Yourka tales

Published 07 Nov 2014 
about  Yourka Reserve  
An eastern pebble-mound mouse. Photo Annette Ruzicka.<br/> An eastern pebble-mound mouse. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Common planigale.<br/> Photo by Jim Radford Common planigale.
Photo by Jim Radford
Eastern pebble-mound mouse.<br/> Photo by Terry Reis Eastern pebble-mound mouse.
Photo by Terry Reis

We should learn to expect the unexpected. As I tipped the soil and leaf-litter from the bottom of an apparently empty pitfall trap into a zip-lock bag to collect any reclusive spiders, a small legless lizard leapt rhythmically out of the debris. No more than 20 cm long, its characteristic shimmy was unmistakable as it clambered for freedom. Smooth, gun-metal grey with two distinct black bands across the back of its head and neck, the Black-necked Legless Lizard Delma tincta is widespread and relatively common but, like most legless lizards, is not trapped all that often.

This welcome find occurred during a week of small vertebrate trapping on Yourka Reserve. A variety of traps, including pitfall, Elliot and funnel traps, were established at 13 sites across several habitat zones: alluvial flats, Tertiary sandplains, basalt plains and the slopes of Whispering Ridge. While capture rates were relatively low, in all we still recorded 18 reptile species and two small mammals. Twelve of the reptile species were new records for Yourka, which included the legless lizard, a blind snake, three geckos, and several skinks.

Common Planigales Planigale maculata were recorded in good numbers from four different sites. These tiny marsupials are feisty carnivores that shelter in cracks in the soil or in logs during the day and feed on beetles, small lizards and spiders by night. A healthy population is a good sign. We also trapped two Eastern Pebble-mound Mouse Psuedomys patrius (see picture), both at the same site on Whispering Ridge. Reserve Manager Paul Hales had seen the tell-tale mounds of pebbles typical of this species elsewhere on Yourka but this was confirmation that the species is alive and well on Whispering Ridge.

Capture rates for both mammals and reptiles were similar in each of the three main habitat zones – alluvial, Tertiary sandplains and Whispering Ridge – and the total number of species trapped in each habitat was also roughly equal. Few species captured in significant numbers were confined to one of the habitat zones.

The relatively low capture rates may have been due to the very dry season Yourka is experiencing this year. However, the low diversity of species captured may indicate that the western part of Yourka is in a “distributional hole”, with more species occurring in the dry interior further west or in the wetter forests to the east. Nevertheless, Yourka provides important habitat for those species occurring in this transition zone, and further trapping, particularly in the east of the property, will undoubtedly reveal more species.  

Common planigale.<br/> Photo by Jim Radford Common planigale.
Photo by Jim Radford
Eastern pebble-mound mouse.<br/> Photo by Terry Reis Eastern pebble-mound mouse.
Photo by Terry Reis