There’s been extra interest in Canadian Regional Park since its recent change in status from forest to park.
New flora and fauna species are being added to the lists as a result of this new interest.
One of the more unexpected sightings has been the large lizard known as the southern water skink. Despite its name – and surprisingly to many people – the southern water skink does not necessarily need permanent surface water nearby.
It is a large skink, much larger than the common garden skink. An average body length is about 85mm, with a tail considerably longer.
Notable features, apart from its size, are the pale spots on its black sides, and black flecks on its unstriped back.
It is uncommon in the Ballarat region, so the report from Canadian is unexpected. Today’s photograph shows a specimen found – with a youngster – sheltering under a piece of timber in mid-April.
The southern water skink lives in a wide range of habitats. In our region, for example, it is found at Wombat Forest, and in Mt Cole Forest.
It also occurs at larger dams in Enfield Forest and in a completely different habitat on rocks on the edge of Lake Burrumbeet. There was a report 17 years ago from near Lake Learmonth.
Like most lizards, it is often seen basking in the sun, at times on logs and low branches. It feeds mostly on invertebrates and similar creatures.
A similar species is the Corangamite water skink. This is a rare one, confined mostly to rocky country around lakes in the Corangamite region.
Last week’s calm, mild and sunny conditions suited the dispersal of tiny spiders.
In such conditions, the young spiders climb grass stems, fence posts and similar heights.
They then produce gossamer web, which catches in the slight breeze and carries them away, parachute-like, to who knows where. They can travel hundreds of kilometres this way.
Last Wednesday was obviously a very suitable day for this, because the webs were prominent in many parts of Ballarat that afternoon.
Some observers were convinced that the white web-like substance was not natural, but the dispersal of the “spiderlings” is an annual event in May and June, more obvious in some years than in others.
Sometimes there is a noticeable white covering of webs on the ground and in trees.
The tiny orange-bodied spiders are sometimes seen at the end of the blowing webs, but they are usually not noticed.