Book Launch: Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs

Land for Wildlife launched the second edition of Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs by Nic Gambold and Deborah Metters at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre this month. The launch was attended by 20 keen Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members, who were treated to a presentation by Rex Neindorf on the biology and habits of legless lizards (Family PYGOPODIDAE).

Legless lizards at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Rex explained how members can identify the differences between some of the common legless lizards and small venomous snakes. He showed an example of an Excitable Delma or Excitable Snake Lizard (Delma tincta), which can often be confused with a baby brown snake. The two reptiles have a similar colour, both lay eggs and both slither along the ground. However, there are some clear differences, which were explained in detail and shown to those attending the event.

When the Excitable Delma was released onto the ground, the reason for its name became obvious. The legless lizard launched its body around on the ground with a huge amount of excitement. This was a great way to distinguish the difference between this particular legless lizard and snake. Rule 1: Snakes don’t jump. They do slither along the ground and they can launch their head and front third of their body, but they are not jumpers. Excitable Delmas are able to jump several centimetres off the ground, using their whole body.

Legless lizards have ears and some have eyelids and snakes do not have either. This is an easy way to tell the difference between the two types of reptiles, if you can get close enough without putting yourself or others in danger. Snakes can’t blink, instead they have a thin transparent scale that covers the eye, which are known as spectacles and are replaced when the snake sheds its skin. Snakes don’t have visible ear openings, but rather their inner ear is connected directly to the jawbone, which senses vibrations. Many legless lizards have small ear openings behind the jaw. Legless lizards may have lost their legs as large extensions over evolutionary time, however they do possess small residual nodules to the rear where the hind legs would have been. Keep an eye on the tongue of the reptile when it licks the air. Snakes have a very distinctly forked tongue, which is quite long and slim, whereas legless lizards have a fatter tongue that lacks a defined fork.

Legless lizards have the ability to drop their tail as a life-saving protection mechanism from predators, known as caudal autotomy. Many land owners are tricked this way when they are frightened, thinking they have found a snake and take to the individual with a shovel, only to find the animal does not die (quite the opposite for a snake, but we do not recommend testing this theory as we are pro-life for all reptiles!). Many legless lizards have a very small body and a large tail and hence are not killed when sliced in half. The tail will then regenerate given enough time and cause no discomfort to the individual. The regenerating tail has a slight colour difference in comparison to the rest of the body and so a shearing point can be found on some legless lizards that have undergone regeneration. Snakes do not regenerate a tail and therefore similar patternation can be found down the length of the body.

Some other distinguishing characteristics are less easy to identify in a hurry. For example, if you can get the reptile to roll over (good luck), you can check the ventral pattern of the scales. In venomous snakes, the ventral scales are wide, extending along the width of the belly and continue in such a way down the length of the body. In legless lizards, the scales on the underbelly are much like those on the rest of the body. Snakes are able to use their belly and side scales to move in an S-shape along the ground, whereas legless lizards can only use their sides. This means that if a legless lizard moves onto a completely smooth surface, it will lose its ability to move (important to note if you see one on the road – take care and drive around it if possible). If you happen to keep an eye on it long enough to find it feeding, legless lizards are not able to unlock their jaws to swallow large prey so they will generally go for smaller food items than snakes will.

Differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes include the size of the body scales (large in venomous snakes and small in non-venomous snakes), patterning of the body (non-intricate in venomous snakes and intricate in non-venomous snakes), tail movement (non-prehensile tail in venomous snakes, prehensile in non-venomous snakes) and loreal scales (no loreal scales in venomous snakes, loreal scales in non-venomous snakes).

Rex also explained about the snake catching service provided by the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.  He noted that they have caught fewer snakes than usual this year since there has been a lot of rain so the snakes can’t be seen amongst the grass as easily, though the catch levels were still higher than we expected.

If you notice a venomous snake on your property, you can call the Alice Springs Reptile Centre call-out number on 0407 983 276. Keep an eye on the snake and they will attend to collect it as soon as possible. Snakes are then released at several sites around Alice Springs in the rural area, depending on the required habitat of the caught individual.

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is selling snake bandages that have indicator boxes to determine the correct application of tension to prevent the venom spreading. If you are updating your first aid kit, you may wish to visit Rex and his team to discuss suitable bandage options.

Thanks go to Rex Neindorf for launching the Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs booklet and providing such an informative presentation!

Land for Wildlife host Bill Low opens the launch, which included a presentation by Rex Neindorf

The Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs booklet can be purchased from Land for Wildlife Central Australia for $15 at any of our upcoming stalls at local events. You can also grab copies from Arid Lands Environment Centre and Red Kangaroo Books.

