Two Aprasia Trips - June/July 2017.

Discussion in 'Field Herping and Reptile Studies' started by NickGeee, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. NickGeee

    NickGeee Subscriber Subscriber

    Jan 15, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Trip 1, Central Vic for Aprasia parapulchella.

    In winter earlier this year, I headed out with my mate Dan in order to search for one of Australia's lesser known endangered reptiles, the Pink-tailed worm lizard (Aprasia parapulchella). I had searched for these small wormlike lizards a couple of times in the past, but the closest I had ever gotten was watching a tail slide into an ant hole near Cooma. We headed out early after I witnessed Dan make his breakfast specialty, Vegemite toast with sliced cheese. Instead of heading straight up the Calder highway Dan wanted to check out a spot he knew up near Heathcote-Graytown for some smaller skinks and such. We saw possibly hundreds of Black rock scorpions (Urodacus manicatus), of which had an awesome green hue. Dan also used his eagle eyes to spot a Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus) resting on a eucalypt branch. I admired the bird for a few seconds before getting bored, and we began the short drive west to Bendigo. By the time we arrived at Greater Bendigo National Park it was past midday and 16deg. Although still quite chilly the Aprasia will only come close to the surface at much cooler temperatures, and the addition of the sun could make a big difference.

    We jumped out of the car and began exploring a gully. I was aware that Bibron's toadlets (Pseudophroyne bibronii) had been recorded breeding in the exact creek the previous autumn, but after a quick check they would be close to impossible to find without their calls. Dan and I had made a deal that whoever finds the first reptile would have the other person to shout them lunch, so the chase was on. I began searching the bottom of the hill, whilst Dan climbed up further to a smaller mini gully on the side of the big gully. Soon enough I heard a shout "I have a thicky!". Sure enough, Dan had found the first herp of the trip. I hadn't ever seen these geckos south of Bendigo before, and it was pretty cute!
    [​IMG]Thick-tailed gecko (Underwoodisaurus milli) by Nick Gale, on Flickr
    Dan then further impressed me by having a baby Marbled gecko (Christinus marmoratus) drop on his hand when he was looking through some shale.
    We continued on our way and decided to find a flatter area. I followed the creek and almost stepped on a beautiful Red-bellied black snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) out basking. It made a hasty retreat into a crack in the side of the creekbed, and I remembered where exactly it went as to check it on the way back.

    The forest closed up more as the ground became significantly flatter. We split up as I followed a small rocky ridge sticking out of the ground, surrounded by smaller non-embedded rocks. 15 or 20 minutes of searching revealed next to nothing, and soon I began experiencing very mild dehydration symptoms. That was until I found a large shed Aprasia shed skin under a rock! immediately reinvigorated, I knew the owned of the shed skin would be close by, so I continued on. A few minutes later I saw a flash of silver in the soil under a small rock. My heart skipped a beat until I realised it was just a Bougainville's slider (Lerista bougainvillii) a species of limb reduced burrowing skink. Frustration and hope swirling through my body, and I came to a patch of shade under some young eucalyptus trees. I bend down to carefully check under a rock, and my heart skipped a beat once again. But this time, it wasn't a Lerista. I started screaming out to Dan in a panic, as I looked over my prize. Spread out in the loose soil was a silvery coloured worm. But it wasn't a worm. Its shiny scales and blunt head gave it away. After too long Dan finally wandered up and I showed him the animal. This individual had a regenerated tail, and thus did not have the pink that this species is known for.
    [​IMG]Pink tailed worm-lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) by Nick Gale, on Flickr
    We decided to head off, and a quick check yielded no Red-belly.
    Driving north, we had some new species in mind. After a bumpy drive up a nasty 4WD track, we jumped out at a spot I had found last year, but the weather was to hot for any herp activity then.
    I began looking around until I heard Dan cry out. Another Aprasia! this one was much bigger, and had an original(ish) tail!
    [​IMG]Pink tailed worm-lizard (Aprasia parapulchella) by Nick Gale, on Flickr
    Not long after, I found a shed skin from a Dwyer's snake (Parasuta dwyeri), with the owner not being present unfortunately!
    We walked off in one direction into the mallee vegetation, and soon came upon another rocky ridge. I found another two Aprasia, both wrapped around each other in an ant chamber. However I didn't photograph either, and got a quick voucher shot before continuing on.
    Soon enough I found the last herp of the day, being a Stone gecko. This female was quite large, not exactly what I was expecting!
    [​IMG]Eastern stone gecko (Diplodactylus vittatus) by Nick Gale, on Flickr

