At last, after a 25 year absence, the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) has been confirmed as still occurring in at least one little part of North East Victoria.
In the past couple of decades, lots of people, both professional ecologists and amateur naturalists, have spent lots of time surveying ground-dwelling fauna, particularly reptiles, in North East Victoria. But the Striped Legless Lizard had remained elusive. As recently as last year, 2016, our focused legless lizard surveys across the north east failed to return any good leads – though we did record a number of Olive Legless Lizards (Delma inornata). There are three confirmed Striped Legless Lizard record from the North East: one from Stewarton, west of Benalla, and two near Wangaratta.
But that all changed a few days ago Continue reading
Markers indicate landholders contacted for the legless lizard survey in NE Victoria.
As part of the current project we made contact with 83 landholders in the Cluster 8 area. Most of these landholders (72) had a Trust for Nature conservation covenant on part of their land (that included legless lizard habitat; grassland or grassy woodland). Each of the 72 received a project information pack in the mail (letter & questionnaire, brochure, ID guide, SSA envelope), explaining the project and its goals and asking for information about legless lizards from their covenant/property. Letters were followed up by a one or several phone calls.
An additional ten landholders without a conservation covenant on their property were also contacted as part of the survey. Continue reading
Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti)
An overcast, breezy morning, punctuated by Painted Honeyeaters calling from the flowering Blakely’s Red Gum – that’s how Trust for Nature’s Spring into Nature event kicked off at McKenzie’s covenant near Springhurst, north-east Victoria.
The topic was woodland management and, specifically, searching for woodland specialist fauna, like legless lizards. So, the cool weather was desirable – any lizard was likely to be cool, sluggish and easier to catch.
This property has a conservation covenant that permanently protects 20 ha of Granitic Hills Woodland and Valley Grassy Forest. The landholders have rabbit-netted much of the covenant and used rocks to weigh down foot-netting to stop rabbits digging under the fence. Our survey transect was 500 m of fence-line with about 6-700 rocks along its base. We also checked the occasional wooden debris in the paddock. We recorded four species of Continue reading
Mary rolling some of the plentiful logs in the Gibb paddock.
Bobinawarrah, south-east of Wangaratta, is in the vicinity of the 1980 Striped Legless Lizard record from Markwood (one of only three north-east Victorian records) and in good legless lizard country. Bobinawarrah is also home to the two Gibb brothers, Alan and Dook, who have farmed and lived this country since their childhood and know it like the back of their hand – and they’ve seen plenty of ‘grass snakes’. So, not surprisingly, we’ve sought their advice about legless lizards in this landscape and permission to search on their farms.
Despite decades of observations, neither Alan nor Dook remember ever seeing a grass snake with distinct stripes along the body, although stripes wasn’t something they were particularly looking for. Continue reading
Of all the known Victorian populations of Striped Legless Lizards (Delma impar), the ‘upper north-east cluster’ is one of the least well-known. The Striped Legless Lizard occurs across much of Victoria, but it’s distribution is patchy – partly because its habitat is patchy, but also because a lot of habitat has been lost. For management purposes, Striped Legless Lizard distribution has been divided into loose ‘Clusters’ and the upper north-east is known as Cluster 8.
Striped Legless Lizard records have been sorted into seventeen management clusters. Cluster 8 is in north-east Victoria (from the Striped Legless Lizard national Recovery Plan 1999).
With only three ‘official’ records, the most recent in 1992, the Striped Legless Lizard is an enigma in Cluster 8. It doesn’t help that many Striped Legless Lizards lack distinct longitudinal stripes and so are easily confused with Olive Legless Lizards (Delma inornata), which are widespread north and west of the Hume Fwy. There have been a variety of surveys and observations by different groups and individuals in the last 25 years across these landscapes, amounting to many opportunities to find or stumble across a living (or even dead) Striped Legless Lizard. For some reason though, it hasn’t happened.
The map below shows the distribution of records of the Striped Legless Lizard and Olive Legless Lizard in part of the Cluster 8 area. So, why are there only three confirmed Striped Legless Lizard records here, yet so many Olive Legless Lizard records? Continue reading
Critical habitat for reptiles on farms.
It takes a little self-discipline, but you can graze stock and manage those paddocks for nature conservation, especially if the soil hasn’t been cultivated and if there’s still a little native vegetation.
- Resist the temptation to clean-up and ‘super’ the paddock – leave plenty of logs and rocks on the ground.
- Untidy paddocks, containing rocks, logs, branches, shrubs, long grass, short grass, tree seedlings etc (i.e. diversity), are healthy paddocks.
These paddocks near Everton, north-east Victoria (above and below), are a great example of how a productive grazing paddock can also be good habitat for a wide variety of woodland and grassland fauna. Recent ground searching and bird-watching, during August & September, has recorded 40+ species of bird, reptile and frog living, feeding and breeding in these grazing paddocks. Continue reading
Here’s the new brochure for Striped Legless Lizards in north east Victoria – download (2 MB).
Free to download, share and print.
And here’s a more detailed guide, with additional information and images- Striped Legless Lizard Guide NE Vic 2016.