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Australia, 2010!
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Part II: Road to Iron Range National Park
     We got started after dark on the long drive north.  Just after the long windy road into the tablelands, we spotted our first herp, a small active elapid, likely a curl snake (Suta suta) or a Furina tristis.  I had brought along a walkie-talkie set, so we could communicate between vehicles.  The car in the lead would have to relinquish the first car position if they hit a herp or missed one, so it was a matter of pride to see anything on the road and remain in the prime position.  We saw another small elapid, same species as the first, but after those two sightings, there was not much activity on the road.  We made good time up the paved road. 
     After a while the paved road gave way to intermittent dirt road.  It was interesting that we would be driving along a section of dirt road, when we would find a short section of paving, only to go back to dirt a km or two later.  This was likely done for sections that are prone to flooding to avoid having vehicles caught in sticky mud during the wet, but it was always a bummer when the blacktop ended.  Along one section of blacktop, we happened upon a black-headed python, which would have been a huge thrill, aside from the fact it had been recently hit and was on it's way out.  What a crappy deal to see my first and only wild blackhead of the trip this way.  It was an older individual, based on the size and condition.  I could only muster a couple of shots of this heart-breaking scene, none of which are worth posting here. 
     We stopped here and there along the side of the road, or at the intermittent road houses, and invariably found RobRoy out looking for herps.  I found this activity inspiring, and followed suit.  Along the drive up to Iron Range, we found a Bynoes gecko (Heteronotia binoei), Desert tree frog (Litoria rubella), and several northern dwarf treefrogs (Litoria bicolor) on a large succulent plant with serrated edged leaves.  It was nice to see the occasional herps along the way.  I was expecting the number of herps on the road to be higher, but the weather was still a little cool.  That may have been a good thing, as frequent herps would mean either doubling our drive up to Iron Range, or passing by many herps on the road. 
Bynoes gecko


Tree frogs
     My favorite find on the road north was at a stop by a dry wash.  I found a nice gnarled old tree that was still standing.  I noticed a gecko skin hanging from one of the cracks in an overhanging branch of the tree, which appeared to be a velvet gecko skin.  Sure enough, in the same crack was a beautiful female northern velvet gecko (Oedura castelnaui).  The male was found shortly thereafter.  The pair had beautiful yellow and orange tails and looked like none of the castelnaui I had seen previously.  Another unidentified gecko with a very pale background color and little noticeable pattern was also seen higher up in the tree.  It was so great to be able to find such cool geckos at roadside stops during the long drive.
Velvet gecko
                (Oedura castelnaui)

Velvet gecko (Oedura castelnaui)
     We eventually came to the turnoff for Iron Range and stopped for a quick break before heading out on the final leg of the journey.  After a couple crossings of crock infested rivers (as signs warned us), the landscape turned from dry forests, to more dense rainforest areas.  We entered Iron Range and traveled along the main dirt track east towards the coast.  The park consists of a couple basic campgrounds and is close to the Lockheart River community, an Aboriginal town that is a bit south of the national park.  Flying overhead in the early light as we entered the rainforest were stark white cockatoos, smaller faster lorikeets, and some kingfishers.  Other parrots of interest encountered during our stay in Iron Range included eclectus parrots and palm cockatoos, both of which are popular finds in the park.  It was very difficult to get good shots of the birds with the lenses I brought, but the target wasn't parrots, despite how cool they were.
     We headed down the dirt track towards our accommodations at Portland Roads, and along the way, "eagle-eye" RobRoy spotted a frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) on a tree a bit off the road as we were driving along at 80 km/h.  We looked through the forest for the frilled.  I spotted him about 7 feet up a medium tree and we all closed in for pictures.  He was silvery gray with dark markings and blended in nicely with the dark bark on the tree.  He did get a bit agitated and gave us a bit of a show, frilling up nicely for pictures.  Another adrenaline pumping find for sure!
Frilled lizard
                (Chlamydosaurus kingii)
     Next order of business was to set up our base camp at the comfortable Portland Roads Roadhouse, which is nicely situated just up from the beach in a beautiful area just east of Iron Range.  It was much nicer than I anticipated staying in and had plenty of beds, a kitchen including a fridge, and even a shower house.  Luxury indeed!  We made our way through the house, each claiming a spot to sleep and unpacking our gear from the vehicles.  We took a little look around, finding a nice green tree snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus) in the tree out front and the neighbors had found a Burtons snake-lizard (Lialis burtonis), which was cool to see.  I have always liked the Burtons.  Shortly thereafter, everyone was taking a power nap in preparation for the herping later that evening. 
Green tree snake

Burtons snake-lizard
     Nighttime couldn't come fast enough, but soon we were driving at dusk up the dusty road.  We turned off towards Chili Beach along a section of road through a eucalypt forest.  The first find of the night was a beautiful Cape York spotted python (Antaresia maculosa)!  I was very excited to find one, as this is a species I keep at home.  It was a very docile snake, never attempting to strike as we photographed it in the fading light of the day.  What a rush to find such a cool little python in it's natural habitat!
Cape York spotted
                python (Antaresia maculosa)
     Shortly thereafter, the lead car found a brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) on the road.  It was very alert and intelligent looking.  Nice to see another snake on the road.
Brown tree snake
     We joined up with Michael Cermak to search for some green tree pythons (Morelia viridis) on a side trail through the jungle.  Unfortunately, luck was not with us and no green trees were found.  I did happen upon a green frog (Litoria caerulea) in a picture perfect pose, as well as some green python food (a small rodent, likely a Melomys), and the only Australian Ranid, a wood frog (Rana daemeli).  Despite not finding any reptiles, the anticipation of finding an amazing green jewel kept the excitement levels high!  We returned to the beach house and a nice mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) was cruising around the back deck posts.
Green frog

Wood frog

Mourning gecko
     The next day we headed out west of the park to check out some giant termite mounds, Queensland pitcher plants, and some amazing ant plants.  We headed down along a small creek, where we spotted a couple saw shelled turtles (Elseya latisternum) in the shallows.  Allen dove in after one, although he had his camera in his pocket (he likes turtles!).
Page 3, Green Pythons in Iron Range