Conservation photos, Part VIII: Skinks

Skinks. Australia is crawling with them, figuratively and literally. At last count we had 339 species. 339 species! And yet the richness of species is only half the story. Australia has a skink for every occasion. Giant skinks and miniature skinks. Skinks that live half of their lives in the alpine deep freeze, and others that toil through the harshest desert heat. Skinks that scale trees in a blistering flash, and others that have lost all but the last vestige of their limbs. Skinks whose days are spent cavorting in tight-knit family units, and others who are murderously territorial. Skinks saturated with colour, and skinks whose camouflage is near impregnable. Skinks whose range extends over hundreds of square kilometers, and others that persist nowhere else but a speck of granite in the Southern Ocean. You would be hard pressed to find a more diverse radiation than the Australian Scincidae…

Eastern Robust Slider, Lerista punctatovittata. Big Desert, Victoria

Eastern Robust Slider, Lerista punctatovittata. Big Desert, Victoria

South-west Crevice Skink, Egernia napoleonis. Albany, Western Australia

South-west Crevice Skink, Egernia napoleonis. Poorongorup NP, Western Australia

Boulenger's Skink, Morethia boulengeri. Mansfield, Victoria

Boulenger’s Skink, Morethia boulengeri. Mansfield, Victoria

White's Skink, Liopholis whitii, Grampians National Park, Victoria

White’s Skink, Liopholis whitii. Grampians NP, Victoria

Ctenotus brachyonyx, Ouyen, Victoria

Ctenotus brachyonyx. Ouyen, Victoria

Tussock Skink, Pseudemoia pagenstecheri. Craigieburn, Victoria

Tussock Skink, Pseudemoia pagenstecheri. Craigieburn, Victoria

Ragged Snake-eyed Skink, Cryptoblepharus pannosus. Murray-Sunset NP, Victoria

Ragged Snake-eyed Skink, Cryptoblepharus pannosus. Murray-Sunset NP, Victoria

Southern Grass Skink, Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii. Mt Baw Baw NP, Victoria

Southern Grass Skink, Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii. Mt Baw Baw NP, Victoria

Conservation photos VII. Weird and wonderful

Evolution crafts some wacky creatures. Birds that can’t fly. Squirrels that can. Mammals that lay eggs. Worms that luminesce. Vampire bats. Goblin fish. Octopus. I must admit that I have a considerable soft spot for these ecological and evolutionary oddities. They are just so fascinating; so mind-bogglingly weird. So indulge me as a list a few more. A few that I’ve had the great joy of seeing in the flesh, and whom I dearly hope to see again. Frogs whose finely textured and brilliantly patterned skin has inspired Aboriginal art for millennia. Dragons that spend their days munching hundreds of tiny, acrid ants, and whose skin not only wards off predators with a litany of devilish thorns, but also pumps water directly to their mouth by capillary action. Miniaturised snakes whose diet is restricted entirely to lizard eggs (that rarest of commodities) and others whose tail so perfectly mimics a grub – in both form and function – that it brings dinner right to their door. Lizards who swim through sand, having long ago cast aside the limbs that hinder their progress. And snakes whose morphology just takes your breath away. Whose beauty you can barely fathom, and whose existence re-affirms why you took up the cause in the first place….

Holy Cross Frog, Notaden bennetti

Holy Cross Frog, Notaden bennetti

Thorny Devil, Moloch horridus

Thorny Devil, Moloch horridus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-naped Snake, Neelaps bimaculatus

Black-naped Snake, Neelaps bimaculatus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Death Adder, Acanthophis antarticus

Common Death Adder, Acanthophis antarcticus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-tailed Worm Lizard, Aprasia inaurita

Red-tailed Worm Lizard, Aprasia inaurita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bandy Bandy, Vermicella vermicella

Bandy Bandy, Vermicella annulata

 

Conservation Photos Part VI: Mountain Herps

Australia is not renowned for its mountains. Our medal tally at the last Winter Olympics will tell you that. And yet we have a mountain range that challenges the grandest the world has to offer. Not in height, no. But for scale, diversity and sheer spectacle? You have to give me that. The range I’m talking about is of course the Great Dividing Range – a conglomerate of mountains that stretches 3500 km along Australia’s eastern seaboard. Like most Australians, I’ve only nibbled at the edges of the Great Divide. But what a rewarding taste it has been. I’ve rambled through environments ranging from alpine meadows to sub-tropical rainforests, and had the pleasure of crossing paths with herps ranging from the tiniest of skinks, to dragons, elapids, frogs and pythons…

Alpine Copperhead, Austrelaps ramsayi. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

Alpine Copperhead, Austrelaps ramsayi. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

Maccoy's skink, Nannoscincus maccoyi.

Maccoy’s skink, Nannoscincus maccoyi. Mansfield, Victoria

Common Froglet, Crinia signifera. Grampians National Park, Victoria

Common Froglet, Crinia signifera. Grampians National Park, Victoria

White Lipped Snake, Drysdalia coronoides. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

White Lipped Snake, Drysdalia coronoides. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

Spencer's skink, Pseudomoia spenceri. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

Spencer’s Skink, Pseudemoia spenceri. Mt Baw Baw, Victoria

Mountain Dragon, Rankinia diemensis. Grampians National Park, Victoria

Mountain Dragon, Rankinia diemensis. Grampians National Park, Victoria

Eastern Ranges Rock-skink, Liopholis modesta

Eastern Ranges Rock-skink, Liopholis modesta. New England Tableland, NSW

Carpet Python, Morelia spilota mcdowelli. Sunshine Coast hinterland, Queensland

Carpet Python, Morelia spilota mcdowelli. Sunshine Coast hinterland, Queensland

Conservation Photos Part V: Landscapes II

Because, well, why not?

