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moloch05

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This report covers the animals that we saw along the road between Cooktown and the Iron Range. The drive takes about 8 hours or so. The road is mostly dirt with a few sections of paved road. The dirt track up Cape York is well maintained but dusty. We could average between 80-90kph over most of it until we left the road and drove east towards the Iron Range.
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We stopped in this area on the way north and then again at night when we were returning to Cooktown. It looked like great habitat and I think that there must be many species in this area. We did not see much but I think that it still was a little too dry. Now, after the rains have arrived, there would probably be more species active by day and night.
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At night, we found this beautiful Northern Velvet Gecko (Oedura castelnaui). These are climbers but this animal was on the ground when Nick spotted it.
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Northern Death Adder (Acanthophis praelongus) -- this was initially on the road. It then crawled into an area of deep leaf litter and simply dived beneath the leaves. It was able to vanish in an instant. It was really impressive to see how quickly the adder could disappear below the surface ... much like a Simoselaps diving into the sand.
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Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) -- Nick was especially happy to see this snake. He has looked for these on Cape York for years without success. Their populations were decimated by Cane Toads so seeing this healthy adult was a good sign. The snakes must be learning not to touch the toads.
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We saw several Frilled Lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii). These were my first live animals. It was great to see them bipedal off the road and then race to eucalyptus or try to hide in burned grass trees. We did not try to corner an animal so did not see the impressive threat display.
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Much of the peninsula appears to be burned at the end of the dry season:
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This habitat was still productive for the smaller lizards. On one stop, we very quickly found four species of lizards including these Two-lined Dragons (Diporiphora bilineata) that varied considerably in pattern and colour:
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Sandy Rainbow Skink (Carlia dogare) -- this is a pair of what I think to be C. dogare, a species restricted to the Cape York Peninsula. These were common in an area with granite boulders that had been recently burned.

... female
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... breeding male
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I think that the following are female Lively Rainbow Skinks (Carlia vivex). They were common in grassy areas.
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Cryptoblepharus metallicus -- I think that this tiny skink is a C. metallicus. Cryptoblepharus was recently split by Horner and there now are a whole host of new species.
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Spotted Tree Monitor (Varanus scalaris) -- this was a tiny species of monitor that lived in a hole within one of the posts of the gate.
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We stopped at a dam near the Musgrave Station. This area is home to one of our most beautiful but unfortunately endangered birds, the Golden-shouldered Parrot. These birds nest within holes in termite mounds. I believe that their populations have been adversely affected by grazing and fire regimes where fire is too frequent. The birds will come to this waterhole every morning but unfortunately use it erratically late in the day. Nick and I watched the waterhole for several hours but never saw the special parrot. We did see many other species:

Rainbow Lorikeet, Pale-headed Rosella, Great Bowerbird and Blue-faced Honeyeater:
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left-to-right: Olive-backed Oriole, Great Bowerbird, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Great Bowerbird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Little Friarbird, Blue-faced Honeyeaters:
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Pale-headed Rosella:
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Pied Butcherbird -- a beautiful songster:
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River crossing -- it rained heavily the night before our departure from the Iron Range. The roads in central Cape York became slippery. Here was a small river crossing:
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We were held up for awhile by this Road Train that was heading to Lockhart River. The clay was slippery and the tires of the tractor could not get sufficient grip to pull the trailer up the river bank. We had to help the driver uncouple the second trailer and then pull these one at a time up to level ground.
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moloch05

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Thanks, mel. Cape York is an interesting place and herp rich.

Regards,
David
 

levis04

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wow mate pics unreal.
keep them comming.
 
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