Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National Park

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National Park

Post by Ribbit » December 19th, 2015, 9:06 pm

Here's Part 5 of my 8-part write-up for my month of October 2015 herping in Australia.

Previous parts:

Part 1, featuring an echidna!
Part 2, featuring two thorny devils!
Part 3, featuring four species of snakes!
Part 4, featuring the first shinglebacks and beardies!

My first multi-day stop in South Australia was in Flinders Ranges National Park, which encompasses a wide variety of habitat types, and thus a wide variety of herps. I stayed in the Wilpena Pound Resort near the southern end of the park. I was happy to see that the staff maintained a lizard-friendly environment, as evidenced by this colored chalk masterpiece inside the general store & information center.

Image
Everybody loves a Shingleback, and rightly so


The walls of the resort were also lizard-friendly, though only with little skinks when I was looking. These little Cryptoblepharus skinks are everywhere in Australia. Once upon a time, they were all considered a single species. By the end of the twentieth century, Australia was the proud home to five or six differentiated species. Then Paul Horner split out a bonanza of new species in 2007 based on extensive morphological and genetic studies. Now there are more than 20 defined species in Australia, many of which can only be distinguished by examining the teeny-tiny scales on the bottoms of their teeny-tiny feet. Fortunately, most places only have one or two or three candidate species, and Horner's paper does a good job of calling out differences in areas where species overlap.

Image
I think this one is a Ragged Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus)


Several trails start at the resort and head out in various directions. On my first afternoon I chose a trail that is basically flat until the end, when it climbs a rocky hillside to a viewpoint. Along the flat part I saw various skinks, including the following four.

Image
I think this one is another Ragged Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus)


Image
I think this one is an Inland Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus australis)


Image
Tree Skinks (Egernia striolata) outnumbered all the other herps combined. I mostly saw them basking on logs and rocks.


Image
Cryptoblepharus are not the only "snake-eyed skinks" in Australia. This nervous little leaf-litter denizen is a Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink (Morethia boulengeri).


Image
The previously mentioned rocky hillside at the end of the trail.


This rocky hillside was ideal habitat for lizards. (Probably snakes too, but I didn't see any.) Very soon after I left the flat ground and started climbing, I saw the first of many Tawny Dragons.

Image
Male Tawny Dragon (Ctenophorus decresii). This poor guy has at least three huge ticks attached: one on the chest, one on the top of the head, and one in the left ear. The lizard seemed none the worse for it though.


Image
Female Tawny Dragon, checking out which of the many nearby males is worth her precious time


Image
Pick me! Pick me! I'm way more colorful than tick-boy over there.


Image
The so-called Tree Skinks were as numerous in the rocks as they had been down on the flatlands.


I noticed that an occasional skink on the rocks seemed to have slightly different proportions than the very common Tree Skinks, and also to move a little differently. I hadn't gotten a good look at one of these other skinks until I turned a corner and found this one basking on a low rock right in front of me. The light-colored eyeliner turned out to be a key identification characteristic.

Image
Flinders Ranges Masked Rock-skink (Liopholis margaretae personata)


One other basking skink struck me as different. It was at least essentially the same size, shape, and pattern as the Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skinks I had seen earlier. But this one seemed significantly darker, and this one held its position for at least a few minutes, whereas the ones I had seen earlier were all scuttling around in leaf litter, and never stopped moving for more than a few seconds. But I couldn't find any other candidates in my books, so my best guess is that this is indeed another of that kind.

Image
Probably Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink (Morethia boulengeri)


On another morning I drove out to hike Wilkawillina Gorge, because (A) it seemed like a significantly different type of habitat, and (B) it had an entertaining name.

Image
Sign in the parking lot, a.k.a. dirt clearing at the end of a long dirt road


One of the attractions of Wilkawillina Gorge was another chance to see the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby that I had missed back at Telowie Gorge in Part 4 of this account. This time I had more luck, and spotted one of these colorful rocky outcrop specialists just after it spotted me and bounded away.

Image
Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus), mid-jump


Flinders Ranges National Park had cool to cold nights while I was there, so the temperatures didn't reach maximum herp-friendliness until late morning at least. I was impatient as usual and started my morning hike earlier than that, so the lizards were few and far between at the start of my hike. I first saw a few species that I had encountered in other parts of Australia.

