Brigalow trip January 2024.

Brigalow trip January 2024.

The southern brigalow belt west of Brisbane is home to quite a few reptiles and one frog species that I would love the chance to photograph for my next book. Having a few weeks off over the break I decided on the spur of the moment to take the long drive from the Sunshine Coast and see if I could manage to photograph some of them. To be honest I felt that I needed some alone time as well, so it was definitely a dual-purpose trip, luckily for me as the reptiles were few and far between as it turned out. I wasn’t limited by any time constraints, so I decided to detour slightly and begin the journey at Crows Nest National Park. After leaving a little later than I had hoped I arrived at the park about 10am and it was already above 30degrees which reptiles are accustomed to, but old fat blokes tend to struggle with, especially on long walks in the sun. The scenery is spectacular especially when the creeks and pools are topped up and the good rains southeast Queensland has received recently ensured that was the case.

I did have a couple of targets here, one of which was the Eastern fire-tailed skink however it was a little too hot on the rock surfaces where I would normally expect to find them by the time I had walked in. Note to self, “get out of bed earlier next time”. I was surprised that there were no Nobby dragons or Carlia skinks basking beside the entrance track, but I didn’t have to wait to long for a small but stunning Eastern bearded dragon resting on a rock to come into view. It was close to the track but as you can see from the first photo it was doing a reasonable job, sitting perfectly still and blending into the background.

A little farther along one of the missing Carlia’s, an Open litter rainbow skink scuttled off the path in front of me. I sat down close to where I last saw it and as they are prone to do it came back out to check me out and allowed me the chance to get a couple of half decent photos before disappearing for good. He was sporting his breeding colouration and had an amazing green sheen to the top of his head which was clearly visible even without the aid of the camera.

A few others, Elegant snake-eyed skinks and Martin’s skinks were also active but generally didn’t stray too far from home base.

At one of the lookouts, I noticed some movement amongst the rocks which turned out to be a sub adult Yellow-spotted monitor rummaging through the leaf litter looking for its next meal. It was on the other side of a protective mesh barrier fence, and I had to follow it for a considerable distance before it stopped still long enough for a pic or two. It appeared to be on the verge of shedding its skin, so the colour was a bit dull but I was still very happy to get close enough for a couple of shots.

The walk out to the car was tougher with the sun high in the sky and pretty much all the critters except for the sweating photographer well and truly hidden away by that stage. I must admit I did appreciate getting back to the car and cranking up the AC before heading off to Dalby. 

The drive out there is quite boring really and once you leave Dalby it tends to be seemingly endless expanses of treeless cultivated farmland with a little original (or regrown) brigalow scrub scattered along the roadside verges. These small areas of scrub beside the roads are really very important as in many areas it’s all that’s left of the original vegetation. Unfortunately for the wildlife that use them it’s also extremely dangerous navigating the roadways to get from one side the other. Every time I travel out to brigalow there seems to be less, and less natural vegetation and it appears that some of the roadside scrub has now been cleared for new gas lines which seems incredulous in this day and age especially considering the fragility of this particular ecosystem. I have certainly noticed a considerable reduction in the numbers and varieties of the species that rely on this scrub over the past twenty odd years. There are areas set aside as national parks scattered throughout the area however they are extremely small and generally fragmented from other patches of brigalow scrub rendering them vulnerable at best. I noticed in one of the parks that I was unable to enter because of standing water that nearly all the mature trees along the roadside edges appeared to either be dead or dying which could be a disaster it was widespread throughout the entire area of the park.

Anyway, the drive was uneventful until very late in the afternoon. A large snake which I am thinking because of its pattern and colouration could well have been a Strap-snouted brown (one of my target species) reared up on the opposite side of the road as I approached. By the time I had stopped safely and jumped out of the car it was long gone disappearing into the grass at lightning speed. When you’re as old and slow as I am it really doesn’t take much to elude me, I’m afraid. It was probably just a really pretty common old Eastern brown anyway – I’ll keep telling myself that, so I don’t feel so bad for missing it.

I discovered once I reached the area that I was hoping to survey that some quite heavy (80mm plus) rain had fallen a night or two before and the storm that had accompanied the rain was pretty hectic knocking down trees and spreading debris everywhere. Normally rain is welcomed but this time, possibly because of the severity of the storm it had a negative effect on the reptiles which simply refused to play the game.

