Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

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Ribbit
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Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » January 9th, 2016, 12:25 pm

Here's the final part of my 8-part write-up for my month of October 2015 herping in Australia.

Previous parts:

Part 1, featuring an echidna!
Part 2, featuring two thorny devils!
Part 3, featuring four species of snakes!
Part 4, featuring the first shinglebacks and beardies!
Part 5, featuring the most beautiful lizard I've ever seen!
Part 6, featuring crazy outback sculptures!
Part 7, featuring another thorny devil!

Part 7 left me in Kimba, in the northern Eyre Peninsula. At this point I had only three nights left in my month o' herping. The final night was to be near the airport in Adelaide, so the following morning I could begin the lengthy process of flying back to California. The two nights before that I would spend in Port Lincoln, on the southeast coast of the Eyre Peninsula.

On the way south, I took a minor detour to visit one of several parks in the center of the peninsula. The one I chose was Hincks Conservation Park, a large mallee ecosystem. Access involved a road that progressively degenerated in both width and quality as it approached the park, to the point where I was quite unsure that it would reach any destination before fizzling out entirely. But eventually I did come across a park sign and soon thereafter I found myself in habitat that looked like this:

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Hincks Conservation Park


The park is an undeveloped patch of wildness except for this one barely usable dirt road running through part of it. I just drove in until there was a reasonable-looking place to pull the car over, then got out and hiked around to see what I could find. It didn't take too long before I spotted a glimpse of a small lizard speedster disappearing into a bush. I poked around for awhile but failed to see that one again. Soon enough I saw a couple more and got a few photos.

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Mallee Military Dragon (Ctenophorus fordi)


It was now mid-morning and I wanted to check out Coffin Bay on the southwest side of the peninsula before heading east to Port Lincoln, so I left Hincks and continued south. An hour or two and several Shinglebacks later I pulled into a viewpoint overlooking the town of Coffin Bay and ate a quick lunch. I noticed a sign for Kellidie Bay Conservation Reserve on the far side of the parking area so I thought I'd have a quick look. Many hunks of concrete cried out to be looked under, and I heeded their cries. I soon uncovered the smallest skink of my trip. A few of these could curl up on a Shingleback's tongue.

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Common Dwarf Skink (Menetia greyii)


Under another nearby hunk of concrete I found a smallish dragon, which took offense at my presence and ran around in crazy circles for a few seconds before dashing back under the nearest cover. We played this game together, the dragon and I, for a few minutes. Eventually the lizard must have figured out that I would go away if it would just let me take a few photos, so it settled down. It didn't look like any lizard I had yet seen on this trip, but I also couldn't find any other candidate lizard in my trusty Wilson and Swan field guide.

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Mysterious dragon from Kellidie Bay


Soon I found myself entering Coffin Bay National Park. In addition to myself, I also found this sign. A whole website devoted to reporting monitor lizard sightings? Somebody's priorities are in the right place.

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Show Us Your Goannas!


Soon enough, I saw a large report-worthy lizard strolling across the road. I followed it into the roadside vegetation for a couple more photos before it grew wary of me and raced off.

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Heath Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi)


Half an hour later, I saw another. This one vanished into the bush and I couldn't spot it again on foot. Naturally I reported both sightings to the website on the sign. Later I got a "Happy Holidays" email from them, wishing for more goanna sightings in the new year. I too wish for that!

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Heath Monitor #2


It would be wrong of me not to throw in another Shingleback here.

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Eastern Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa aspera)


Coffin Bay didn't cough up any other new species for me that afternoon. It was too cold at night to bother looking for nocturnal herps. The next morning I headed over to Lincoln National Park, across the peninsula from Coffin Bay, and kept driving until I reached a beautiful ocean viewpoint.

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A beautiful ocean viewpoint


But I wasn't hear to admire the scenic beauty! There were potential herps to be found! The habitat near the viewpoint looked promising, with large slabs of limestone exfoliating smaller boulders and rocks.

