As a long term reptile enthusiast living in the UK it has always been a great aim of mine to see the reptiles of Australia in the flesh and in the wild. A trip to Australia made this a really possibility and decided to head out in Northern Sydney, New South Wales to try and see what we might find… However as with going Herping anywhere in the world – just because you’re going out, it certainly doesn’t mean you will find something! Sydney was no different but we had a great time anyway… And that’s why you should go out herping!
What to take
There are so many important things to take with you when herping, especially if it is in a new area and even more so when it is in a place like Australia, where there are so many potentially dangerous animals!
- Local field guide for the types of animals you want to see… If going Herping this will most likely just be a reptile and amphibian guide, but it never hurts to get a birds, mammals and / or invert guide too.
- Decent camera, preferably one which will perform well under poor light conditions so that you don’t need to use the flash.
- plenty of space on your SD card (or similar depending on your camera).
- Snake hook mainly for moving substrate out of the way. If you can avoid it don’t move wild animals about, but if you think a snake is sitting in a dangerous position for itself or the public for example it never hurts to have a decent hook…. They do come in so handy though for moving things like leaves and sticks etc.
- Torch… Maybe even try and bring a backup or two, because during my trip in NSW my main light failed and our backup ran out of battery. If possible it should have a tight and bright beam, and preferably it will be a head lamp to keep your hands free.
- Mobile phone, just in case you get in to some kind of trouble.
- Most importantly, especially when going herping somewhere new is a local to give you a hand. Bring a friend or a friend of a friend if possible, but you might not always know someone in the area… This is where the Internet has opened up great new opportunities around the world. Find a local or international reptile forum and try and find someone local… Most of these forums have a field Herping section!
What we saw
We headed out for an 8:30pm start when it had cooled down a little bit but the rocks and roads were still warm, so might have encouraged snakes and lizards out to catch the last of the evenings heat. We headed along a road which had brush on each side as well as drains at the road edge, some of which had a little water in… This increased out chances of seeing frogs. So here were the herps we saw:
- Giant Burrowing Frog (Heleioporus australiacus)
- Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii)
- Southern Leaf Tailed Gecko (Phyllurus platurus)
Now for people living in Australia that might seem like a pretty poor night out considering we were out for 2.5 / 3 hours, however for us it was absolutely great! It was still 3 species we have never seen in the wild before! However we saw some other animals as well which sweetened the deal… Remember even if you are going herping there is no reason why other animals shouldn’t excite you – especially somewhere like Australia:
- Common Dunnart (Sminthopsis murina)
- Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)
- Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
- Golden Orb Spider (Nephilia sp.)
- Huntsman Spider (Heteropoda sp.)
- Wolf Spider (Lycosa sp.)
- Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua)
- all sorts of roaches
Keep your eyes open while you are out and about, and you can see these and many more depending on your luck for the night! There is nothing better than seeing animals in the wild but make sure that you are safe and respectful of not just other people but most importantly the animals… And if you do need to move anything (whether an animal or its surroundings) make sure it goes back to where it was… And make sure you check the local laws too!