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moloch05

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Over the Christmas break, I had the opportunity to make a quick trip to the Red Centre. It is a place that I've wanted to see for many years but never could find the time to get out there. Australia is a big place and the drive to the middle of the continent is a big one from the east coast. I left early on a Sunday morning from Melbourne and returned to Wollongong on the following Saturday. All up, I drove slightly less than 7,000 km in 7 days so I spent a fair bit of time watching the outback flash by my windscreen.

This year has been a hot one in Australia. I missed the worst of the heat but still experienced temps as high as 44C. Unfortunately, the summer wet had not commenced and the area was very dry. Reptile activity was subdued and I encountered far fewer species/individuals than I had hoped for and much less than others have reported at the same time last year. Still, it was great to see the areas and I know several places now that I will be happy to re-examine some year after summer rains.

I will include a number of habitat shots in this post that hopefully give you an idea of what a trip to the centre would be like.

I left Melbourne at about 4:30 am. By noon, I passed through the Ngarkat Conservation Park in South Australia. This area was burned a few years ago but plant regeneration was underway.
habitat13.jpg


It was quite warm when I took a short break and walk in the park. Eventually, I found a few Mallee Military Dragon (Ctenophorus fordi). The little dragons were hard to see in areas with litter. Their disruptive colour pattern works well.
Ctenophorus1.jpg

Ctenophorus2.jpg



After stretching and taking a few photos, it was back in the car for another 12 hours. I eventually stopped for the night at a roadside rest near Glendambo. Fuel stations were far apart in this area and most were only open until 8pm. That made it a little awkward to travel at night.

I did a little night driving in the Glendambo area and eventually found two geckos. The night was quite even though the temps were warm.

Beaded Gecko (Lucasium damaeum). This was a nicely marked gecko and only the second that I've ever encountered. I think that they are common but their distribution is mainly in southern Australia and I rarely travel in this part of the continent. This one held its tail high when running on the road. It had dropped a little when I took this shot.
Lucasium-damaeum1.jpg

Lucasium-damaeum3.jpg



The second gecko was a Fat-tailed Gecko (Diplodactylus conspicillatus), a wide-ranging species. These little geckos will partially inflate their throats and then flutter this like an amphibian.
Diplo-conspicillatus6.jpg

Diplo-conspicillatus4.jpg

Diplo-conspicillatus3.jpg



I refueled as soon as the station opened the following morning then continued with the drive north. I liked the following sign, only 300km more to the "corner store".
outback.jpg



Before long, I passed through Coober Pedy, one of the big opal fields in Australia. The climate here was hostile and many people live underground to escape the extreme conditions. It was an aesthetically-challenged area as was most of the northern half of South Australia.
Coober-Pedy1.jpg



This shot was of typical habitat in northern South Australia. I stopped briefly since this area is the home of two dragons that I have not yet seen, Gibber Dragon (Ctenophorus gibba) and Ochre Dragon (Ctenophorus tjantjalka). The crumbling hills looked perfect for the latter but I did not see either of my targets. It may have been too hot for these to be in the open.
habitat2.jpg

habitat3.jpg


Eventually, I did see a single lizard, one of the widely distributed Eyrean Earless Dragons (Tympanocryptis tetraporiphora). These are heat tolerant lizards and will often stand dinosaur-like on the top of a rock even when it is hot. This one, however, was disturbed by my presence and attempted to hide.
Tympanocryptis-tetraporipho.jpg


Further on, I saw a single Central Netted Dragon (Ctenophorus nuchalis) that tried to hide when I stopped the car.
Central-Netted-Dragon1.jpg



Even though it was dry, there were a few flowering plants.

Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus sp.), a member of Amaranthaceae
mulla-mulla.jpg


Solanum sp.
flower2.jpg


a composite:
flower1.jpg



The habitat improved a little near the Northern Territory border. I stopped and searched a few trees for lizards but did not find any reptiles.
habitat1.jpg


I did see a group of six of these beautiful Mulga Parrots. I often see this species in the interior but they are not usually cooperative for photos.
Mulga-Parrot1.jpg

Mulga-Parrot2.jpg



Wedge-tailed Eagles were, as always, common along the way. They feast on road-killed kangaroos and all to often end up as road-kills themselves. This one appeared to have a problem and was missing feathers from its head. It looked almost vulture-like.
Wedge-tailed-Eagle.jpg



Finally, in the late afternoon, I arrived at the West MacDonnell Ranges NP. I found a nice place to camp and set up the tent.
campsite.jpg


... view from my campsite:
habitat15.jpg



The rocky hills were beautiful. I especially enjoyed the scenic Ormiston Gorge with its red rocks, yellow spinifex and white-barked Ghost Gums. Here a few photos of the area.
habitat18.jpg

habitat12.jpg

habitat10.jpg

habitat3a.jpg



That night, I went driving along these hills ...
Death-Adder-habitat1.jpg



... and found two of these gorgeous creatures. Desert Death Adders (Acanthophis pyrrhus) are one of the most brightly coloured of the our elapids. I found a small juvenile and a large adult. I love their defensive display when the flatten their bodies and flash the yellow bands.

juvenile:
Death-Adder1.jpg

Death-Adder2.jpg

Death-Adder11.jpg



adult:
Death-Adder6.jpg

Death-Adder5.jpg

Death-Adder9.jpg

Death-Adder8.jpg

Death-Adder10.jpg



The next night, I found this little Unbanded Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis incinctus). It was lucky to have survived the night. I spotted this little snake at the same time that a 4x4 approached at high speed. I could do nothing but pull off and hope for the best. Somehow, the tires missed the snake and it lived to eat more gecko eggs.
Brachyurophis1.jpg

Brachyurophis2.jpg

Brachyurophis3.jpg

Brachyurophis4.jpg



I found two Orange-naped Snakes (Furina ornata). These little elapids never stop moving so I just took a quick record snap and continued on.
Orange-naped-Snake.jpg



Other nocturnals included several Prickly Geckos (Heteronotia binoei), a widespread species.
Heteronotia-binoei1.jpg



... and, depending upon your taxonomics, the equally widespread Tree Dtella (Gehyra variegata):
Gehyra-variegata1.jpg

Gehyra-variegata2.jpg



Also seen were several Fat-tailed Geckos (Diplodactylus conspicillatus):
Diplodactylus-conspicillatu.jpg



One of my targets in this area was the Centralian Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus amyae), the most massive of the our geckos. I did not see any on the road so decided to walk up into the hills. I followed a trail into this area:
habitat2.jpg

habitat4.jpg


This proved to be productive and during the walk, I found two juvenile knob-tails that literally jumped onto the trail in front of me. Unfortunately, I did not see a big adult but these kids were nice to see.

... gecko 1. As expected, they were good albeit careful rock climbers.
Nephrurus-amyae3.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae2.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae6.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae8.jpg


gecko 2:
Nephrurus-amyae1.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae7.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae4.jpg

Nephrurus-amyae5.jpg



Another interesting sighting was a pygopodid in the top of a spinifex. At first, I could not see the head so was not certain of the species. Eventually it lifted its head and I could see the pointed snout of a Burton's Snake-Lizard (Lialis burtonis). More interesting though, was what it was holding. It had just captured the smallest of the our geckos, a Clawless Gecko (Crenadactylus ocellatus). I have only ever seen the rock-inhabiting race from the west coast. This race in the centre looked very different with its striped pattern. The Burton's chewed on the head of the gecko for several minutes before quickly swallowing it. Here is a sequence of photos of the event:
Burtons1.jpg

Burtons3.jpg

Burtons6.jpg

Burtons8.jpg

Burtons10.jpg



A surprise to me was spotting a few of these Desert Cave Geckos (Heteronotea spelea). I thought that they were restricted to the Pilbara of WA but found out after my return that their known range was expanded recently and includes the red centre.
Heteronotia-binoei2.jpg



By day, I saw few lizards. I think that this was the first time in the interior when I did not see any Ctenotus skinks at all. The most common lizard seemed to be the Long-nosed Dragon (Amphibolurus longirostris). "Elegant Dragon" would be a more suitable name for these lovely lizards. This one shimmied up the smooth bark of a young Ghost Gum like someone climbing a coconut palm. Once high enough, it sprang out to side branches where it could move more normally.
Amphibolurus-longirostris1.jpg

