Three recent reports indicate that geckoes are being seen more frequently in Ballarat.
These small lizards have been gradually increasing in numbers in greater Ballarat for at least 10 years, and the increase appears to be continuing.
The lizard in question is the marbled gecko - once regarded as a reptile of milder climates, such as north of the Great Dividing Range. Now, it is well established in many parts of Ballarat.
We would once have regarded a marbled gecko in Ballarat as an accidental visitor, probably brought in with a load of firewood.
Observations over the past decade or more reveal this is clearly not the case.
The marbled gecko is a robust, soft-bodied, large-eyed little lizard with a mottled brown pattern and a swollen tail. Some individuals are darker, while others are lighter, or more orange.
An average length is about 70 or 80mm, but it can be larger. It mostly remains hidden during the day, coming out to feed at night.
As with most geckoes, its large toe pads enable it to climb readily. A couple of recent sightings involved geckoes climbing up onto windows and flywire screens seeking insects attracted to lights.
Like many other geckoes, this one stores fat reserves in its tail. The tail can be shed when the animal is threatened, with a new tail taking eight months to regrow. A different pattern is often visible on regrown tails.
The marbled gecko often occurs in small groups, a habit that has been noticed here in Ballarat.
Daytime sheltering sites include stacks of timber, water meter covers and under rocks. One clutch of just two eggs is laid underground each year. All small lizards are harmless and should be welcomed and protected when discovered outside. Like most smaller wildlife, they are vulnerable to cat and dog predation.
Spoonbills are rare bird visitors to Lake Wendouree, so it was a surprise to see two of them flying into the North Gardens Wetlands from the direction of the lake.
More of a surprise was the discovery that one was a yellow-billed spoonbill and one was a royal spoonbill.
They alighted together in a dead tree, allowing a group of rather close observers to appreciate the differences between the two species. The long, odd-shaped bills varied noticeably in colour, with the royal’s being black and the yellow-billed species having a dull yellowish or fleshy yellow colour.
Legs were similar in colour to the bills.
Both birds were similar in size, but the royal spoonbill was a cleaner, brighter white.