Tropical Queensland, Mt. Elliot

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moloch05

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Gus kindly took me to Bowling Green National Park near Townsville to see another of the leaf-tails with a tiny distribution. This species, Phyllurus amnicola, is only known from Mt. Elliot. Gus visited the site a few months back and was able to locate the geckos. The walk to the site is a long one and we probably covered about 18 kms in total. This included the climb of the Alligator Falls and then rock hopping to the gecko habitat far up in the rainforest.

Mt. Elliot is an isolated massif and is home to at least two endemic reptiles and an endemic frog. The lower slopes of the mountain are covered with eucalyptus woodland but higher up, there is nice rainforest especially along the drainages.
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The walk to the falls passed through forest like this:
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We crossed the Alligator River on a number of occasions.
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Eventually, Alligator Falls came into view:
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We climbed the waterfall at dusk. The waterfall is more like a steep cascade than a true falls. Here are a few shots at the top of the falls.
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We continued on to an area where Gus had located the geckos on an earlier trip. As usual, this involved rock hopping to ever higher elevations. The habitat changed and the drier forest was replaced by lush rainforest with many palms along the creek. Some of the rainforest trees were flowering and the creek was frequently covered with white flowers.

We finally reached the right area and almost immediately, Gus found the geckos. These turned out to be abundant lizards. The geckos were large and not nearly as spiny as some of the other Phyllurus that we had recently observed. Their original tails were broad.

These geckos did not seem particularly shy. They usually held their head up rather than tightly pressed against a rock like most leaf-tails do when disturbed.
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The climb down the falls at night was an exciting one. While we watched and photographed the geckos, it began to rain. Granite becomes as slippery as ice when it was wet so the thought of the steep descent was a worry. We choose to descend within the forest where we could hang on to trees. This approach had its problems and we had to back track occasionally to skirt around cliffs or thickets of lawyer vine. Eventually, we found the trail again and made the long 8km walk back to the car, but we were buoyed by the memories of another successful sojourn.

Here are a few photos of animals that we observed while walking to the falls in the afternoon. We saw many lizards but only attempted to photograph a few.

Nobbi Dragon (Amphibolurus nobbi):
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Tommy Roundhead (Diporiphora australis) -- these blend well when standing among the blades of grass:
lizard_Diporiphora_australis_ME1.jpg


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Lined Rainbow Skink (Carlia jarnoldae) -- female. We saw males but took no photos.
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Open-litter Rainbow Skink (Carlia pectoralis) -- breeding male.
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Saw-shelled Turtle (Wollumbinia latisternum) -- we found this juvenile on one of our crossings of the Alligator River.
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Regards,
David
 

moloch05

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Thanks, Warren. P. amnicola are great geckos!

Regards,
David
 

Bearded_Lady

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Very nice David. I went out herping the other day and have just realised how hard it is to capture skinks on camera but somehow you always manage to get them. Well done!
 
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