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 Post subject: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 18th, 2013, 10:20 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 am
Posts: 145
Location: Townsville, Queensland
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Inspired by the many other posts currently going up around the photoblogosphere, what follows is a relatively brief summary of my herping endeavours of 2012. I’ve selected a few photos to represent some of my favourite finds from each month.

January
The year started well. The clock ticked over to 2012 while myself and Stewdawg searched for woma pythons near the town of St. George, Queensland. We failed in that regard, but saw an assortment of other cool snakes over the next few days.

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Eastern brown snake (Pseudonaja textilis)


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We found several pale-headed snakes (Hoplocephalus bitorquatus), a species that was high on my wish list.


Later in the month, I worked on a 3 week fauna survey in the Wet Tropics. It was a good trip in terms of diversity and abundance, and myself and the other research assistant even managed to find 17 chameleon geckos (Carphodactylus laevis) within an hour, shattering our boss’ record of 15.

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Atherton mulch-skink (Glaphyromorphus mjobergi), a high altitude fossorial skink that took me a while to see. I haven’t seen any more since.


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The mountain nursery-frog (Cophixalus monticola) evaded me on trips to the same location twice before, but this time they were calling in large numbers. This species appears in another recent post.



February
February was filled with a few short trips to various location in north-eastern Queensland. One particular trip was especially successful and netted several target species.

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Magnificent Broodfrog (Pseudophryne covacevichae). This species is restricted to the vicinity of Ravenshoe and Herberton on the western edge of the Wet Tropics. They are stunning frogs.


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A species that had eluded for some time, once I found this Storr’s monitor (Varanus storri) near the town of Mt Carbine they began to turn up all over the place.



March
March was a big one: My wife and I bought a car and began preparing for a big trip across Western Australia and the Northern Territory. To warm up for the big trip, my friend Scott and I did a weekend trip to the Winton area of western Queensland. Among other things, we saw a perentie (Varanus giganteus), some knob-tailed geckos (Nephrurus asper), and I even managed to see a new snake and lizard.

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Crack-dwelling whipsnake (Demansia rimicola), an inhabitant of cracking clay grasslands. Scott spotted this cute little snake while driving 100kph near the town of Hughenden.


The big trip
The 2 month, 23,000km ‘big trip’ began on the 17th of March, with the first day being a 1400km drive to the Northern Territory. Every day of the trip yielded new and awesome herps, so it was difficult to chose only a few photos from the March portion of the trip.

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Our first night in Western Australia was spent at the town of Kununurra in the eastern Kimberley region. I saw several new frogs and reptiles, but this little olive python (Liasis olivaceus) was the highlight of the night.


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We spent just over a week in the Pilbara region. Finding a Pilbara rock monitor (Varanus pilbarensis) was a must; I couldn’t leave without seeing one. Fortunately, it only took a few days.


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Banded knob-tailed gecko (Nephrurus wheeleri). We saw 4 species of knob-tailed gecko over the course of the trip.



April
April came about as we began heading back towards the Northern Territory. I was aiming to reach Alice Springs, where we would spend about a week before I went off to the Tanami Desert to volunteer on a fauna survey. This was a good month.

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Possibly one of my favourite finds of the trip. This Kimberley rock monitor (Varanus glauerti) was found on a sandstone outcrop near Kununurra, WA. Awesome lizard.


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Another spectacular lizard, I saw this and many other thorny devils (Moloch horridus) over the following few weeks.


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The Tanami produced two more of my target species: The pygmy desert monitor (Varanus eremius)...


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...And several short-tailed monitors (Varanus brevicauda). Life was good.


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Southern phasmid geckos (Strophurus jeanae) are sexy beasts. I saw over a dozen over the course of the trip, but this one was the best looking.



May
Back from the Tanami, straight away I began driving north towards Darwin. I was to meet up with a few friends who happened to be in the area, and we were going to herp the hell out of the place. My first night after reaching Darwin was spent mucking around mangroves looking for homalopsid snakes. Mud snakes!

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Australian bockadam (Cerberus australis), one of 3 species of homalopsid snake found that night.


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Northern ridge-tailed monitor (Varanus primordius). These are small goannas with a fairly painful bite. We also saw a few Varanus baritji over the following few days.



June
Having returned from the 56 day, 23,000km herping odyssey, I had 2 weeks to spend at home before flying back to the Northern Territory for a 2 week fauna survey near the southern border of Arnhem Land. Getting paid to fly around in a helicopter and catch herps may be the best job I’ve had yet.

