South Australia Herping Part 1

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mothman
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South Australia Herping Part 1

Post by mothman » January 2nd, 2017, 11:11 am

Happy new year fellow herpers. I ended my herping adventures in 2016 with a wonderful trip to South Australia and the mallee part of Victoria in mid-October to mid-November (springtime). It was a successful adventure as I had photographed 40 species of herps, 64 species of birds, and 7 species of mammals. My biggest find was at Coffin Bay Caravan Park at the tip of the Eyrie Peninsula. It was 7 a.m. and the temperature was in the upper forties which is too cold for herps. So I went around the park photographing the birds and kangaroos in the campground. A man in an adjacent campsite asked me if I was a birder. I told him I like to photograph all wildlife but I am particularly interested in reptiles. He asked me which field guide do I use. I remarked it was the one written by Steve Wilson as the first author. In reply he said "Hi, I am Steve Wilson". Australia is almost the size of the continental USA and has a population of 22 million and Steve Wilson lives in Brisbane on the other side of the continent. It was incredible that our paths should just happen to cross. He graciously signed my copy of "A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia". The latest (Fifth edition) will be arriving next summer with an additional 60 new species. He agreed to help me if I had pictures of herps that I was not sure of their identification. I wish to thank Steve Wilson and John Sullivan (Ribbit) for their help in identifying some of the herps seen on this trip.

I flew into Adelaide and proceeded north to the Flinders Ranges of mountains. Pictured here is a gorge in the south part of this range.
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There to greet me at the start of the trail was a Sleepy Lizard (Tiliqua rugosa). During my trip I saw over a hundred of these lizards either singly or in pairs on trails or crossing roads. They are readily observed this time of year since they are in breeding mode. Their defensive display of protruding their tongue is reminiscent of the dance of Maori warriors of New Zealand.
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Next up was a Flinders Ranges Masked Rock-skink (Liopholis margaretae personata)Image
I found Tree Skinks (Eugenia striolata) to be willing subjects for the camera for the most part and were found at many of the locales I visited.Image
This Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus) was soaking up the sun. I did not see my first lizard until 12:30 p.m. that day since the temperature was so cold in the morning.
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Ragged Snake-eyed Skinks (Cryptoblepharus pannosus) were very common and found on logs.
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Enough of the skinks in the Flinders Ranges. Rocky regions of the trails which went up the mountain slopes as pictured here yielded Agamids which are known as dragons in Australia.
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The male Tawny Dragons (Ctenophorus decresii) were decked out in their breeding coloration.
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Female Tawny Dragons were no less attractive than the males in my opinion.
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Not to be undone was the rarer find of a Common Nobbi Dragon (Diporiphora nobbi) digging a nest at the edge of the trail.
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I knew that the Red-barred Dragon (Ctenophorus vadnappa) could be found in a particular gorge thanks to information provided by John Sullivan. These lizards did not disappoint me for several were found. Here is a male with his gorgeous colors displayed.
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Female Red-barred Dragons were present but seen less often than the males.Image
This was a warm day with temperatures reaching the low 90s by the afternoon. Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) were basking on the road while I traveled to and from the gorge in the early morning and late afternoon.
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Cruising the roads at night was not usually productive since temperatures rapidly decreased after sunset. A Variegated Dtella (Gehyra versicolor; the species was divided into eastern and western species according to Steve Wilson) was seen the night of this unusually warm day at the gorge but the next day I found three of these geckos in a hut for trekkers.
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The next day temperatures were much cooler. I actually could scrape ice off the windshield (aka windscreen by folks down under) first thing in the morning. It was 10 a.m. and still quit cold so I was amazed to come across a Common Blue-tongue Skink (Tiliqua scincoides) along side the trail.
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A pair of Boulanger's Snake-eyed Skinks (Morethia boulengeri) were also out and about in the cold.
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In mid-afternoon I came across a Sand Goanna (Varanus gouldii[/i]) along the trail. It did not seemed to be bothered by my presence as I was able to photo the creature from many different angles. This was the first of five Sand Goannas (Gould's Monitor) I photographed on this trip. Most Australians call Varanid lizards goannas.
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I then headed southwest to the city of Port Augusta. The outskirts of the city were productive for good herp and bird finds.
The temperature was only in the lower 50s in the early morning so I didn't expect to find any herps until later. Imagine my surprise that at the end of the trail near the car park was this large girthed snake sunning itself in the grass. It is an unusually marked King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis). I took a few pictures and a woman came walking along with her small dog off-lead. I warned her that there was a large snake so she snatched up her dog. When she saw the snake she was impressed by its size. She leaned forward to get a picture with her mobile phone but the snake had other ideas and high-tailed into the bush. The speed of the snake astounded me. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to get a shot of its head.
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In the early afternoon I spotted my first Painted Dragon (Ctenophorus pictus) of the trip basking on the berm of a road. This is a female.
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I also spotted my second Varanus gouldii in the Port Augusta area.
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I next went further west to the northern edge of the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia. There were numerous male and female Crested Dragons (Ctenophorus cristatus) sunning on the berm of the road in a conservation park. I slowly cruised the road in the afternoon and had to stop every few minutes because I would spot another Crested Dragon on a rock or a log. Two males were even having a displaying contest to each other right in the road. This is a beautifully marked male.
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Female Crested Dragons (Ctenophorus cristatus) are no less handsome than the male.
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I encountered this beautiful Western Blue-tongue Skink (Tiliqua occipitalis) while walking on a trail. I saw it up ahead rapidly crossing the trail disappearing into the bush so I ran to catch-up. I searched the brush but did not see it. I thought I had lost it until I was delightfully surprised to see it hunkered down along side a bush at the trail's edge. It was watching me the entire time as I was looking further out into the bush. Image
Lizards, lizards, lizards but where are the snakes? Much to my delight a Strap-snouted Brown Snake (Pseudonaja aspidorhyncha) started crossing the road up ahead while I was cruising so I sped up the car and cut the snake off from its intended course across the road. I managed to get a few shots out the window of the car before it sped off into the bush.
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I drove for seemingly countless miles over bumpy dirt roads in my Toyota Corolla to finally arrive at the Gawler Range of Mountains. There in the rocks I spotted a Gidget Skink (Egernia stokesii), took several shots with the camera handheld and then attempted to get a shot on the tripod but that was just too much for the lizard to endure of me. Poof! Down it went among the crevices in the rocks. In the picture its spike laden tail actually droops over the top of the rock out of view.
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I was not to disappointed in not getting a better shot since Peninsula Dragons (Ctenophorus fionni) were basking on the rocks. This is a male.
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Female Peninsula Dragons (Ctenophorus fionni)
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This is the end of Part 1. In Part 2 I will take you to the tip of the Eyre Peninsula, parks along the Murray River, the mallee country of the State of Victoria, and to Kangaroo Island.

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ClosetHerper
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Re: South Australia Herping Part 1

Post by ClosetHerper » January 2nd, 2017, 11:03 pm

Looks like we almost crossed paths! Very nice assortment of herps you saw and that you bumped into the author of the field guide. I would have loved to photograph the Crested Dragons. Cool lizard!

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Ribbit
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Re: South Australia Herping Part 1

Post by Ribbit » January 3rd, 2017, 9:15 pm

Soooo many lizards, hurray! It's only been a little over a year since I was out there hunting them down and your post (and closetherper's) are making me want to go back soon. What a wonderful place.

John

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