Image
Another Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink. I uncovered a few of these, which generally raced off instantly.


Image
Bynoe's Gecko (Heteronotia binoei). This one was bigger than the very small ones I had seen on Red Centre roads in Parts 2 and 3 of this account, but still a youngster.


Image
Variegated Dtella (Dtella variegata). This one had been under a dead branch.


Image
Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus). This was an extremely uncooperative individual, and the only photo I managed to get was with my iPhone during a rare stationary interval of a few seconds as the skink contemplated how to navigate my shoe. (It eventually went up and over.)


Image
This was the first herp of the day that was actually motionless in plain sight. It was at the top of a small rocky outcrop; I saw it from the bottom and carefully climbed around the back side to get photos before it could get spooked. I believe this is another Inland Snake-eyed Skink.


When I was climbing down from the rocky outcrop I caught a glimpse of another Ctenotus skink. I couldn't tell whether it was Ctenotus robustus again or some other of the many Ctenotus candidates, so I crept around the outcrop for a few minutes trying to spot it. I did not see it again, but I did spot some sort of rock dragon in the process. The rock dragon was colorful, and its colors seemed different than those of the Tawny Dragons I had been seeing, but I didn't get a good look. I figured that this was just a sign that the lizards were starting to emerge in force, and with any luck I would see this dragon again soon.

On the other side of the rocky outcrop I reached the main gorge itself, and there was even a little waterhole nearby.

Image
Wilkawillina Gorge itself


I poked around at the edges of the waterhole and quickly discovered a population of small frogs. I assumed at the time that they were the same species I had seen at Telowie Gorge in Part 4, but later discovered that the Flinders Ranges have two resident species of froglet, and this was the other one.

Image
Northern Flinders Ranges Froglet (Crinia flindersensis)


As I was admiring the froglets, I spotted a flash of color out of the corner of my eye, and turned to spot one of the most beautiful lizards I'd ever seen doing its macho push-ups on a nearby rock. This was a plain-sight version of the dragon I had glimpsed earlier. I recognized it immediately as a Red-barred Dragon, a species I had particularly hoped to see on this trip. In fact, at David Fischer's suggestion, I had specifically added a place called Arkaroola to my itinerary in the hopes of seeing this gorgeous lizard.

Image
Male Red-barred Dragon (Ctenophorus vadnappa)


The object of this male's affections was elsewhere on the same rock. I followed the two of them around for about fifteen minutes as they traveled from rock to rock, sometimes hunting, sometimes just showing off.

Image
Female Red-barred Dragon, content to let the male be the pretty one


Image
Image
The same male in a couple of other poses. I ended up seeing a few more of these guys, but none of them were willing to put on a show for me the way this one did.


On my way back to Wilpena Pound from Wilkawillina Gorge, I stopped for a picture of a colorful parrot.

Image
Port Lincoln Parrot (Barnardius zonarius zonarius)


Just beyond the parrot was a familiar road-lizard silhouette.

Image
Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)


This beardie ran off the road as I approached, as was typical. When I parked my car and found it hunkered down in the scrub, and it noticed me, I expected it to run off further. Instead, it chose to bluff, puffing out its body and its glorious beard and running a few steps toward me. (After a minute or two of holding its bluff pose, it then turned and ran off.)

Image
Ooh, so scary!


For my final afternoon excursion from Wilkina Pound I chose the charmingly named Mt. Ohlssen-Bagge Trail, whose brochure description was: "Steep rocky inclines followed by rewarding views of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding area. This hike incorporates excellent reptile habitat." Of course I could not resist.

Image
Some excellent reptile habitat


Some excellent reptiles were indeed out and about on this trail, all of them lizards:

Image
First up was this rarest of Ctenotus skinks: one that actually held its position in the open for more than a few seconds. I believe this is another Eastern Striped Skink.


Image
And it's about time I included a photo of another of the many Eastern Shinglebacks I saw in South Australia.


Image
Male Tawny Dragon


Image
Female Tawny Dragon


Image
Eastern Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides)


Image
Young Flinders Ranges Masked Rock-skink


Image
Wary Tree Skink


Image
Last but certainly not least, my first Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii) of the trip, just hanging out in the middle of the trail.


Image
Kangaroos cluttered the roads and grassy habitat at dusk. I saw over a hundred in about forty-five minutes one night. This one is a Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus).


