Now here’s something a bit different!
What we have in this photo is a common Garden Skink, found swimming in a backyard pool. Like many reptiles it is a pretty good swimmer. Unable to climb out, it was rescued and posed for this blog before being released into leaf litter where it would feel safer.
Some of us are capable of dropping our ‘bundle’ in a crisis – many lizards have the ability of being able to drop their tails, i.e when they are about to become a meal, particularly for predators such as the Kookaburra and Grey Shrike Thrush. The mechanism of tail dropping involves the fracturing of the vertebrae and breaking off of muscles and blood vessels at the fracture point. The detached tail then goes into muscle contraction that distracts the predator while the lizard makes its escape. The fracture point on the lizard has muscles able to clamp and quickly close blood vessels. Over some months the tail will grow back without vertebrae but with cartilage as the underlying structure.
The tail is an important asset to the lizard for storing fat, creating greater skin surface area to aid temperature control and assisting balance. Losing the tail is detrimental until a new tail is grown. What a great adaptation though to prevent the lizard from becoming a meal.
In the case where the tail does not fully detach as in the photo above, a new tail will grow from the breakage point. So, we end up with a forked tail. Pretty Freaky!!
On my weekly trip over to Willowmavin working with Chris Cobern (Fire -Recovery Co-ordinator for the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network),we often come across interesting creatures or plants in the environment. In a previous post I noted the Golden Moth Orchids on the roadside. On one property where we have been fencing off the Kurkuruc Creek, we have been watching the flowering of clumps of Xanthorrhoea minor, the small grass tree. Normally found in open woodland or heath, this clump is in an open paddock heavily grazed by sheep.
Obviously a tough customer requiring good drainage and drought tolerant, it would make a great garden specimen. Although slow growing, the foliage is attractive and when it flowers it is a striking plant. Nectar rich, it is a great bird and insect attractor. In terms of bush tucker, like Banksia species, the flowers can be used to sweeten drinks
A sunny day on the Kurkuruc Creek means snakes and plenty of them. Tiger snakes abound as well as Red-Belleid Black snakes, taking advantage of the many rocks in the creek to sun themselves. On a walk across the creek, one of our volunteers “Shorty” came across an interesting find half buried in the mud. this fresh water mussel contributes to keeping the water clean through filtering out bacteria and algae which is it’s food source. The life cycle of the fresh water mussel is interesting in that the female filters sperm released from the male through her gills where the eggs are stored and brooded. The fertilised eggs develop into larvae which need to attach to the gills or fins of fish in order to complete their development. The juvenile mussel then detaches from the fish and buries itself in the mud where it continues to grow. The advantage of attaching to fish is that the mussel population can get free transport to other locations in the waterway. Streams that have poor fish habitat therefore are not likely to have a good mussel population. Another good reason then to fence off waterways from stock and revegetate stream banks! Keep our native fish and mussel populations strong. Thanks to Shorty’s sharp eyes, I will know what to look for next time I’m down at our own King Parrot Creek.
Flowerdale Landcare committee of management met for the last time for 2014 recently. Normally a meeting is kept strictly to 1 and a half hours, but while Claude cooked up our BBQ dinner, the rest of us piled into cars for a quick trip up Spring Valley Road to locate Ted. Ted is our local Koala who pops up from time to time and was written about in an earlier post. His latest resting place is in some River Red Gums planted at the back of a farm dam that has been fenced off and revegetated. This patch is only 12 years old but has good connectivity to roadside vegetation and koala forage trees. Ted’s an old bloke that likes to sleep a lot and looks a little peeved when he is woken for a photo opportunity.
Linda, a keen member of the King Parrot Creek Environment Group, sent in the following observation;
Ron & I saw a very interesting thing early this afternoon.
Ron has tied a t-shirt up on the boundary fence at the top of the hill- Ron is a raucous one- eyed Hawks fan, (ed.)
We thought the t-shirt was flapping like a bird until we got the binoculars and saw it was an eagle. We then thought it was caught on the fence, somehow with the t-shirt and were getting ready to go up to free it.
It seemed to be pulling at the t-shirt, then low and behold it flew off with the t-shirt! Would it be building a nest this time of the year?
Great observation Linda. These fantastic birds are enthralling to watch. The Wedge -tailed Eagle includes carrion as part of it’s diet. Perhaps it confused Ron’s Hawthorn jumper for carrion. Nesting begins from next month and the nest usually comprises sticks. I don’t think Ron’s shirt was taken to line the nest, but may have attracted the curiosity of the great bird. I’m not superstitious, but I wouldn’t back the Hawks for this year’s Premiership, the West Coast Eagles might be the way to go.
Wildlife carers Rick and Claire snapped a photo of an unusual critter;
Looking like a good size worm, this blind snake (Ramphotyphlops ssp) is rarely seen (nocturnal and is non-venomous. This is my kind of snake! Well maybe not, as on further research the blind snake defends itself by vomiting up it’s last meal and or releasing a foul odour from it’s anal glands! The Blind Snake therefore is classified under F.A.R.T. – foul aroma releasing thingy.
An obscure photo taken on a primitive mobile phone shows a red bellied black snake in a blue gum @ 10 metres above ground. I wasn’t game to get any closer for a better shot as I was sure it was about to drop and I don’t relish the prospect of a snake draped around my neck. My attention to the snake’s presence was alerted by mudlarks and magpies who were watching the progress of this 1 metre long reptile. I have never seen a red bellied black snake climb a tree before and was surprised at how agile it was. I wonder if it was searching for prey such as Peron’s Tree Frog or even microbats that hide under the bark ribbons that hang from this tree.
Speaking of magpies (Cracticus tibicen), there are several variations found in Flowerdale; the Black Backed Magpie (usually found north of the dividing range), the White Backed Magpie usually south of the range) and two mutant forms; an almost white mutation and the subspecies Cracticus tibicen “Collingwoodii” usually found in or around the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Special Note; All Magpies are Protected. Floreat pica
Inspired by our ‘sticky fingers’ post, Anthony, a recent visitor to Flowerdale from Singapore, sent in this photo.
This is an Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus) found throughout South East Asia and also Northern Australia. A successful coloniser, this gecko probably entered Australia by boat. Through competition for food, this gecko may be responsible for displacing local species. For further information click on http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/__…/IPA-Asian-House–Gecko-Risk-Assessment.pd.
This ghostly black and white photo was sent in by Chris from his movement activated camera. The animal in the frame is a Long nosed Bandicoot found at the northern end of the Flowerdale Valley. These animals are active at night digging for grubs and fungi, leaving cone shaped holes in the grass. They don’t venture far from dense cover as they are at risk from foxes. This one was on a creek line with dense thickets of Tree Violet in the background. Since the fires of 2009, the Long nosed Bandicoot has appeared throughout the Flowerdale Valley, often as road kill unfortunately.
The last couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed planting some of 7,500 trees on a revegetation project in a steep and isolated part of Flowerdale. This morning Julian, the young local assisting me, spotted a tiny creature in the crevice of the door of my 4 wheel drive. Our initial impression was that the stowaway had departed this world. I took it home to try and identify it.
The unseasonal warmth of this winters day (record 19 degrees) produced a miracle in this tiny reptile. In the warmth of my dashboard, what appeared deceased came rapidly back to life. After a few quick photos this little creature was returned to where it was found to wriggle it’s way back into hiding in a crevice in the rock. It will need to wait a few more weeks until Spring is truly here and the temperature is consistently warm enough for it’s body temperature to rise and allow it to hunt.. I think this tiny reptile is a Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus).
The little toe pads do feel a little bit sticky, ticklish too!