Reptiles of Mary Cairncross Reserve, a walk in the rainforest.

Reptiles of Mary Cairncross Reserve, a walk in the rainforest.

The first day of 2019 seemed as good a day as any for a walk in the rainforest at Mary Cairncross Reserve Maleny looking for and photographing some of the reptile inhabitants of the park.

A reasonably early start gave me the opportunity to walk the trails alone for an hour or so which was magical. Despite its small size the reserve is a magnificent example of the sub-tropical rainforest that would have covered much of the Sunshine Coast hinterland prior to European settlement. Many of the reptiles that used to call this patch of rainforest home no longer exist there, or are so rare as to be bordering on local extinction due to the fragmentation of the forests around the park into tiny unsustainable pockets of trees of little use as habitat for biodiversity. Feral animals (especially cats and foxes) encroaching into the reserve would likely also be a large part of the reason for species decline within the park. Large skinks such as Land Mullet and Major Skinks which were once found in the area have disappeared leaving an opening for smaller animals to exploit. Virtually every available understory level niche and micro habitat is inhabited by a beautiful small to medium sized skink known as the Murray’s Skink. Often difficult to locate in some weather conditions todays were obviously suitable as I counted around thirty different animals on my two and a half hour walk. Later in the morning when there were many more walkers on the tracks it was obvious that the majority of them took very little notice of the smaller species as they walked passed them only stopping to check them out when I had settled to photograph one and even then most couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Those that were interested enough to ask to see the shot were amazed that a non descript looking small brownish lizard was actually so colourful and had so many different facets to their appearance.

At the risk of boring everyone else, below are a few shots of some of the Murray’s Skinks photographed this morning. The first photo is a juvenile around 10 centimetres total length and the largest animal would have been between 25 and 30 centimetres.

Only one snake made an appearance today, an average sized Carpet Python crossed the track and curled up neatly under a log in partial sunlight, possibly to digest a small meal captured during the night. Unlike the smaller skinks the appearance of this fella caused quite a commotion amongst the handful of walkers who witnessed its track crossing. Snakes tend to have that effect on people for some reason. Once again though as I sat for a while to admire the beauty of the animal less than a metre from the track many others walked by, oblivious to it’s existence. Sometimes I wonder why people even bother visiting natural places if they are so disinterested in what’s going on around them. Check out the blue eyes …. awesome!

Another reptile which is still recorded in the reserve is the Southern Angle-headed Dragon. A small to medium sized agamid lizard which spends most of its time motionless clinging to the trunks of rainforest trees and plants in an effort to avoid detection by predators and bushwalkers. The first shot is a good indication of what you are likely to see if you happen to be fortunate enough to spot one of these critters in it’s natural habitat. All that is visible is a pair of hind legs and one side of its face with a glimpse of eyeball, just enough so that he could keep an eye on what I was up to. If you’re close enough to circle the trunk the dragons will shift around in an effort to remain out of sight. This was the only dragon spotted today and it was quite a distance from the path in an area inaccessible from another direction so a decent photograph was impossible. I have included a couple of shots of a male and female dragon taken on previous trips to the reserve in order to give you a better idea of the beauty of these incredible lizards.

When the noise of the crowds and their kids became louder than the calls of the birds and the scratching of the Scrub Turkeys I knew that was my cue to leave it to them. All in all though a very enjoyable couple of hours recharging the batteries surrounded by nature and only a short distance from the hustle and bustle of the Sunshine Coast proper.

I am looking forward to an upcoming trip with the Queensland Frog Society to Goondicum Station in central Queensland in a few weeks time. The owners of the station are truly amazing people with huge hearts, an incredible vision and the ability to make a living from farming while at the same time preserving the natural biodiversity and associated natural habitat on the property. I can’t wait to see them again and I can guarantee a very special post when I return home.

Talk to you then.

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