After a successful field trip back in September, three environmental science students from James Cook Uni returned to help with Spring fauna trapping at Yourka Reserve.
The students helped set and check pitfall, funnel, cage and Elliot traps over four consecutive trapping nights, and also conducted spotlighting transects after dark.
Key additions to the Yourka species list from this October survey were the Ocellated Velvet Gecko and the Eastern Small-eyed Snake. Not surprisingly, the reptiles dominated the traps at this warmer time of year.
The students were armed with cameras, biros and books to identify and record new species for their own personal species lists.
Student volunteer, Leah Carr snapped this fantastic shot of a Box-pattern Gecko (also known as Steindachner's Gecko) licking its eyeball – a common practice for most geckos who can’t blink because they don’t have eyelids.
It was fantastic to have the students along for the survey, not least because they were such great role models for our own budding biologists, Beth, Macey and Seeley.
Back home and back on the books the students all wrote back to thank us for the experience. Leah commented that, “It was a fantastic opportunity to come out and learn while having fun, and a welcome study break”.
Ecologist, Terry Reis provided the following trip notes and insights into a few of the interesting species recorded.
Ocellated Velvet Gecko (Oedura monilis)
Oedura monilis was recorded on Yourka for the first time during the October survey with an individual found during the day under exfoliating bark on a dead tree and another at the base of a tree during spotlighting. The velvet geckos are so named for their comparatively soft skin. This species is usually arboreal though it can occur on rocks.
Eastern Small-eyed Snake (Cryptophis nigrescens)
This is a secretive, nocturnal species that's reminiscent of a small Red-bellied Black Snake. During the day the Small-eyed Snake shelters under loose bark, rocks and human debris such as sheets of tin. It's usually placid when found during the day but is often nervous at night, thrashing about somewhat. There's been at least one human fatality from a bite by this species, though it's usually disinclined to bite. The species is widespread and common along the east coast. One was captured on Yourka in a pitfall trap in a sandy riparian area.
Scarlet-sided Pobblebonk (Limnodynastes terraereginae)
This is a large and very handsome terrestrial frog. The species is also known as the Northern Banjo Frog but 'Pobblebonk' is more evocative, and better reflects its 'bonking' call. The scientific name means 'lord of the marshes, queen of the land', though terraereginae could also be interpreted as meaning Queensland, presumably with reference to its distribution. It does, however, extend well into New South Wales. It's a common species on Yourka and often caught in pitfall traps.
The Upland Toadlet (Uperoleia altissima)
A surprising capture on Yourka in May 2017. This very small frog species (it's not a toad) is usually thought to be confined to elevated areas of the Wet Tropics and further north around Laura in areas of sandstone. However, perusal of the Atlas of Living Australia database revealed records to the south of Yourka, well outside its considered range. This second capture in October suggests it may be reasonably common on the reserve. It would be good to record the call of individuals on Yourka as its call is particularly helpful for discerning different species in this difficult-to-identify genus.