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Mmmm, lizardy looking habitat


Indeed, some lizards started showing up after awhile. They were small dragons, which I assumed (correctly, it seems) were the same type I had failed to identify at Kellidie Bay the previous day. Occasionally I could sneak up on one for a few photos, but more often they would see me and dash into the nearest crevice or under the nearest loose rock. If they chose the latter path, I could turn the rock, and play that game again for a while.

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More of the mysterious dragons


After I got back home and studied my photos more carefully, I still couldn't figure out which species these were. I determined that they were Ctenophorus, but I needed to get help from knowledgeable folks to eventually decide that they were the local form of Peninsula Dragon, Ctenophorus fionni. This was a species I had seen in the Gawler Ranges in the northern Eyre Peninsula back in Part 7, but these new ones were much smaller and more drably colored than the Gawler Ranges animals. It seems that this species is distributed across a number of isolated populations, and there is considerable variation in size and coloration between populations.

As a reminder, here's what the Peninsula Dragons of the Gawler Ranges looked like:

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Female Peninsula Dragon from the Gawler Ranges

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Male Peninsula Dragon from the Gawler Ranges


I was lucky enough to see a couple more Heath Monitors in the early afternoon.

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Heath Monitor basking on a road

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Heath Monitor basking on a trail


Near the trail monitor, I found one more new-to-me agamid. After I got this in situ photo, the lizard hopped off of its perch and tried to escape in the brush. It moved remarkably slowly, and I easily caught it to try to get it to pose for a less obstructed photo. But when I started fiddling with my camera, it ran toward me, then up my leg and my back until I felt it on my neck. And then I lost it. I was standing in the middle of the trail at this point and should have been able to see it try to escape on the ground, but I didn't. I assumed it must still be on my clothing and even took off my shirt to check the folds, but I never saw another sign of it.

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Mallee Tree Dragon (Amphibolurus norrisi)


Another one-off was this lone little basking Bright Snake-eyed Skink. I was surprised to only find one individual of this genus in this area, since in my experience they are typically among the most common herps in any given area of Australia.

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Bright Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pulcher clarus)

Near the Cryptoblepharus I found a few super squiggly burrowing skinks under logs. This was, alas, the final species of lizard from my trip.


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South-eastern Slider (Lerista bougainvillii)


But that doesn't mean it was the final species of reptile! In mid/late afternoon, as the sun began to sink, another welcome sight appeared in the road in front of me.

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Black Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus niger)

[Edit: I had originally identified this as a Peninsula Brown Snake (Pseudonaja inframacula), but was corrected in the comments below by Mattsnake and Ingrami -- thanks!]


A little ways further down the road I spotted in the distance the familiar shape of a Shingleback that had just begun trudging its way across the pavement. Another photo op for my collection. But then I realized that the plodding skink was not alone; a dozen feet from it lay another Heath Monitor basking in the late afternoon warmth.

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The final goanna


I spent a good long while carefully stalking and photographing the monitor. At one point it was spooked just enough to clamber to the road's shoulder, but not so spooked as to race off, so I took more pictures there. When I was satisfied, I remembered the Shingleback and assumed that it had traversed the road long ago. But one should never overestimate the energy level of a Shingleback. It had reached the center of the road and decided that now was as good a time as any to take a nap.

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They aren't called Sleepy Lizards for nothing

In honor of the ubiquity, awesomeness, and ridiculousness of this species, I will conclude my account with a photo of a tribute to Tiliqua rugosa I had run across in Coffin Bay National Park.

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All hail the mighty Shingleback, goofiest of lizards!

John

Rman
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Rman » January 9th, 2016, 8:15 pm

The entire series was outstanding! Thanks for sharing!

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John Martin
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by John Martin » January 9th, 2016, 9:39 pm

^^^^ What he said! Great job John, you did well!! :thumb: :beer:

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by herpseeker1978 » January 10th, 2016, 6:06 am

Great series! What an awesome opportunity you had to do that! Thank you so much for sharing!