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Flying over savanna woodland towards our trap sites on a sandstone plateau.


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Spinifex geckos like spinifex, and spinifex often grows on the shallow soils of sandstone plateaus. As such, I was hopeful to find spinifex geckos, and I did: Phasmid striped gecko (Strophurus taeniatus).


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Who doesn’t love a Mertens’ water monitor (Varanus mertensi)?



July
July was a bit tame as far as this year goes. A few short trips here and there during horrible conditions. Nevertheless, I saw some cool stuff.

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I had wanted to see rufous owls for a while, and I knew there were many residing in Townsville, but I never made much effort to look for them. Thanks to a friend, though, I saw this one-eyed beastie with a brush-tailed possum in it’s talons. What a machine!

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Mt Ossa leaf-tailed gecko (Phyllurus ossa). Never go herping in the Clarke Range, west of Mackay, during winter; hardly anything is out.



August
This month saw me participating on an Earthwatch expedition. Basically, I helped conduct the usual Wet Tropics fauna surveys except this time with the aid of about a dozen Earthwatch participants. These are non-biologists who cover their expenses to come volunteer on some amazing field work in the rainforests of north-eastern Queensland. We all had a good time, and I even photographed some cool critters.

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Coeranoscincus frontalis is a very rarely encountered limbless skink endemic to the Wet Tropics bioregion. They are fossorial and feed largely on earthworms. Unfortunately, this one was shedding and had a regenerated tail. Nevertheless, they’re cool lizards.


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A confused green-eyed treefrog (Litoria serrata) in amplexus with a northern orange-eyed treefrog (Litoria xanthomera). The lump behind the ear of the L. xanthomera is a Batrachomyia fly larva, the head of which can be seen protruding from its breathing hole.



September
The highlights from September were already covered in the post Turtle Time, so I won’t go into much detail here.

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Fitzroy River turtle (Rheodytes leukops)


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Southern snapping turtle (Elseya albagula)



October
October started off with a round of fieldwork on the western edge of the Wet Tropics, covered in the post A Tale of Little Brown Skinks: Part 1 (I swear part 2 will come eventually). Then came the antics covered in Magnetic Skinks; and finally the currently ongoing series on Cape York Peninsula, where the following two photos are also featured.

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Quinkan velvet gecko (Oedura jowalbinna)


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Kutini boulder-frog (Cophixalus kulakula)



November
Like the previous month, November started off with a round of fieldwork on the western edge of the Wet Tropics. This time, though, the trip coincided with a total solar eclipse. Where we were wasn’t quite in the zone of totality, so we made a brief trip further north.

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The early stages of the eclipse took place as the sun began to creep over the horizon. Yes, we had to wake up fairly early.

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If ever a total solar eclipse is happening nearby you, make sure you’re in the zone of totality when it happens. A 99% eclipse is NOTHING compared to a total solar eclipse. It is amazing how a 99% eclipse is unbearable upon the eyes, but you can stare directly at the corona of a total eclipse. It’s absolutely awesome.


Later that month, Jordo, Stewdawg and I tackled Queensland’s tallest mountain: Mount Bartle Frere. At a height of 1622 metres, it’s not all that tall by international standards, but it’s still tall enough to have a few cool-adapted endemic herps. In addition to the two endemic skinks and a little frog, the mountain also supports what must be the world’s largest and most horrible population of leeches.

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Looking north-west towards Mt Bellenden Ker, the Goldsborough Valley and the Atherton Tableland.


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The Bellenden Ker nursery-frog (Cophixalus neglectus) occurs only at high elevations on Mt Bartle Frere and Mt Bellenden Ker.




December
This month was a busy one, starting with a work trip to Mt Lewis in the northern Wet Tropics that was followed up by a few weeks of herping central and south-east Queensland.

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From near the town of Julatten, this scrub python (Morelia kinghorni) was the largest snake I have seen in the wild, measuring 4.2 metres (about 14 feet) in length.


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On the drive south we stayed a night at Blackdown Tableland, near the town of Emerald. Here I finally saw the leaf-tailed gecko Saltuarius salebrosus, the last member of the genus Saltuarius I had left to see.


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This Stephen’s banded snake (Hoplocephalus stephensii) was probably the highlight reptile of the trip. It was a species I desperately wanted to see, and we were fortunate enough to find two of them within 10 metres of each other.



