Saturday, September 10, 2011

A touch of the South-west

Back in Winter I found myself in Perth briefly, and was able to squeeze in a couple of nights frogging and a morning of the fabled 'raking' that the WAliens are so fond of. 

First up, out in the Perh hills, was a really impressive frog - Heleioporus barycragus. Not named after a fella called Bary Crag at all, it turns out the name refers to the frog's "deep voice" which isn't actually very deep, but about "falsetto man voice" pitch. Male Heleioporus have impressive spikes on their hands, used apparently for male combat (though they must make amplexus a delicate affair). The photo below shows a male with a scar, presumably healing war wound.

There are a couple more Heleioporus species around the hills, and I was able to pick up a couple more: H. inornatus and eyrei, the Whooping frog and the Moaning frog respectively. These frogs all call from burrows in sand around creeklines. 

Whooping frog, Heleioporus inornatus

Moaning frog, Heleioporus eyrei

The marvelously carbuncular Neobatrachus pelobatoidies.

A rather ugly example of the Soft Spiny-tailed gecko, Strophrurus spinigerus


Raking, I'm led to believe, is a favourite winter pastime of Western Australian herpos. The procedure involves strolling around sandy areas with a garden rake, occasionally stopping and furiously agitating the top layer of sand and hoping to turn up some of the sand snakes and lizards that live in that habitat. For an East-coaster, it's all a bit bizarre. However, it did reveal this marvelous little creature below - Jan's Banded snake, Simoselaps bertholdi, which I spent some quality time photographing. Fantastic!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A taste of the Pilbara

I've just returned from the Pilbara - assisting a fauna survey job. It was my first time in this part of the country - so I found myself seeing plenty of new animals while at the same time recognising the connections that this landscape has with other parts of Australia.

Delma nasuta, Legless Lizard

We were located not far from the Hammersley Ranges, our survey sites butting up against Karajini National Park in some instances. Generally we were focussing on variations of mulga, spinifex and grassland habitats, with a few rocky outcrop areas thrown in.

Pilbara Ningaui, Ningaui timealeyi

It was boom time out there following a good wet season. We didn't catch a single animal in poor health or condition. Insects were in abundance. Driving around would invariably flush masses of Little Button Quail from the grass, and we even had some fall in traps (including chicks!). The Stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura, below) has a tail about 10mm long at its base - this is the dunnart equivalent of a double chin in terms of fat storage.

Stripe-faced dunnart (Sminthopsis macroura)

Reptile-wise we turned up a fairly good haul of lizards and snakes, including some blind snakes, various elapids, dragons and small goannas, a handful of geckos and legless lizards.

This Diplodactylus pulcher had just shed its skin and was showing its colours off nicely.

A young Varanus bushi - a small tree-dwelling goanna recently split off from gilleni/caudolineatus

Painted Pyrgomorph, Greyacris sp.

Exploring the rocky areas toward the end of the survey we managed to turn up quite a few more reptile species, including my favourite animal of the trip, the Spiny-tailed skink (Egernia depressa, below). This slow-moving, prehistoric-looking creature lives in rock crevices in small family groups.

The crevice dwelling Ctenotus rubicundus

Another rock dweller, Egernia formosa

Bandy-bandy snake, Vermicella snelli

Spiny-tailed skink, Egernia depressa

Dwarf bearded dragon, Pogona minor

Western netted dragon (Ctenophorus reticularis), above and below, surveying its domain.

Another highlight turned up on the final day as we were packing up - a Mulga dragon, Caimanops amphiboluroides, appeared right behind the ute we were loading. It was intent on digging - not a proper burrow at all but a shallow scrape. After some time it abandoned this one but began another! It was totally unafraid of us, and dug, ate ants, and even had its tail stepped on without seeming to mind. This species, the only one of its genus, is another one restricted to the North-West.

Mulga dragon, Caimanops amphiboluroides, above and below.

Still lots of Pilbara critters out there that I'm keen to see, and it looks like I'll be heading back over there at some point too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sydney... Cockroach

Back in Sydney. Next move...?

Check out this cockroach, Polyzosteria limbata, from Brisbane Water National Park just north of the Hawkesbury, spotted on a recent bushwalk.

Compare the patterning with an individual from Waterfall, south of Sydney (links to my old blog, from way back in 2006!).