Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

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ClosetHerper
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Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by ClosetHerper » January 14th, 2017, 6:22 pm

This past November (2016) my wife and I made a 3 week drive, crossing Australia from south to north. We were always on the lookout for herps, but also for other wildlife to photograph. This installment will cover our travels and finds from the remainder of our trip. Links to the first 2/3 of the trip are provided below:

Part 1 can be seen here: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=24025
Part 2 can be seen here: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=24035

This map shows our route through the Top End and the yellow circle is the area covered by this post
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We put in a long day of driving from Alice Springs to Daly Waters, finishing the final half-hour or so dodging wallabies in the dark. When we awoke in the campground the next morning, it was clear that we were now in the tropics. The change from desert to tropics was subtle, but one measure was the number and size of termite mounds visible from the highway, which brings up an issue. It has become a popular habit of travelers in this region, to throw a shirt over a termite mound, creating a humorous sculpture of sorts. Well, at least it was funny at first; after a thousand of them, not so much! Some were more clever than others, but all become red dirt-stained and tattered with time. The Northern Territory has a littler problem on its hands.

'Decorated' termite mound
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The Daly Waters area had some interesting birds.

Red-winged parrot
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So you don't see anything special about the Great Bowerbird?
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... then take a look at the bower the male constructs to attract a mate, complete with decorations (white rocks and green glass in this case)!
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And shortly after we started driving on this day, we spotted one of the most spectacular lizards basking in the middle of the Stuart Highway. Had I not seen and photographed this species 3 years before, this would have easily been the highlight of the trip. Still, this specimen was large and colorful, and posed for several photos, before running up my leg! We were to see a total of four before the end of the trip.

Frilled Lizard
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Frilled Lizard
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Frilled Lizard
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And another frillie, this one later the same day in Litchfield National Park

Frilled Lizard
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Frilled Lizard
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Frilled Lizard
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Night cruising turned up some great herps:

We found 2 young pythons within minutes of each other on the first evening.

Children's Python with neat grasshopper/katydid on neck. Please confirm python ID
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Children's Python
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And, a real stunner!

Black-headed Python
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Black-headed Python
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Black-headed Python
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And soon afterwards, while walking through the forest near rock outcrops by headlamp, this spectacular gecko!

Marbled Velvet Gecko
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Marbled Velvet Gecko
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Marbled Velvet Gecko
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Marbled Velvet Gecko
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Burton's Legless Lizard
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And some of our favorite landscapes and activities. While I was digging the reptiles, Paula loved the swimming holes!

Bitter Springs. A beautiful hot spring near Mataranka where you can swim approx. 200m of this crystal clear stream.
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Magnetic Termite mounds
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Paula enjoying one of many swimming holes: Florence Falls
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Wangi Falls came with many warnings which are a prelude to an adventure of ours
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View of the popular swimming hole at Wangi Falls
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Not content with lounging in a swimming hole, I swam the backwaters looking for wildlife. A Black Flying Fox roost was adjacent to the pool
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Our surprise came soon afterwards. While swimming and scanning the shoreline for critters, I noticed a lizard on a log near the waters edge. As I approached it for a closer look, 3 others I had not noticed dropped into the water! I then saw that it was not a lizard, but a baby croc, with mom's head just barely visible in the water below. I immediately reflected on the habits of American Alligators which defend their young, and backed up, to the middle of the channel about 10m away. I told my wife to swim over to me, and that I would show her a baby croc. She reluctantly agreed. When she got to where I was, the croc (a small Freshwater Crocodile about 1m long) popped out of the water with jaws agape, and skated across the surface towards us! That was good enough and we got out of there as fast as we could!!!

That evening we lounged at the edge of the swimming hole with another couple, watching the Flying Foxes exit their roost. Spectacular!
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Notorious Green Ants which deliver a nasty bite, but taste like lime if you lick their butts. Really!
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We next drove the Arnhem Highway into Kakadu National Park, stopping at several places along the way.

Fogg Dam was great for birds and some herps. Not pictured is a Water Python I found at night but was unable to set up and photograph.

Crimson Finch
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Swamp Lashtail
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The only 'tourist' activity we did on the entire trip was take a crocodile tour on the Adelaide River.

Adelaide River. DO NOT SWIM HERE!
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Estuarine Crocodile
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Nice lizard...nnnnnnniiiiiiiiiiiiicccccccccce lizard!
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Estuarine Crocodile
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Estuarine Crocodile
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Wild pig
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Agile Wallaby. Totally ripped male with female and joey in background
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Agile Wallaby
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Agile Wallaby
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Blue-winged Kookaburra
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Herp art at Ubirr
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Rock art at Ubirr
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Rock art at Ubirr
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Our trip was rapidly drawing to a close. We spent our final evening in the field watching the sun set at Ubirr

Little Corella at sunset
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Paula and I at sunset
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That night we cruised up another Burton's Legless Lizard, much more strikingly marked than the first
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Burton's Legless Lizard
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One more croc, this one from the Alligator River

Estuarine Crocodile
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Azure Kingfisher
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On a hike near Ubirr, we bumped into this Swamp Buffalo that demonstrated some attitude before running off!
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We saw this large frillie that escaped to the safety of a tree.