Josh

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » January 10th, 2016, 12:13 pm

Also repeating my appreciation, thanks a lot!

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » January 10th, 2016, 12:50 pm

Thanks everyone! John Martin, I'm sorry I didn't have enough time to visit with you when I was in the Adelaide area.

Australia is such a fun place for herping. I'm starting to consider another long trip in early 2017, perhaps to Queensland and/or the Top End during the Wet. So many possibilities!

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Mike Pingleton » January 10th, 2016, 2:36 pm

That was a field-herping juggernaut, John :)

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by AndyO'Connor » January 10th, 2016, 3:45 pm

Just finished going through all 8 posts. Thank you so much for putting this together. It's a dream destination I hope to some day dedicate a few weeks or a month to.

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by JakeScott » January 10th, 2016, 5:46 pm

So enjoy these, John! A dream location to go.

-Jake

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by BayFun » January 10th, 2016, 5:59 pm

Amazing series!

They introduced Iceplant to Australia too (IDK why it caught my attention)? :shock:

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by JAMAUGHN » January 11th, 2016, 10:36 am

Excellent series, John. The photos are all stellar, and you are one of those people who's posts I would turn to even if it had only text. Your writing style is so engaging and enjoyable.

I hope 2016 will find you in more places that compel you to post long series on FHF!

JimM

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » January 13th, 2016, 6:08 am

Thanks again everyone!

BayFun: I don't remember seeing any iceplant. Does one of my photos seem to show iceplant?

Jim: Thanks for the good wishes. I hope that also!

John

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by ClosetHerper » January 29th, 2016, 4:44 pm

Great set of posts. I am not sure how I failed to see even a single Shingleback in 2014, but it is something to look forward to. Thanks for the posts! Reference material for sure.

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » January 29th, 2016, 7:45 pm

ClosetHerper, I suspect I hit peak Shingleback when I was there. Obviously you will have to go back to see some!

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Mattsnake » January 30th, 2016, 11:19 pm

Great post! An area of Australia that I still haven't been to. Do you have anymore pictures of that P. inframacula?

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » February 12th, 2016, 2:09 pm

Thanks Mattsnake! I didn't get any great photos of that snake as it slithered across the road, but here's one more:

Image

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by ingrami » February 12th, 2016, 8:47 pm

Great Post buddy!
That last snake is a Notechis and not Pseudonaja BTW.
Rob.

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » February 13th, 2016, 1:06 pm

Thanks Ingrami. What identifies it as a tiger snake?

John

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Mattsnake » February 18th, 2016, 1:36 am

Thanks John, the reason I wanted to see another pic is because I thought it wasn't a Pseudonaja, but couldn't tell exactly what it was. Like ingrami has said above, it's a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) - more heavily bodied, larger scales, different head shape, and the broad flattening of the neck as a defence.

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » February 18th, 2016, 7:08 am

Thanks for correcting the ID. I hope that is the only snake I got wrong -- those medium-to-large elapids are hard for my untrained eyes to tell apart.

John

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by danh » February 23rd, 2016, 5:06 pm

Hey John,

The others are right about the tiger snake and why it's a tiger snake, but I still have trouble with tigers after being here for five years because they're just so variable. If you want a definitive way to ID a tiger without having to compare it to other snakes, the parietal frontal scale on the top of the tiger's head is wider than it is long. On all other Australian medium and large-sized elapids it's noticeably longer than it is wide (not sure about the little guys).

Dan

Edited because I mixed up my snake head scale names!

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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 8, Southern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit » February 24th, 2016, 8:33 pm

danh, thanks for the additional info. If I zoom in on the photo where the snake is flattening its head, I can see that frontal scale clearly. My field guides do mention this measurement, but it just didn't occur to me that this solid-colored snake would be a Tiger -- obviously I will have to go back to Australia many times so I can better learn to tell the snakes apart.

John

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