coast

The stunning coast of Albany, Western Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert blooms on a Lindsay Island sand dune, Victoria

Desert blooms on a Lindsay Island sand dune, Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native Pine (Callistris) battling out on a granite scree, Girraween National Park, Queensland

Native Pine battle it out on a granite scree, Girraween NP, Queensland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ominous skies over south-western Western Australia

Ominous skies over south-western Western Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue bush, Myall and Whyalla sandstone, South Australia

Blue bush, Myall and sandstone, Whyalla, South Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water lillies (Potamogeton) in a desert oasis, Murray-Sunset NP, Victoria

Water lillies in a desert oasis, Murray-Sunset NP, Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning light on granite, Wilson Promontory NP, Victoria

Morning light on granite, Wilsons Promontory NP, Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limestone as far as the eye can see, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

Limestone as far as the eye can see, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun dips below the western horizon, Mandurah, Western Australia

The sun dips below the western horizon, Mandurah, Western Australia

 

Conservation Photos Part IV: Landscapes

If I had to sum up my research in one word it would be autecology. I’m fascinated by the stories of individual species. Their life-histories, their patterns of activity and dispersal, their diets, their habitat requirements. In short, the axes that influence the survival of individuals and populations. But it’s just my particular window on ecosystem function. It’s a form of abstraction. Like all applied ecologists, I’m ultimately concerned with the persistence of entire ecosystems. So how does an autecologist indulge their passion for ecosystems directly? Through landscape photography, of course!

Morning light on the grassy woddlands of Lake Tutchewop, Victoria

Morning light on the open woodlands of Lake Tutchewop, Victoria

Sub-tropical rainforest of the Nightcap Range, NSW

The clear waters of a sub-tropical rainforest stream in the Nightcap Range, NSW

Waning moon over the Red Gum woodlands of southern New South Wales

Waxing moon over the Red Gum woodlands of southern New South Wales

Limestone bluffs of south-western Western Australia

Limestone heaths of south-western Western Australia

 

Granite scree of Mt Hope, Victoria

The granite heathlands of Mt Hope, Victoria

Cascade of a Mt Baw Baw rivulet

Light dancing on a Mt Baw Baw rivulet

Sandstone escarpment of Table Mountain, with the Murray Valley below

Sandstone escarpment of Table Mountain, with the Murray floodplain below

 

Storm brewing over an Alpine meadow

Storm brewing on an Alpine meadow

Deep summer in central Victoria

Deep summer amongst the granite inselbergs of central Victoria

Sunset on the Brunswick River estuary

Sunset on the Brunswick River estuary

Conservation Photos Part III: Melbourne’s Volcanic Plains

I couldn’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent wandering Melbourne’s volcanic plains. I grew up a just stones throw from them, on the sedimentary hills east of the Plenty River. Perhaps it is sacrilegious to say, but the volcanic plains were far more interesting for a boy obsessed with herpetology. Whereas the Red Box woodlands east of the river offered fleeting glimpses of the odd Garden Skink, the volcanic plains west of the river offered Little Whip Snakes, Brownsnakes, Tussock Skinks, Pobblebonks, Bluetongue Lizards, Cunningham Skinks, Copperheads, Tiger Snakes, Small-eyed Snakes. The choice was easy….

Eastern Water Skink, Eulamprus tympanum

Southern Water Skink, Eulamprus tympanum

Brown Tree Frog, Litoria ewingii

Brown Tree Frog, Litoria ewingii

Small-eyed Snake, Cryptophis nigrescens

Small-eyed Snake, Cryptophis nigrescens

Growling Grass Frog, Litoria raniformis

Growling Grass Frog, Litoria raniformis

Striped Skink, Ctenotus robustus

Striped Skink, Ctenotus robustus

Common Brownsnake, Pseudonaja textilis

Common Brownsnake, Pseudonaja textilis

Tussock Skink, Pseudemoia pagenstecheri

Tussock Skink, Pseudemoia pagenstecheri

Little Whip Snake, Parasuta flagellum

Little Whip Snake, Parasuta flagellum

Pobblebonk, Limnodynastes dumerilii

Pobblebonk, Limnodynastes dumerilii

Conservation photos, part II: Big Desert

I’m a big fan of the Big Desert. It’s a subtle place. Like a grassland, you have to get up close and personal with it to discover its treasures. It has no towering trees, no roaring waterfalls, no charismatic megafauna. It is miles and miles of rolling sand dunes and Mallee heath. After a fire, it is white sand and black sticks, little else. And yet the Big Desert is a biodiversity wonderland. Ants, scorpions, centipedes, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, cicadas. The insects hum day and night. As do the reptiles that chase them, and each other…

Thick-tailed Gecko, Underwoodisaurus milii

Thick-tailed Gecko, Underwoodisaurus milii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lined Worm Lizard, Aprasia striolata

Lined Worm Lizard, Aprasia striolata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sample of Mallee heath

A sample of Mallee heath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitchell’s Short-tailed Snake, Parasuta nigriceps

Mitchell’s Short-tailed Snake, Parasuta nigriceps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burton's Legless Lizard, Lialis burtonis

Burton’s Legless Lizard, Lialis burtonis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marbled-faced Delma, Delma australis

Marbled-faced Delma, Delma australis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Gecko, Diplodactylus vittatus

Wood Gecko, Diplodactylus vittatus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bardick, Echiopsis curta

Bardick, Echiopsis curta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus intermedius

Eastern Spiny-tailed Gecko, Strophurus intermedius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And to finish - sunset, Big Desert style.

And to finish – sunset, Big Desert style.