)

StephenZozaya wrote:
Man, that 'Hank the Yank' fella must be incredible!

Good post, Matt

I wonder who that guy could be?


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 14th, 2011, 1:19 am 

Joined: January 14th, 2011, 6:41 pm
Posts: 52
Location: SE QLD, Australia
Thanks guys :)

moloch wrote:
Matt,

Wonderful photos! I love the first GTP hanging from the small tree. It really is a good one. Looks like you guys did very well but I am disappointed not to see shots of an Orange Jezebel along with the herps. ;)


Haha, I'm guessing an Orange Jezebel is a butterfly? I don't have the patience that you have David, I get frustrated just trying to get near butterflies let alone taking photos of them! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 14th, 2011, 3:26 am 
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Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm
Posts: 277
Awesome, so awesome. Stephen sent me a few photos a while back and on reading this post I have once again assumed a shade of green not dissimilar from that of those pythons.....jerks.

BTW, excellent photography.


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: August 14th, 2011, 1:45 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 533
Hello Matt,

Yes, the Orange (aka Golden) Jezebel is a beautiful butterfly that is confined to the upper Cape York. The Iron Range has a number of special butterflies but I did not see many of these at the end of the dry season on my only trip to the park. I would love to get back again and try for these now that I know how to bait. Also, would love to see the northern herps again.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 10:29 pm 
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Joined: July 7th, 2012, 5:15 am
Posts: 9
Location: Australia
Excellent herp photography Matt. Can you please tell us a bit about your gear?


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 8th, 2012, 11:32 pm 
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Joined: July 15th, 2010, 4:48 am
Posts: 91
Good stuff Matt. Can't wait to get up there myself!


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 12:10 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:12 pm
Posts: 1154
Location: Los Angeles County, CA
Australian posts are awesome!! love te shot of the Water Monitor on the rock...


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 3:55 pm 
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Joined: February 6th, 2012, 7:24 pm
Posts: 77
Congrats on the Chondros!

Very cool.

Can you get up there any time of year now?

When I tried to get up there, the road was 2 meters deep in water :(


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 7:07 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Posts: 3146
Location: Illinois
EPIC


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 Post subject: Re: Cape York Peninsula, Australia
PostPosted: July 9th, 2012, 7:44 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:43 pm
Posts: 464
Location: Australia
Excellent!


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