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 Post subject: A very short trip down under (Brisbane and southern QLD)
PostPosted: April 6th, 2018, 7:30 am 
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Joined: April 2nd, 2015, 7:30 am
Posts: 120
Location: Utah
I'm working on my masters in philosophy here in SW Michigan. One of the things philosophers are supposed to do is go to conferences (hey, if our field isn't relevant, at least get some travel out of it). So, to facilitate that, the department chair will help pay for trips if and only if one can get accepted into said conference. Some are easy, some not so much. One night, while looking at conference call for papers, I happened to notice there was a conference in Queensland. Naturally, I applied. Why? Well, I've visited Australia before (and posted about it http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=22878) and wanted another chance. It's a great place for herping and I happen to like the climate, too. Aussies are nice blokes/sheilas too.

As it so happened, I got into the conference--in truth, I was in an altered state during the application process--and my department chair funded me to go. What an opportunity! I was only going to be in Australia for 6 days, and 3 had to be for the conference. How could I get some herping into the adventure? Folks, here's where connections matter. I reached out to some "Flickr friends" and connected with a good mate Jason Sulda: https://www.flickr.com/people/jason_sulda/

We talked for a while about what I was looking for and how we could get it. I decided on variety over a specific species (I still need to find a death adder one of these trips! 0/2 this far, haha). On the one hand, Aussie elapids are an amazing group of critters, but they tend to be difficult to find unless you go to specific spots. With limited time, it made more sense to go look for lots of cool things rather than try for, say, an eastern brown and turn up nothing else. Our trip was going to be from Brisbane, to Queen Mary's Fall (at night), arrive in Girraween, hike there for two days, then head back. This was in November, so the equivalent of "May" for them weather-wise.

What did I find in a whirlwind of three herping days in bush and one in Brisbane? Well, keep reading and you might be pleasantly surprised. :)
(FYI, as memory serves *ALL* of these pictures are in situ except for one animal that was road cruised)



Brisbane and the surrounding areas
I arrived in Brisbane tired. The flight was obnoxious (Detroit to Houston to Auckland to Brisbane) and I needed sleep. After trying my best to catch 12 hours of sleep, I went out the next day to start the conference.

ImageUniversity of Queensland by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Philosophy conferences are weird. I assume most of you have never been to one. More or less, the technical debates in philosophy rarely filter out into the "real world." This means that many discussions, while interesting, can be hard to talk about. Does entailment guarantee epistemic standing? What about closure? And, for my own work, what is the nature of fitness in natural selection theory? These are all quite academic discussions. Which is great, really (I'm in it because I like it). At the same time, I *did* want to get out there and see what kind of herps I could find. So, for the first two days, I stayed at the conference (groggily) and trudged along. That said, on the walks to and from the conference I did try to herp...a bit.

ImageBrisbane River by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii) macro by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageAustralian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Water dragons were so common it was crazy. I thought squirrels were bad!

On the third day of the conference Jason messaged me and said he wanted to get out into the field early. Am I going to refuse? Nope. So I left the conference a bit early--nobody stays on the third day usually--and we went to Mt. Coot-tha and hiked around a bit. From there, there are lovely creeks and the city of Brisbane may be seen beautifully.

ImageBrisbane by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageForest creek by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

And lots of cool herps were there! The upside of being down under with an Aussie herper is that he can identify the skinks. I lost track of the numerous skinks we flipped (some he got very excited about). Of course, trying to get pics of herps in mid-day. I did get lucky with some nice shots.

ImageElegant snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pulcher) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageSaw-shelled turtle (Wollumbinia latisternum) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageWater skink (Eulamprus quoyii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

We only had about an hour, but it was fun getting into the field. The mosquitoes weren't even bad (way better than the Northern Territory, haha). The plan was to leave mid-afternoon the next day so we could get to Queen Mary's Falls the next night. We could road cruise there and hopefully turn up a snake or two.