Just twenty minutes after dark it looked promising with a stunning Curl snake making an appearance but from then on it went very quiet except for the calls of numerous breeding frogs.

Luckily for me I love frogs just as much as reptiles and they were definitely not in short supply after the rains. I did however miss out on many opportunities to photograph some of the more common species because I was holding out hope that the reptiles would turn up eventually and wanted to keep moving just in case. I’m kicking myself now but hindsight is a wonderful thing I suppose. The following photos were taken before about 1.30am when I finally gave up and decided to set up the tent and get some sleep. 

A couple of beautiful Holy cross frogs. I have a pet name for these guys, grumpy frogs, I love them. I’m not sure what the blue patch is on the side above the forearm of the first one. Anyone has any theories please let me know. (The conjecture amongst the experts since writing is that it is probably a healed or healing injury rather than a pigment issue).

One of the giants of the frogs of the brigalow, an Eastern snapping frog often referred to as the Wide-mouthed frog. I wonder where that name came from?

Another large burrower the Green-striped frog. Not as big as the previous species, in fact there have been many records of voracious Eastern snapping frogs devouring live Green-striped frogs whole.

This fella had me guessing for a while and I believe that it’s a Western collared frog also known as Knife-footed frog. When I first spotted it, I thought Superb collared frog but decided on the former. If you don’t agree let me know, I would be happy to stand corrected. It’s probably a bit hard to see on these small photos but the greenish colouration of the facial stripe led me to my conclusion.

These two Emerald-spotted tree frogs were happily getting jiggy with it in the middle of the road so I guided them towards the verge as there were a few trucks zooming up and down at the time. They weren’t bothered at all and remained in amplexus even while casually hopping off the road. I’ve always thought that the Emerald spotteds from the brigalow look just a little bit different to the local populations on the coast. No where near as colourful for a start.

Barking frogs were prevalent around one particular spillway and there were a number that had already fallen victim to passing vehicles unfortunately. The fella in the second photo was particularly stunning. One of the features often quoted as useful when identifying this species is a pink tinge to the rear of the eyelids but only one of the frogs I saw this time possessed that marking.

A full grown Salmon-striped frog, first adult of this species I’ve seen for ages and a little ripper at that.

Early the following morning I had hoped to spend a few hours walking through two of the best sections of remaining brigalow scrub in the area looking for a few diurnal reptiles that I required shots of but that didn’t go to plan either. The entrances to the national park were flooded and a massive tree had fallen across and completely blocked the road to the other site. I figured it wasn’t meant to be so chucked in the towel and headed back toward the coast with a plan to detour to Bunya Mountains National Park and spend the night there. The Bunya’s is another spot that is pretty special but once again the reptiles weren’t interested in playing the game with me on this trip.

This shallow pool at the base of a small waterfall was home to dozens of large Great barred frog tadpoles

Although nowhere near as wet as it had been out further west the rainforest section of the park was still wet enough to host lots of fungi fruiting on the fallen logs and decaying tree trunks. Fungi make cool photographic subjects because they don't do the bolt just as you take the shot, makes life a lot easier.

The only reptile I saw at the Bunya’s, a lonely Eastern water dragon. Didn't put a lot of effort into this shot as you can see.

I’ve never been much of a bird photographer, way too shaky especially for birds in flight. Whilst admiring the view from one of the parks balds a flash of colour caught my eye as one of my all-time favourite birds flew into my line of sight some fifty metres away. Look closely, there is actually a bird in that tree believe it or not. A majestic Regent bower bird perched in a dead tree on the edge of one of the grassy clearings on the Bunya Mountains known as balds. I’m stoked, what an awesome bird photographer I have become…not.

After four hours of hiking with limited results I pretty much spat the dummy and decided to head home early. This sweet little Eastern long-necked turtle was crossing the road, so I stopped to make sure it made it across safely and snapped a few shots of the last critter for the trip. Hope he made it to some water safely, there didn’t seem to be too much around.

It’s been raining pretty much ever since I got home so I was lucky to get out there and experience what was on offer albeit a little disappointing before having to go back to work. Nature recharges are the best!

All the best, and a happy new year to you all. More blog posts coming soon.







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