The End
It’s going to be hard to match 2012 in terms of herp diversity and time spent in the field. In total, I saw 129 new reptile species and 35 new frogs. And, for the first time in all of forever, I had regular, paying work. It was a good year. To celebrate, rather than going out to spend money on a New Year’s Day hangover, I took advantage of the recent rain and went frogging.
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Happy new year!


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 18th, 2013, 10:27 pm 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2010, 6:44 pm
Posts: 406
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Awesome! :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 18th, 2013, 10:42 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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Wow, Stephen, what a superb year you've had! Great finds and wonderful species.

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Having returned from the 56 day, 23,000km herping odyssey

That is the kind of trip that I really like! I've only hit a little more than 8000 on any single adventure. When I retire in a few years, I hope to make trips like yours the norm!

That Scrub Python was incredible. I think that was the largest that I have ever seen in photos. My biggest was only about 3m.

The Glaphyromorphus mjobergi was an interesting little skink with unusual colours. Hope to find one of those on some future trip.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 19th, 2013, 12:25 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 am
Posts: 145
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Thanks, fellas.

David, I've only seen 2 G. mjobergi, and both were found with Stew in about a 30 minute period at a single site. Despite spending months in the correct habitat, I've never turned up another. In contrast, Glaphyromorphus fuscicaudis are everywhere. I've even seen more Coeranoscincus frontalis than I have G. mjobergi, and those things are rarer than hen's teeth.


Stephen


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 19th, 2013, 12:53 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:12 pm
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Location: Orange County, CA
OMG!! amazing post and PHOTOGRAPHS!!!!!!! What type of camera and lense are you using? Im in the market for a new camera and I would be thrilled to get shots like yours. Love the Australian posts, keep them coming. Also like the habitat shots. :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 19th, 2013, 1:46 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:08 pm
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Awesome work - especially the goannas! That scrubbie is a beast!


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 20th, 2013, 2:19 pm 
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Joined: June 14th, 2010, 11:04 am
Posts: 566
Location: 'God's Country' aka western KY
Great post Stephen! I love the opening pic of the huge sign - 'Nature Territory' it is. Just of a lot of fantastic snake pics in this post. My daughter loved that big scrub python. She made me leave that frame up on our monitor long enough so that she could draw it with her markers. Somehow it now has green and purple stripes and a whirrling a rattle. Sorry. The Kimberly Rock monitor and the Thorny Devil just perfect looking beasts indeed. And something I want to always see more on FHF are the turtles - does not matter from which hemisphere. I just wish people would post them more. I have always been curious about Australian turtles. Great job.

RocK ON!

Dave


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 20th, 2013, 5:57 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:08 am
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Legit post. Awesome photos, landscape, animals....yeah, good stuff!


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 20th, 2013, 6:08 pm 
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Joined: November 30th, 2012, 7:45 am
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Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee
Wow, each photo is impressive! That Pilbara rock monitor was awesome, and the scrub python WOO! Makes me jealous :mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 10:13 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 am
Posts: 145
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Thanks everyone! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Fieldnotes wrote:
...What type of camera and lense are you using?

I use a Canon 7D. Most of my photos are taken with the Canon 60mm macro and Canon 10-22mm wide angle. I also use the Canon 100mm macro on occasion, although I seem to use the 60mm more often. I also almost always use 2 Canon 430 EX II speedlights.


Cheers,

Stephen


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 1:42 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:12 pm
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thanks!!


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 2:40 pm 

Joined: September 23rd, 2010, 2:38 pm
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Some of the best photography I have seen on this forum. Your Moloch shot is nothing short of perfection.

Steve


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 5:30 pm 
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Joined: May 11th, 2012, 4:50 pm
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Tremendous pics!


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 6:02 pm 

Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm
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Excellent post, especially that first photo of the Eastern Brown. Every aussie post I see surprises me with the diversity of monitors.


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 6:16 pm 
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I love the biracial couple. Too bad about the orangeeye's ailment.


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 21st, 2013, 8:29 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 am
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Location: Townsville, Queensland
Once again, thanks everyone. More posts are on the way.


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2013, 12:45 pm 
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Joined: January 23rd, 2012, 10:08 am
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Loving those shots! I hope someday to get out there and explore that amazing area.


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Summary of 2012 (Australia)
PostPosted: January 23rd, 2013, 4:15 pm 

Joined: January 14th, 2011, 6:41 pm
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Location: Cairns, Australia
Great post Stephen! I think you need to get out more though...


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