Queen Mary's Falls
Now, when leaving the next afternoon I was extremely excited. My presentation had gone well at the conference and now I was heading out to spend some quality time in the bush. Awesome! Road cruising in Australia has the potential for crazy stuff. You're going to stay kangaroos and wallabies of all types. Snakes, maybe. But you might turn up echidnas or even stranger things out in the wilds. Lots of strange animals live out there. Of course, getting pictures is difficult. Night drives in the outback are cherished memories and I'm happy to have experienced a few. And this night turned out great. I was just commenting on how lucky I'd be to turn up a carpet python. Sure enough....

ImageCarpet Python (Morelia spilota) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageCarpet Python (Morelia spilota) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Right in the middle of the road was a relatively small carpet python (the only moved animal of this trip). It was very calm and didn't strike or do much of anything. I couldn't believe how lucky I was! I found a few water pythons in the NT last time, but I was so lucky to see one of these guys. Pythons, for an American, are a sure sign that you're not in Kansas anymore (to paraphrase Oz). We let the guy on his way and headed to Queen Mary's Falls.

It's a beautiful waterfall and river system that you have to hike down into. Naturally, as it's in Australia, I was instructed to be careful for spiders as there are usually tons of them. Noted. Hands to myself. We found stuff pretty quickly. The crayfish pictures was apparently a rare species, but I don't remember what kind.

ImageBrushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr
(These possums were fighting over food, making a picture very easy).

ImageCrayfish by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageWyberba leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius wyberba) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageWyberba leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius wyberba) macro by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

The goal of the trip here was the leaf-tailed gecko. It's *SO* cool seeing animals you think only live in books come to life. Here I was seeing one of those lizards that Richard Attenborough would narrate! Haha. :)

We had to go because it was getting late and we still had a long way to drive before reaching our destination. Not to mention we'd have to set up camp once there! But what a fun night...and certainly adventures there.



Girraween National Park
We puttered around a bit in the morning to get warm. This far south in Queensland, even though it was "May", the days are really hot but the nights can be very cold. So, we didn't start moving until 10ish. Of course, by then it was awfully hot. But, I was here for herps and I knew I had to work for it now.

ImageBush by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Actually spotted lizards in this environment is difficult. They're fast--REALLY fast. And, unlike lots of species here, they're not perching on rocks quite as often. Seems like they're in the grass more than anything, which makes it more of a game of patience and persistence. I happen to have both pretty well.

ImageCopper-tailed skink (Ctenotus taeniolatus ) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageNobbi dragon (Diporiphora nobbi) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageNobbi dragon (Diporiphora nobbi) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageJacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageAustralian bush and a Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Having two pairs of eyes really helps. More often than not, he'd spot something (or I'd spot something) and the other couldn't see it. We went slow, but did well. All the more considering these lizards don't like to sit still! We hiked in to a river that ran through the impressive granite structures of the park.

ImageRiver by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageWater skink (Eulamprus quoyii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageSouthern spotted velvet gecko (Oedura tryoni) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

By then, I was starting to really feel the heat so we went back to camp. We were going to hike out again that evening to see what else we could find. Girrawween is known for its large granite "mountains" that are more or less just giant, individual rocks. He said we should hike one because of a specific type of skink. Well, I don't know about skinks but it sure sounded like fun. With the temperatures cooling, lots animals were coming out.

ImageBush sunset by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageDark bar-sided skink (Eulamprus martini) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Once we started climbing, peeking in cracks and flipping rocks was the way to go. Now, of course, flipping rocks in Australia is a tricky business. Spiders and snakes are much more dangerous. But, the risk and reward was worth it.

ImageLesueur's velvet gecko (Amalosia lesueurii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageCunningham's Skink (Egernia cunninghami) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageCunningham's Skink (Egernia cunninghami) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

These skinks are, apparently, a communal species that lives in rock outcroppings. It was an amazing experience to learn about them. I never knew skinks were like that, so seeing a family of lizards live in a single rock area was quite an interesting find. From there, we hiked down and began to get ready for our night of frog hunting. Hey, when you've only got a few days you've got to make the most of it! And, as said before, with the temperatures falling for the night lots of other critters were coming out. I feel I got very lucky with these pictures.

ImageEastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr



Night
Frogs were on our mind. We cruised a bit for snakes but since it gets cold so quickly, he said this was not a good place to find them. We gave up quickly and began looking for frogs. Right when we got out of the car to head down to the river, I began walking ahead. He told me to look where I was walking and I couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Apparently, the plant I had just brushed was a stinging bush. What are those? Yeah, they leave little spines in your skin that are painful and don't come out for nearly a year. Luckily, I had only brushed it. The pain didn't last for long but, well, let's say everything really is more dangerous down under, haha.

Frogs were out in force. There's not a whole bunch of detail to this part of the story because, well, everything went well! We just happened to walk around a river and some pools and found tons of frog variety. I hope you enjoy without much commentary!

ImageRed treefrog (Litoria rubella) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern pobblebonk (Limnodynastes dumerilii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern stony creek frog (Litoria wilcoxii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern stony creek frog by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern stony creek frog (Litoria wilcoxii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImagePeron's treefrog (Litoria peronii) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageBroad-palmed Frog (Litoria latopalmata) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageEastern sedge frog (Litoria fallax) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

ImageHuntsman (Sparassidae sp.) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

By the end of that, we were tired. Normally I have a hard time sleeping while camping. But, wow, I was out for the while night (except for when a possum came around for food).



Final day
There was a river he wanted to check out before driving back to Brisbane. I had to catch my flight in less than 24 hours, so we didn't have long to be. Hiking the river was, he said, a good way to find monitor lizards. Would we find any? I saw a tree monitor when in the NT before and it was, and still is, the best herping experience I've ever had. So, topping that sure would be something.

We hiked up the river and weren't finding a whole lot. Seemed like nothing was out. When we finally got there, there were the obligatory water dragons out basking and the occasional water skink. I went poking around on my own to see what I could find. I jumped over a boulder and, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lace monitor go into the water. NO! Only a brief shot like that? What fairness was there in the world? I guess I was happy to see one for less than a second, but I was hoping for more than that. I mean, not to sound spoiled, but that was a bit of a let down.

So, without seeing much at the river, we were going to head back. Well, until I spotted something sunning itself on the other side of the water....

ImageRed bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

Yeah! An elapid in situ! These snakes are so nervous they're hard to pin down and actually see. I couldn't believe my luck. The thing about herping is as long as you're trying, you find cool stuff. And here I was face to face with one of the coolest Aussie elapids. We had a minute or two to admire it before it slithered off. We were riding a high--maybe a fist bump exchanged--and we began walking back to the car.

But we should have been paying attention! Because *another* red-bellied black snake had been right on the side of the trail. 2 in a few minutes? How rare! How special! At that point, we began looking for more and, sure enough, a bit up the trail we found another.

ImageRed bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) by phl_with_a_camera1, on Flickr

What an amazing way to cap the trip. 3 elapids, in situ, doing their thing. Although I couldn't get the "perfect shot" I was very happy to see these guys in their own habitat living their own lives.

From there, I ended up going back home with a wild story to tell, a tanned face, and some interest in going back down under in the next few years. Hey, at some point I have to get to west Australia, right? :)
Thanks for reading all!


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 Post subject: Re: A very short trip down under (Brisbane and southern QLD)
PostPosted: April 7th, 2018, 5:09 pm 
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Joined: December 13th, 2014, 5:27 pm
Posts: 76
Well done! I was blown away by that carpet python and the red bellied black snakes. Also cool that you got to see a proper Huntsman spider. A lot of variety in wildlife in habitat. What a trip! You'll just have to get down there again to find that death adder eh?


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 Post subject: Re: A very short trip down under (Brisbane and southern QLD)
PostPosted: April 8th, 2018, 8:12 am 
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Joined: April 2nd, 2015, 7:30 am
Posts: 120
Location: Utah
Man, when I finally get a proper trip back to Australia it's going to be amazing. I want to drive from Darwin to Perth and really take it in. The country just has *so* much to take in. Aussie elapids are awesome, but I think to really herp down there you've gotta love the lizards. :)

-Derek


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