A Selection of Grasses from Central Australia

For those that attended the Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour of Alice Springs, you may be familiar with the booklet that we have been developing—A Selection of Grasses from Central Australia (yet to be formally titled). The information used was sourced from an excellent online resource called AusGrass2, in combination with 30 grass samples collected from Land for Wildlife member properties.

Cymbopogon ambiguus

We have been able to seek permission from the Queensland Herbarium, who now manages the site, to use the information to develop a regional grass guide for central Australia. This will help our members to identify the invasive grasses and distinguish them from the local native grasses, as well as learn about the diversity of grasses in central Australia.

To help us along with producing a complete booklet, we are still seeking samples from the following native and exotic species (For the plant experts among you, let us know if you know where to find any of them):

Blowngrass Agrostis avenacea
Grey-beard Grass, Long Grey-beard Grass Amphipogon caricinus
Aristida arida
Cane Grass Three-awn, Two-gland Three-awn Aristida biglandulosa
Needle-leaved Three-awn Aristida capillifolia
Bunched Kerosene Grass, Mulga Grass Aristida contorta
Jericho Three-awn Aristida jerichoensis var. subspinulifera
Feathertop Wiregrass Aristida latifolia
Rock Three-awn Aristida latzii
Flat-awned Three-awn Aristida nitidula
Brush Three-awn, Brush Wiregrass Aristida obscura
Weeping Mitchell Grass Astrebla elymoides
Barley Mitchell Grass Astrebla pectinata
Austrostipa centralis
Austrostipa feresetacea
Rough Speargrass Austrostipa scabra subsp. scabra
Wild Oat Avena fatua
Desert Bluegrass Bothriochloa ewartiana
Birdwood Grass Cenchrus setiger
Comb Chloris Chloris pectinata
Feathertop Rhodes Grass, Furry Grass, Feather Finger-grass Chloris virgata
Feathertop Rhodes Grass, Furry Grass, Feather Finger-grass Chloris virgata
Golden Beard Grass, Ribbon Grass, Weeping Grass, Spear Grass Chrysopogon fallax
Northern Barley Grass Critesion murinum subsp. glaucum
Silkyheads, Lemon-scented Grass Cymbopogon obtectus
Sheda Grass Dichanthium annulatum
Dwarf Bluegrass Dichanthium sericeum subsp. humilius
Silky Umbrella Grass, Spider Grass Digitaria ammophila
Umbrella Grass, Finger Panic Grass Digitaria coenicola
Comb Finger Grass Digitaria ctenantha
Echinochloa crus-galli
Japanese Millet Echinochloa esculenta
Conetop Nine-awn, Clelands Nine-awn Enneapogon clelandii
Jointed Nine-awn, Limestone Oat-grass, Jointed Bottlewasher Enneapogon cylindricus
Enneapogon eremophilus
Rock Nine-awn Enneapogon oblongus
Curly Windmill Grass, Umbrella Grass, Spider grass Enteropogon acicularis
Eragrostis A51007 Limestone
Swamp Canegrass Eragrostis australasica
Neat Lovegrass, Clustered Lovegrass Eragrostis basedowii
Fairy Grass, Cumings Lovegrass Eragrostis cumingii
Mallee Lovegrass Eragrostis dielsii
Clustered Lovegrass, Close-headed Lovegrass Eragrostis elongata
Small-flowered Lovegrass Eragrostis kennedyae
Purple Lovegrass Eragrostis lacunaria
Drooping Lovegrass Eragrostis leptocarpa
Eragrostis olida
Weeping Lovegrass Eragrostis parviflora
Small Lovegrass Eragrostis pergracilis
Neverfail, Narrow-leaf Neverfail Eragrostis setifolia
Knottybutt Neverfail Eragrostis xerophila
Three-awn Wanderrie Eriachne aristidea
Woollybutt Wanderrie Eriachne helmsii
Pretty Wanderrie Eriachne pulchella subsp. pulchella
Eight Day Grass, Common Fringe-rush Fimbristylis dichotoma
Fimbristylis microcarya
Bunch Speargrass, Black Speargrass Heteropogon contortus
Rough-stemmed Flinders Grass Iseilema dolichotrichum
Bull Flinders Grass Iseilema macratherum
Small Flinders Grass Iseilema membranaceum
Red Flinders Grass Iseilema vaginiflorum
Umbrella Canegrass Leptochloa digitata
Small-flowered Beetle Grass Leptochloa fusca subsp. fusca
Brown Beetle Grass Leptochloa fusca subsp. muelleri
Beetle Grass Leptochloa fusca subsp. uninervia
Natal Red Top, Red Natal Grass Melinis repens
Winged Chloris Oxychloris scariosa
Giant Panic Panicum antidotale
Hairy Panic Panicum effusum
Pepper Grass Panicum laevinode
Bristle-brush Grass Paractaenum refractum
Clements Paspalidium Paspalidium clementii
Knottybutt Paspalidium, Slender Panic Paspalidium constrictum
Warrego Summer Grass Paspalidium jubiflorum
Bunch Paspalidium Paspalidium rarum
Kikuyu Pennisetum clandestinum
Pennisetum pedicellatum subsp. unispiculum
Comet Grass Perotis rara
Annual Beardgrass Polypogon monspeliensis
Katoora Sporobolus actinocladus
Australian Dropseed Sporobolus australasicus
Sporobolus blakei
Sporobolus scabridus
Tall Oat Grass, Oat Kangaroo Grass, Native Oat Grass, Swamp Kangaroo Grass Themeda avenacea
Window Mulga Grass, Mulga Mitchell Grass, Mulga Grass Thyridolepis mitchelliana
Spurred Arrowgrass Triglochin calcitrapum
Hard Spinifex, Lobed Spinifex Triodia basedowii
Hard Spinifex, Lobed Spinifex Triodia brizoides
Buck Spinifex, Bull Spinifex, Giant Grey Spinifex Triodia longiceps
Five-minute Grass, Rye Beetle Grass Tripogon loliiformis
Hairy Armgrass, Hairy Summer Grass, Green Summer Grass Urochloa piligera
Large Armgrass, Large Summer Grass Urochloa praetervisa
Sandhill Canegrass Zygochloa paradoxa

Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour Video

Land for Wildlife assisted Arid Lands Environment Centre to run a Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour on the 18th of February 2017. You can read more about the event at our Blog:

Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour of Alice Springs

Land for Wildlife were there to assist the Land for Wildlife properties to showcase the natural values of their properties, identifying plants for those on tour and we had a camera to capture the day. It was quite a windy day, according to the camera, so we have learnt that a microphone is sometimes a necessary tool (we must never stop learning!). Apologies for the windy moments towards the start, but it’s worth persisting. I’ve included some subtitles in places to help you out. It includes some presentations by the Buffel Busters on the day, photographs of the event and some of the wildlife spotted at the Buffel-free sites.

You can view the video below, and share it through the link: https://youtu.be/xzyi6D1OZFE

Still want to learn more about Buffel Grass? Head to our Resources web page for links to a range of handy fact sheets.

Thanks to the supporters: Arid Lands Environment Centre, Territory Natural Resource Management, Desert Knowledge Australia, Alice Springs Landcare Inc and Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Thanks to everyone that came along to the event and especially to all of the Buffel Busters that shared their experience, knowledge and wisdom (Peter Latz, Bruce Simmons, Debbie Page, Jude Prichard from Alice Springs Landcare Inc, and Doug McDougall from Olive Pink Botanic Garden).

World Wildlife Day Nature Journal Competition

The 3rd of March marks World Wildlife Day, which was proclaimed by the United Nations in 2013 as a day for the celebration of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme for 2017 is “Listen to the Young Voices”, as there is a need to encourage young people, as the future decision makers of the world, to protect wildlife. Land for Wildlife encourages youth of central Australia to become aware and engaged about the major threats to wildlife, which includes habitat change at our local level, among other threats.

To celebrate, we’re asking the younger generation of Alice Springs to get outside and observe some wildlife in your local space and get to know it a little.

  1. Take your pick of wildlife subject. It could be anything from the tiniest of invertebrates (Caterpillars, Beetles, Butterflies), to reptiles (Lizards or Snakes – keeping your distance), birds (endless species!), and mammals (Roos, Euros and Wallabies).
  2. Download Paula Peeters’ resource ‘Make a Date With Nature: an Introduction to Nature Journaling’ from our website. Paula Peeters also has a website Paperbark Writer, on which you can find a host of fun activities where Australian nature meets science and art. This will give you some tips and hints about how to create a nature journal.
  3. Record your observations and make an A4 one-page journal. This can include your observations, images of what you see, drawings, anything that inspires you about the subject.
  4. Send your entries through to us at Land for Wildlife: You can email scanned copies to lfw@lowecol.com.au or send the original to PO Box 3130 Alice Springs NT 0870. This competition is open to Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members, but also the wider community so feel free to share this with your networks. If you are not a member and are submitting an entry, please provide contact details so that we can chase you down if you win. We will be taking entries up until March 29th for winner announcement in the March Newsletter. Note that there is no actual age limit to entries – if you are young, or just young at heart, you are welcome to enter the competition!

The best nature journal will win a copy of our newly released, Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs by Nic Gambold and Deborah Metters.

Want to know more about World Wildlife Day? Check out the World Wildlife Day website for more information.