Image
Pair of Red Kangaroos


Image
I believe this one is a Common Wallaroo, a.k.a. Euro (Macropus robustus erubescens).


Image
I believe this one is a Western Gray Kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus melanops).


Image
Feral European Wild Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were unfortunately also very common, especially around dusk. They are a very troublesome invasive species in Australia, though in terms of ecological disaster they probably aren't quite as bad as Cane Toads or domestic cats.


I didn't see many herps after dark in Flinders Ranges National Park, presumably because the temperature dropped rapidly after dark. I did manage to find a couple of new-to-me geckos though. The first one was fairly nondescript by Australian standards.

Image
Ranges Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus furcosus)


The second type of nocturnal gecko was a most excellent one, the Common Thick-tailed Gecko, a.k.a. Barking Gecko. I didn't hear them bark, but I did get to see them look amazing. They are known to be more cold-tolerant than most Australian geckos.

Image
Juvenile Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii).


Image
Adult Barking Gecko. The strong banding on the tail indicates that the tail is probably the original; regenerated tails are generally patternless.


One other nocturnal herp of note near Wilpena Pound was another King Brown Snake. It was moving on the road when I first saw it, so I pulled over and followed it on foot for awhile. It never stopped moving, but I managed to get a few shots as it prowled the roadside vegetation.

Image
King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis). You really don't want to mess with any snake that has a face this serious.


That's it for Part 5. In Part 6 I'll be traveling north from Wilpena Pound as far as Marree (on the Oodnadatta Track), with a stop at Arkaroola. I just love Australian place names.

John

User avatar
Rancorrye
Posts: 400
Joined: June 18th, 2012, 7:05 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Rancorrye » December 20th, 2015, 1:57 pm

Amazing posts! Keep 'em coming. It's a dream of mine to one day visit and herp in Australia. For now, I'll have to live vicariously through your posts.

Rye

User avatar
moloch
Posts: 561
Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by moloch » December 20th, 2015, 8:39 pm

Wonderful series of photos, John. I've been waiting for this report in particular. Wow, those Red-barred Dragons are spectacular! So glad that you found them and were able to take these excellent photos. I think that they are one of the most interesting dragons here in Australia and certainly one of the most colourful.

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » December 20th, 2015, 9:05 pm

Thanks Rye! I can strongly recommend that you make that dream come true someday. You won't regret it!

Thanks David! It was such a thrill to see this species, and especially such a beautiful individual. You get the credit for making me particularly interested in finding this species.

John

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » December 20th, 2015, 9:06 pm

Part 6 is now available at viewtopic.php?f=2&t=22904

User avatar
Roki
Posts: 199
Joined: January 23rd, 2012, 10:08 am
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Roki » December 21st, 2015, 8:08 am

Those red-barred dragons are awesome.

Knormal
Posts: 22
Joined: December 23rd, 2014, 11:32 am

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Knormal » December 21st, 2015, 4:55 pm

Just another echo that those Red-barred Dragons are gorgeous. Who decided to pass those up and start mass-breeding boring old Bearded Dragons?

User avatar
Field Herper
Posts: 52
Joined: July 7th, 2012, 5:15 am
Location: Oz

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Field Herper » December 26th, 2015, 8:32 pm

That's a beautifully coloured vadnappa. It's one of the most colourful lizards we have, so it's a bit surprising that not more are kept in captivity.

User avatar
krisbell
Posts: 220
Joined: September 12th, 2010, 1:20 pm
Location: Jersey, UK
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by krisbell » December 29th, 2015, 11:53 am

The tail on the second barking gecko looks very much liek a regen, and the first looks like a gravid female? Did you get your labels the wrong way round?

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » December 29th, 2015, 2:28 pm

The first barking gecko was much smaller than the second one, maybe half the size. I assumed it was a juvie, but maybe females are way smaller? I looked in Wilson & Swan 4th edition, and Cogger 7th edition, and neither described gender differences.

Cogger says that regenerated tails are uniform brown, so I assumed the banding was proof of an original tail. Is that not the case?

John

User avatar
krisbell
Posts: 220
Joined: September 12th, 2010, 1:20 pm
Location: Jersey, UK
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by krisbell » December 29th, 2015, 11:54 pm

You're probably right - the first one does look young and the second one probably just has a crappy original tail. Thanks for sharing, and hurry up with part 8!