Amphibolurus-longirostris2.jpg



Also found one evening was the female Gilbert's Dragon (Amphibolurus gilberti).
Amphibolurus-gilberti1.jpg



This Dingo completely ignored me. It acted like a dog on a mission in the suburbs as it trotted down the road.
Dingo1.jpg



Here are more photos of the habitats of the West MacDonnells. It really was a lovely area.
habitat5.jpg

habitat8.jpg



habitat14.jpg



Mt. Sonders, the high point along the Larapinta Track through the West MacDonnells.
habitat-Mt-Sonder1.jpg



One of our native Coral Bean Trees (Erythrina vesptilio)
Fouqueria1.jpg

Fouqueria2.jpg



habitat20.jpg



Mistletoe: I saw a small honeyeater here but none of the beautiful Azure butterflies that I had hoped to find.
mistletoe.jpg

mistletoe2.jpg



A native hibiscus (Hibiscus sturtii):
hibiscus1.jpg



Solanum sp.
Solanum2.jpg

Solanum1.jpg



... more later
 

moloch05

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Thanks python_rep.



I made a brief stop at Uluru on the return journey. The famous rock was certainly an impressive sight:

... late afternoon:
uluru5a.jpg


... sunset:
uluru6.jpg



The national park was closed at night so I drove and walked in what looked like good areas near Yulara. I found absolutely nothing at all. It seemed strange since the habitat looked good. I suppose that this was due to the dry conditions.


The next morning, I got up early and drove to the Olgas.
olgas.jpg


habitat5.jpg



I did not see a single reptile. The only reptile sign that I found in the area was outside the park. I think that these were the tracks of a sand-swimming Lerista:
lerista-tracks.jpg



Mt. Conner, a mesa along the drive from the Stuart Highway to Uluru:
mesa.jpg



A nice white-flowered Grevillea near Kulgera on the Stuart Highway:
grevillea.jpg



I drove back into South Australia and stayed a little north of Port Augusta. The highway passed a number of dry, salt lakes like this:
saltlake1a.jpg



The next day, I visited the interesting Australian Arid Lands Botanical Gardens.
habitat6.jpg


The place was rich with chenopods and a number of genera that would be familiar to people in the southwest of the US such as Mesembryathemum, Amaranthus, Atriplex, Chenopodium, Crassula, Euphorbia and Erodium.
habitat10.jpg

habitat11.jpg



Once again, I struggled to see a single herp.


My final stop was a night in the Gundabooka area between Cobar and Bourke. This area has produced some interesting herps over the years. I saw a huge Mulga Snake (Pseudechis australis) but it powered off the road before I could get photos.

Other reptiles included this Eastern Hooded Scaly-foot (Pygopus schraderi):
Pygopus-schraderi3.jpg

Pygopus-schraderi2.jpg

Pygopus-schraderi1.jpg



Box-patterned Gecko (Lucasium steindachneri):
Lucasium-steindachneri1.jpg

Lucasium-steindachneri2.jpg

Lucasium-steindachneri3.jpg



Little Corellas at a water hole:
Little-Corella3.jpg

Little-Corella2.jpg



Red-rumped Parrot;
Red-rumped-Swallow.jpg



I was happy to see these new areas but next time, I won't travel that far unless there have been summer rains. I think that I saw less than 50 reptiles during the week of driving.


Regards,
David
 
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Barrett

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Beautiful photos. I live out in Broken Hill and have spent a lot of time outbush on properties. Unfortunately I didn't have a love for herping until recently so haven't had a chance to get photos like yours. Keep up the awesome work :)
 

Endeavour

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Superb pictures, certain parts of Australia are just so beautiful.


Kindest regards


Endeavour
 

dintony

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Gecko2-pic 4 would make the best MeMe!! ha!1 >>> It reminds me of grumpy cat but way bette r:D

Fannntastic photos! Thanks for sharing :)
 

Mitella

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fantastic, seeing the burton's eating the clawless gecko 2 in 1 and them gilberts dragon's are amazing;)
 

Skelhorn

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Wow! That is all. Firstly you must have an awesome camera. Secondly you took amazing shots. So jealous. That would be soooo good to just get out, go somewhere that there is no one else around and enjoy the serenity!

Very lucky!
 
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