Frilled Lizard
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Another Swamp Lashtail, just outside Darwin. The length of the tail is amazing and due to resolution loss in resizing the image, I pointed out the very end of the tail for you.
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Masked Lapwing
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I had hoped that on this last evening near Darwin, I might see a bird I had missed on our trip 3 years ago. Sure enough, I found it!

Beach Stone Curlew
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And on our last evening in the country, we got a hotel in Darwin. Only our second room in 3 weeks of travel. It turned out to be a nice one. It had beach access, showers, and air conditioning. No mosquitoes or ants were biting us; no flies buzzed our faces; we were not dripping with sweat as we crawled into our bed. But something was missing! We could not see the stars overhead; we did not have kangaroos or wallabies grazing nearby; and no chorus of Australian Ravens or Kookaburras woke us up.

We missed it already.

While gassing up our rental car on the way to the airport, I noticed this headline at a newspaper stand. It is the headline of the state newspaper: the Northern Territory News. I thought it made a nice statement about this country; that a man hooking himself in the head while fishing, could be the top story. In this day and age, that such a story makes the news at all, points out a certain naivety and charm. Australia is a fantastic place.
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We can't wait to go back!

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Rags
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by Rags » January 18th, 2017, 11:37 pm

I have really enjoyed the three posts covering your Australian adventure. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post them here.

The photo's were excellent and its difficult to single any out. However, the red kangaroo family and the frogmouth shots certainly stick in the mind. Your reports showed a great mix of photographs which certainly added to the feeling that we were sitting in the back of the car.

Where next?

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csalemi731
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by csalemi731 » January 19th, 2017, 9:33 am

great shots. I just spent time traveling from Cairns to the tip of Cape York. I can confirm those ants taste like lime lol

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ClosetHerper
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by ClosetHerper » January 22nd, 2017, 2:15 pm

Rags wrote:...Where next?
Thanks for looking and for the comment. Since we have now seen the east coast and a swath of the center, the west coast is most likely our next destination. However, I could spend lots more time in many of the places we have already seen!
csalemi731 wrote:.... I can confirm those ants taste like lime lol
Glad that I am not the only one to have licked the butt of an ant:)

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Ameron
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Thanks from Pacific Northwest

Post by Ameron » January 29th, 2017, 8:18 am

I've often dreamed of visiting "Straya", and I once worked with coworkers in Melbourne.

I may never get the chance, so the posts from Down Under are especially appreciated.

Just so that you know, if I ever encountered a wild swimming hole with crocodiles, I'd NEVER tell authorities, and would try to keep it a secret as long as possible, focusing on co-existence rather than intolerance & removal. (I can't help it. I'm funny that way.)

I look forward to more posts in the future - especially epic travel posts like yours!

NACairns
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by NACairns » January 29th, 2017, 8:52 am

What trip and a report! A dream for sure. I loved the diversity of taxa and the photography is great. With all the herps on display I'm a bit surprised to say that my favorite shot is the green ants. Thanks for sharing this.
Best.
Nick

ramblon
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by ramblon » January 30th, 2017, 10:54 am

What a great series, you've given me some great ideas for that "dream trip" someday!

Especially like the mix of mammals, birds and landscapes, balances the whole trip out. Well done!

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mothman
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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by mothman » February 5th, 2017, 9:26 am

Milos,

What a very successful trip. Great pics of the frilled lizards. I am envious that you found Burton's legless lizards and the beautiful black-headed python. These are the species I have wanted to see but missed on my trip to the Northern territory three years ago. Good job!!

Mitch

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ClosetHerper
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Re: Thanks from Pacific Northwest

Post by ClosetHerper » February 8th, 2017, 11:06 am

Thanks for the comments, and I hope the diversity of taxa was acceptable for the forum. I enjoy encounters with all wildlife, and sharing the images.
Ameron wrote:Just so that you know, if I ever encountered a wild swimming hole with crocodiles, I'd NEVER tell authorities, and would try to keep it a secret as long as possible, focusing on co-existence rather than intolerance & removal. (I can't help it. I'm funny that way.)
As can be seen from the signs, it sounds like they tolerate freshwater crocs and know that they are present. While the little display we saw was impressive, I think it was mostly show, and we were at little risk. We did not report it.

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Re: Lizarding across Australia: Part 3 The Top End

Post by orionmystery » February 8th, 2017, 8:55 pm

Great set! Love the herps!

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