Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mt Isa

I spent a week with a group of scientists from CSIRO Townsville doing a fauna survey on some of the mining land in the hilly desert country around Mt Isa. Had a pretty interesting time - it was quite cold so there wasn't too much on the move, but we managed to find enough to keep us occupied in the way of reptiles, birds and the occasional rodent and bat.

Spiny-Tailed Monitor in the morning sun (Varanus acanthurus)

One morning when my services weren't required, I took a chair and my camera down to a small, almost dry waterhole in the creekbed near our camp. The spot was a popular one with the birds.

Painted Finches

Diamond doves and a couple of Zebra Finches

White-necked Heron

Occasionally, the diamond doves, budgies and other birds would take flight and a sparrowhawk or goshawk would soar speedily through, trying its luck. After one such occasion I heard a rustle in the grass and watched the spot until the animal emerged.

It turned out to be an awesome snake, the King Brown or Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis). The snake wasn't worried at all about my presence - just cruising slowly around, having a hunt and occasionally stopping to soak up the sun. This species apparently produces record amounts of venom when milked. Herpers often talk about the powerful presence that this species just exudes and I'd have to agree. It appeared totally relaxed and in control. I followed the snake for several minutes until it disappeared - presumably down a hole or under a rock. When I first saw it I thought it must have been at least 6 ft long, but when I actually measured it up in my mind, I reckoned it couldn't have been much over 4 ft. An impressive snake nonetheless, and an unfogettable experience.

There were purple-necked rock wallabies up in some of the rocky hills, and I spent an afternoon staking them. Eventually got this photo which I was rather happy with, given the difficult conditions.


Snail said...


If you're heading back through the Tablelands and fancy a cup of coffee, email me.

Ken said...

I think the King Brown is known also for causing rapid death even with appropriate first aid.