A lightning trip to south-east Queensland in November 2002.
488 Park Road, Park Orchards, Victoria, 3114, Australia
Originally published in the Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 43(2):23-25 (February 2008)
From 31 October until 5 November 2002 I was in Brisbane as a guest of the Herpetological Society of Queensland (HSQI) and herpetologist Paul Woolf, who married on the 2nd of November. The basis of the trip was for me to photograph the wedding of Paul and Sarah on the Saturday and to address a Toowomba meeting of the HSQI the next day.
The trip to Mt.Isa area was prevented by events with QNPWS unable to allow me access to permit to collect False Mulga Snake Pailsus pailsei. This was particularly irksome as the target species of the trip was the snake described by myself in 1998 as Pailsus pailsei, and which as of late 2004 was still only known from just five specimens, all of which were collected the Mount Isa/Riversleigh area and before Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) overran the area in the late 1980's.
As this short paper is being written, myself and others are still trying to get the Qld NPWS on side in terms of issuing the relevant permits and if one is obtained, it is hoped to bring some Pailsus pailsei into captivity in order to secure the future of the species. For more on the current status of the species Pailsus pailsei, refer to Hoser (2004) and references cited therein.
And so, the five days in Brisbane and nearby areas was spent viewing local reptile collections and driving a few roads in search of reptiles.
I arrived in Brisbane on 31 October 2002 at about 8.30 PM, Brisbane time.
Please note that all times given here are Queensland Summer time (no daylight saving).
Furthermore all reptiles and frogs listed here as seen were adults unless otherwise indicated.
As a matter of course all reptiles were left where seen.
Moon data: This is always critically important in terms of dealing with nocturnal reptiles as by and large they do not move when the moon is visible in the sky. Driving from Brisbane Airport to Walloon via Mount Glorious and past Wivenhoe dam, from about 9.30 to 10.30 PM we saw a few critters. The weather was slightly warmer than seasonal average with an air temp. in the mid 20's Celcius and little if any wind.
We only did a single sweep through the area, but saw the following species:
2 X 150 cm Carpet Snakes (Morelia macdowelli)
1 X 150 cm Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis)
Numerous Cane Toads (Bufo marinus) (about 50 in total)
On Friday 1 November 2002, the weather was hot and sunny, with a Brisbane maximum of about 30 degrees or more. It reached at least 34 in Ipswich.
That night we went for night drive along the road from the Wivenhoe Dam to Mount Glorious from about 7.30 PM to about 8.30 PM, (two passes only).
Species seen were:
3 X Scalyfoot Legless Lizards (Pygopus lepidopodus). All adult, two missing tails, with short regenerated ones instead, one (the other) was 115 cm in length and had a full tail and was red in colour and gravid.
2 X Smallish (about 60-65 cm) Brown Tree Snakes
1 X Very large Anomolopus verrauxi (A skink with reduced limbs)
About 5 Cane Toads
At a park near the summit of the hill we saw an adult Major Skink (Egernia frerei) in a log and numerous (about 10) Litoria chloris around some water tanks.
The weather that night was seasonally warm, with an air temp in the high 20's and little if any wind. The next morning the weather was cooler and overcast as a result of the arrival of a weak front. This is mentioned as it clearly had an impact on the movement of reptiles the night before. The cooler weather persisted until well into Sunday.
On Sat 2 November 2002, we did no night drives due to the celebration of Paul and Sarah's wedding and the cooler weather.
On Sunday 3 November 2002, we went to a small township just west of Toowoomba for the HSQI meeting and outside a meeting hall I found a young Eastern Brown Snake (Pseudonaja textilis) (about 45 cm) under a sheet of tin. It had the usual juvenile head markings.
It was photographed, as were some legally held captive specimens brought in by HSQI members. The Eastern Brown Snake was subsequently released a short distance away, and away from human habitation by one of the HSQI members licensed to remove nuisance snakes. What I found noticeable about this particular specimen was that it seemed more docile than most others of this species I'd encountered over the years, including specimens from Victoria, NSW and even Queensland.
After the HSQI meeting, where I spoke about Death Adders (Acanthophis) (what else?), we drove to the house of HSQI member Dave Cavendish at Pittsworth, even further west and looked at his collection. He had lots of critters including Blue-bellied Black Snakes (Panacedechis guttatus), various pythons, other elapids and a range of lizards, including breeding Pogona vitticeps. While talking breeding herps, Cavendish also had a massive 2 metre Blue-bellied Black Snake mating with another in the same cage.