    Trip 2, SE SA for Aprasia aurita - ultimately a fail but still a rewarding trip!
    For the longest time I have wanted to see the Eared worm lizard (Aprasia aurita). Historically found in the Victorian mallee, these IUCN endangered legless lizards have been discovered over the border in the Limestone coast region of South Australia. After doing some research I found a patch of remnant native vegetation that harboured the rare reptiles, however it was still a 6 hour drive from Melbourne, and I didn't think many of my herp friends would be keen to take me.
    However, I began harassing my fellow herper and reptile keeper Stephen until he finally gave in, and we set a date. In the days leading up to the trip I continually checked the weather for Mount Gambier, and I began to get increasingly concerned that it would be raining the whole day. A thunderstorm was forecasted for midday, but I kept my fingers crossed that the forecast wouldn't hold true.
    The plan was that I would take the V/line (Regional train service) across to Stephen's house in Warrnambool the evening before, and we would head out early the next morning. The train trip was uneventful, but the rain clouds gave way to sunshine as I travelled past Lake Colac.
    Arriving in Warrnambool in the early evening, the clouds soon began to close in. Steve gave me a tour of his reptile room/ carport, and showed me his impressive and vast collection of skinks and dragons.
    We hit the hay for an early wake up, with the final check of the weather still showing rain for the next day, but fortunately no thunderstorm!
    We woke up at quarter to five in the morning, and hit the road after a nutritious bowl of crunchy nut cereal. We were finally on the road at 5:20, and fog began to settle ahead of us. Occasionally we saw large frogs hopping across the road, but it was impossible to stop for them at the speed we were going. Large trucks were all over the road, and truck stops began popping up left and right next to the highway. About an hour off the VIC/SA border we had a large truck begin to tailgate us, attempting to force us to pull over so it could overtake. Steve took absolutely none of this as he was going the maximum speed limit already, and in addition to the windy wet roads the truck driver was putting us in a very dangerous position. After a while it looked like the truck driver was ready to turn off, but not before blasting us with his high beams. We crossed the border at roughly 7:20, and my phones time was set immediately back to 6:50, as South Australia is 30 minutes behind Victoria. Pine tree plantations began apparent to our left and right, a very common sight on the limestone cast. We pulled up to a petrol station in Mt Gambier and the sun began to rise, creating an orange coloured sky above the fog covered farmland.
    We drove on, and soon the clouds soon began to disperse over the farmland. It was looking like a beautiful day, but I made sure not to mention the sun to Steve just in case I jinxed the weather. We found the area where we planned to search for the lizards, and the roads soon began unpaved. Live wildlife soon began apparent, with King Parrots and Western Grey Kangaroos seen next to the road. Steve mentioned something about being careful about hitting Kangaroos and almost a minute later a Swamp Wallaby jumped across the road, and we narrowly missed it. After finally reaching our first destination and almost bogging the Barina, we got out to begin our searching.
    We began carefully searching under objects on the ground, making sure to be as careful as possible as to not damage the very delicate environment that the lizards live in. Almost immediately we had found our first reptile, one of many Four-toed earless skinks (Hemiergis peronii).
    These long skinks live under logs and rocks, sliding around in dense leaf litter or loose soil with their small underdeveloped limbs. I soon began getting very faint in the head due to all of the constant kneeling and standing up. We got to the end of the clearing and we had not found any Aprasia at all! I photographed the largest Hemiergis we found, and we soon moved onto the next site.
    [​IMG]Four-toed earless skink (Hemiergis peronii) by Nick Gale, on Flickr
    [​IMG]Four-toed earless skink (Hemiergis peronii) by Nick Gale, on Flickr
    Strangely enough we found no Aprasia at the next spot as well, nor even a shed skin! I am unsure if the weather was at play, and the lizards had gone well underground to wait out the rain. But at the same time I was under the assumption that the rain would bring the worm like lizards back up the surface. The area seemed perfect, and as well as more Hemiergis we also found many Black rock scorpions (Urodacus manicatus) sheltering in scrape burrows. We headed out of the eucalyptus forest and into a more rocky area, where Spalding’s ctenotus (Ctenotus spaldingi) were very common. We found close to a dozen in five minutes, but I didn't end up photographing any as we have them back in Melbourne. I have two more areas as a last ditch effort to try and find the Aprasia, so we jumped back in the car to head deeper into the pine plantations.
    We cruised along as the roads began to dry for the previous days rain, and we saw some wallabies on the side of the road. We drove past and one spooked individual ran onto the road right beside the car, hitting the drivers side door. It made a loud thud but it bounced back off the road and into the shrubs, hopefully not causing itself much damage. Steve assessed the damage and the car wasn't too dented, apart from a watery patch where the rain soaked wallaby had made impact. We drove on a few more hundred metres and jumped out, our last possible hope of finding the Aprasia. We set to work, once again making sure we didn't disturb the area too much. We found so many Hemiergis that I soon became more frustrated when I found a Hemiergis under cover rather than nothing at all. I was looking through some loose soil when Steve cried “Aprasia!”, holding up a worm like organism in his hands. I ran over to him to find out it in fact was just a worm. Real funny Steve, good one mate. We soon cut our losses, and decided to head back so I didn't miss my train.
    Although we never did find the Aprasia, we still had an enjoyable day in the field! It really boggles me that some days these lizards can be found in very high numbers and can vanish the day after, I suppose we just got it unlucky!
    Thanks for reading!
  2. Nero Egernia

    Nero Egernia Subscriber Subscriber

    Aug 10, 2015
    Likes Received:
    Western Australia
    Love seeing your photos and reading your stories NickGee. Please keep them up!

Share This Page