Searching for a special skink

Ben Parkhurst
Published 04 Oct 2019 
about  Hamelin Station Reserve  
Checker-sided Ctenotus (Ctenotus mimetes). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Checker-sided Ctenotus (Ctenotus mimetes). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
All that was visible of the elusive Gidgee Skink... it's tail!<br/>This form of the subspecies occupies dead hollow wood. Photo Ben Parkhurst. All that was visible of the elusive Gidgee Skink... it's tail!
This form of the subspecies occupies dead hollow wood. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Gidgee Skinks can be found by looking for communal latrine sites like this one. Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Gidgee Skinks can be found by looking for communal latrine sites like this one. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Goldfields Crevice-skink (Egernia formosa). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Goldfields Crevice-skink (Egernia formosa). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Shark Bay Broad-blazed Slider (Lerista varia). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Shark Bay Broad-blazed Slider (Lerista varia). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Excitable Delma (Delma tincta). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Excitable Delma (Delma tincta). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Main's Frog (Cyclorana maini). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Main's Frog (Cyclorana maini). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Rosen's Snake (Suta fasciata). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Rosen's Snake (Suta fasciata). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Stripe-tailed Goanna (Varanus caudolineatus). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Stripe-tailed Goanna (Varanus caudolineatus). Photo Ben Parkhurst.

The Gidgee Skink is a shy, spiny-tailed skink that loves nothing better than to hide in dead wood. In fact, it’s thought to use the strong spines on its long tail to prevent it from being dislodged while hiding!

It’s perhaps no surprise then that we haven’t yet recorded this elusive species at Hamelin Station Reserve in Shark Bay, Western Australia despite our best efforts during previous years’ reptile surveys.

Hamelin lies in the range of a subspecies of the Gidgee Skink (Egernia stokesii badia) that is listed as endangered by the Federal Government and vulnerable by the Western Australian Government.

So as a group of hardy volunteers and I set off for a week of reptile monitoring we had high hopes that the Gidgee Skink would be among the many new reptile species we would record.

Armed with nothing more than rakes (to rake through leaf litter and find reptiles underneath), clipboards (to record new species) and cameras (to take photos of said species!) we set out under Hamelin’s beautiful sunny skies searching for skinks.

Focusing on areas deemed likely to have species not yet recorded through monitoring work done since Bush Heritage purchased the reserve in 2015; we soon recorded a first for the reserve, and a skink at that! The Goldfields Crevice-skink was dutifully noted down – but no Gidgee Skink.

As the last day of surveying approached, we had recorded 40 species of reptile, one species of mammal and one species of frog.

As well as the Goldfields Crevice-Skink, 11 of these reptiles had not been recorded on Hamelin before. They include species like the Checker-sided Ctenotus, Peron’s Snake-eyed Skink and the Monk Snake. The Main’s Frog and the Stripe-faced Dunnart we found were also new Hamelin records.

But alas, no Gidgee Skink.

Then, to our glee, walking past some dead wood we found one! True to its nature it was very well hidden, with its tail all that was visible.

Hamelin’s reptile list now stands at 65 species, and we’ve identified an additional 10 species as potentially likely to occur on the reserve. So check back next year for the results from the 2020 Hamelin Reptile Survey!

All that was visible of the elusive Gidgee Skink... it's tail!<br/>This form of the subspecies occupies dead hollow wood. Photo Ben Parkhurst. All that was visible of the elusive Gidgee Skink... it's tail!
This form of the subspecies occupies dead hollow wood. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Gidgee Skinks can be found by looking for communal latrine sites like this one. Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Gidgee Skinks can be found by looking for communal latrine sites like this one. Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Goldfields Crevice-skink (Egernia formosa). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Goldfields Crevice-skink (Egernia formosa). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Shark Bay Broad-blazed Slider (Lerista varia). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Shark Bay Broad-blazed Slider (Lerista varia). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Excitable Delma (Delma tincta). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Excitable Delma (Delma tincta). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Main's Frog (Cyclorana maini). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Main's Frog (Cyclorana maini). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Rosen's Snake (Suta fasciata). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Rosen's Snake (Suta fasciata). Photo Ben Parkhurst.
Stripe-tailed Goanna (Varanus caudolineatus). Photo Ben Parkhurst.<br/> Stripe-tailed Goanna (Varanus caudolineatus). Photo Ben Parkhurst.