By the way, for those unaware, both plain and speckled specimens come from the same areas. Pittsworth is in the heart of Blue-bellied Black Snake country and is probably the most common snake species in the area. A close number two is the Eastern Brown Snake. While there, I photographed a young (30 cm) Blue-bellied Black Snake with numerous reddish pink flecks. It was in some ways reminiscent of a Collett's Snake (Pseudechis colletti), but the patterning was different.
My Chauffeur for the day Todd, drove us towards Moonee for a night drive in search of reptiles. By the time it was nearly dark, we got to within about 10 km north-east of the township.
Having been looking at the bushland and farms on the sides of the road as we'd driven here, we decided to target one section of road for our drive. Thus we then spent about 2 hours driving the road from 29 km north-east of the township of Moonee (on the main highway from Dalby) to about 30 km north-west of Moonee. The area was essentially heavily treed (not cleared) and on whitish sandy soil and had scattered low rises in the area.
The air temperature was warmer than Brisbane and Toowoomba and in the afternoon we had noticed high clouds (pre-frontal clouds indicative of falling air pressure) as we drove towards Dalby and beyond. (Brisbane was hit with a front at about 5 PM the next day).
Temps that night were in the mid to low 20's and we drove the road from about 7.30 to 9.30 PM.
Species seen were as follows:
2 X Male Coral Snakes (Simoselaps australis)
2 X Female Coral Snakes (one gravid with five eggs and one had eaten one egg and was Not gravid). Like most of the smaller elapid species, this species is easily tail sexed, males having larger and thicker tails to accommodate the hemipenes. One snake actually bit me, but did not break the skin. The non-gravid female was run over by a car or truck before we found it. This was the only road-killed reptile seen.
4 X Golden Tailed Geckos (Diplodactylus taenicauda), 2 X Adult males, 1 X subadult female, 1 X subadult male. These squirt a toxic sticky substance from their tails.
1 X Gecko Diplodactylus steindachneri (subadult)
1 X Gecko Oedura robusta (Gecko)
2 X Burton's Legless Lizards (Lialis burtonis) (plain browny-grey colour)
3 X Adult hooded scalyfoots (of two species) (Pygopus spp.). One of the darker smooth-scaled form and two of the rugose scaled arid zone form.
1 X Lerista (?) species of skink, that was not identified to the species level.
And most importantly (for me) a north-west Queensland Death Adder (Acanthophis woolfi). The snake I photographed was a male from the Dajarra range, where they are very common.
Contrary to some of the misinformation being circulated at present, this species (as described by Hoser 1998) is neither Acanthophis hawkei (the West Barkly Death Adder, that is much larger and characterized by a thick cream bar on the labials, which is lacking in A. woolfi), or Acanthophis rugosus, a similar species from Irian Jaya, which is characterized by greater rugosity and more rounded bumps as opposed to angular, a greater trend towards darkening on the head and neck and other differences.
Although a windy cold front struck late in the afternoon at about 5 PM we did a single run of a road through bushland in the Lamington Range. The air temperature was seasonally cool and we saw no reptiles at all. But we saw lots of small mammals.
Early the next morning I caught a plane back to Melbourne from Brisbane. So what were my final parting impressions? Well, the herpetologists in Brisbane are always great. They seem like one big happy family and they welcome outsiders in much the same way.
As keepers they are as good as any. I gathered this from the mating snakes and lizards I saw at a few private collections as well as eggs in incubators and the like. The reptiles themselves, well, when in Brisbane, you just can't get away from them! They really are everywhere. Even in the inner suburbs, you are likely to see Bearded Dragons (Pogona barbata), Carpet Snakes and Brown Tree Snakes. Green Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea) are all over the place. Woolf's place was festooned with them every night! Queensland really is a great place for a herper.
Hoser, R. T. 1998. Death Adders (Genus Acanthophis): An overview, including descriptions of Five new species and One subspecies. Monitor - Journal of the Victorian Herpetological Society 9 (2):20-41.
Hoser, R. T. 2004. The Great Australian Snake Extermination. Hard Evidence (Earthlink Publishing) 4(1) and 4(2).
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