User avatar
Mike Pingleton
Posts: 1472
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 am
Location: One of the boys from Illinois
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Mike Pingleton » January 8th, 2016, 6:49 pm

Red-barred Dragons!

-Mike

Eipper
Posts: 27
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 8:24 pm
Location: Queensland Australia

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Eipper » August 19th, 2016, 9:44 pm

the Gehyra is lazelli

nice stuff

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » August 20th, 2016, 6:04 am

Thanks Scott! (And I see that I called it Dtella variegata when of course I meant Gehyra variegata.) I just assumed it was variegata since I had seen those elsewhere and it looked "the same". Bad assumption in Australia! I'm currently away from my reference books -- can you please tell me how to distinguish the two species?

John

Eipper
Posts: 27
Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 8:24 pm
Location: Queensland Australia

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Eipper » August 23rd, 2016, 3:45 am

Hi John,

It's basically the way the spots and pattern is on the back. G. lazelli are different to G. versicolor (variegata is much further west)..... It one of those species when you have seen plenty of each it's fairly easy to see the difference.

Cheers
Scott

User avatar
Chad M. Lane
Posts: 568
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:40 pm
Location: Manteca, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Chad M. Lane » August 23rd, 2016, 11:13 am

Thanks for sharing, quite a few nice images, and species!




Thanks,
Chad

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4299
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Kelly Mc » August 27th, 2016, 5:25 pm

Fantastic. You are # 1 friend and guide to a lizards life. I love all your photos but the lizard ones are especially wonderful.

I appreciate the scope of habitat and topography in your pictures - and the diversity of aspect the lizards incorporate. The rocky structures are inspiring - interesting and wow what a gorgeous world. Looking forward to more

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » August 30th, 2016, 5:14 pm

Scott, I see that my Gehyra info is confusing and out of date. I have the latest Cogger and the latest Wilson & Swan, but neither of these include G. versicolor. Furthermore, Wilson & Swan shows a continuous range for G. variegata from the west coast to nearly the east coast, whereas Cogger shows two very distinct ranges, one in the east and one in the west, with a very large gap between them. I see now from the Reptile Database that G. variegata was split into two species, one for each of these disjunct ranges, and the eastern group is now G. versicolor.

Anyway, thanks very much for the ID. It's hard to keep up on Australian herp taxonomy!

John

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » August 30th, 2016, 5:17 pm

Chad: Thanks a lot! It's hard to go wrong, herping in Australia.

Kelly: Thanks for the kind words. I love snakes, frogs, turtles, etc., but I do think lizards are my favorite. Partly it's due to their tremendous diversification in size, shape, color, lifestyle, etc., and partly it's because you can watch them do stuff a lot easier than you can with snakes (which usually disappear quickly) or frogs (which usually sit perfectly still or disappear quickly).

John

User avatar
ClosetHerper
Posts: 72
Joined: October 22nd, 2013, 2:32 pm
Location: Alaska
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by ClosetHerper » January 4th, 2017, 12:39 pm

I was browsing through your posts once again and hesitate to make a correction to your ID's, but don't worry, it is not a herp! What you call a Western Gray Kangaroo looks to me like another Euro. They have the longer hair on their backs that was described to us by a local aborignal at Wilpena as "human-like" hair. The only Western Grays that we noticed were right in the Wilpena Pound Campground. Everything else we saw through the Flinders were Reds or the very numerous Euros. Also, in another post, the Emu with young is likely the male. The males both incubate the eggs and raise the young. So glad humans did not adopt Emu social norms!

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » January 4th, 2017, 12:42 pm

No reason to be worried about correcting my IDs -- I am always happy to hear about corrections! I'm sure you're right about the "Western Gray Kangaroo". I did a bunch of Internet "research" but still was very unsure.

I didn't know that it was the male Emus leading around the young, very interesting!

Thanks,

John

User avatar
Will Wells
Posts: 275
Joined: June 18th, 2010, 4:32 am
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Will Wells » January 5th, 2017, 4:24 pm

Incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

User avatar
Ribbit
Posts: 601
Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Contact:

Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 5, Flinders Ranges National

Post by Ribbit » January 5th, 2017, 5:22 pm

Thanks Will. You would love all the collared-lizard-reminiscent dragons out there!

John

Post Reply