Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

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Ribbit
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Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

Here's Part 7 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!
Part 5, featuring the most beautiful lizard I've ever seen!
Part 6, featuring crazy outback sculptures!

Part 6 left me at my northernmost point of South Australia, in Marree. Several hours after heading south from Marree, I neared my destination for the next two nights: Kimba, "Halfway Across Australia". I had chosen Kimba due to its proximity to the Gawler Ranges, which seemed to have fine herping opportunities, and to Pinkawillinie Conservation Park, which featured thorny devils on its promotional materials and also had a particularly entertaining name. In case I had missed out on thorny devils in the Red Centre, this was to be my second chance.

On the way down I was planning to check out Lake Gilles Conservation Reserve because I had been told it had some beautiful Painted Dragons (Ctenophorus pictus) and Crested Dragons (Ctenophorus cristatus). As I approached the Lake Gilles turnoff from the main road, I spotted a welcome sight on the pavement.

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Crested Dragon (Ctenophorus cristatus)


In the Lake Gilles Conservation Reserve proper, I found a few small, light-colored dragons, but damn they were fast. I didn't get any photos, or even any good looks. They must have been either some species of Earless Dragons (Tympanocryptis) or Painted Dragons (Ctenophorus pictus).

On the road into the reserve, however, I saw a much more cooperative lizard.

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Eastern Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides)


I arrived in Kimba in mid-afternoon and headed out to Pinkawillinie. Many by-now familiar faces plodded across the roads at various times.

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Eastern Shinglebacks (Tiliqua rugosa aspera)


Eventually a non-lumpy herp appeared, and meandered off into the bush. It turned out to be a Dugite, another of your standard Australian big brownish highly venomous elapids.

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Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis affinis). I wasn't nearly as close to this snake's potentially lethal face area as it might appear from this last photo.


Ten minutes later, I was graced with the presence of the poster child itself, my third Thorny Devil of the trip, motionless in the middle of the dirt road. Ah, life is sweet!

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Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus). They pose so nicely!

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View from an imaginary tiny drone

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The honorary David Fischer moloch head-on view


Shortly after my Thorny Devil experience, I stopped for yet another Shingleback and discovered that the back right tire on my rental 4WD was flat. Dusk was approaching, and I hadn't seen any other people or vehicles for a couple of hours, and the lug nuts on the tire proved so difficult to remove that at one point I thought I would have to give up, but I'm pretty sure I had a ridiculous grin across my face the whole time. Obviously nothing serious could go wrong to someone who had just seen their third Thorny Devil!

Soon enough, the spare tire was in place and I headed back to Kimba. As a final touch on a fine afternoon, another new-to-me big brown elapid put in an appearance on the road.

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Western Brown Snake (Pseudonaja mengdeni)


The next morning I got off to a late start because I wanted to get the flat tire repaired before further adventuring. Fortunately, it seems that one thing all tiny outback towns have in common is good tire service places, and I had the puncture fixed by a friendly mom-and-pop shop before 9AM. The morning was quite cold, so I'm sure I didn't miss any early herp activity.

My destination for the day was Gawler Ranges National Park, about two hours drive from Kimba, mostly on unsealed roads. The park was not teeming with visitors; I think I passed one other tourist car all day, and saw nobody else on foot. I first stopped at a pay station where I picked up a map, and where a friendly park service employee who happened to be passing through gave me advice on good spots to look for reptiles. That encapsulates two things I love about Australia: (1) almost everyone you meet is friendly, and (2) park service employees know good spots to look for reptiles.

Along the side of the road I'd periodically pass kangaroos. This apparent nuclear roo family featured the beefiest Red Kangaroo that I saw on my whole trip.

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Red Kangaroos (Macropus rufus). Mother (?), child (?), and Schwarzenegger (!).


Near the parking area for my first recommended hiking spot was a huge troop of cacophonously squawking Pink Cockatoos, a.k.a. Galahs. They are extremely common in the outback, but for those of us who live in parrot-free zones they are a marvelous sight to see (and hear).

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Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla)


Here's the promising view in front of me on the hike:

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The first lizard I came across was another of my Shingleback buddies.

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In their natural habitat, Shinglebacks blend in much better than they do when crossing roads.


Noon approached, but it had been such a cool morning that the lizards were only now starting to emerge and bask on the rocks. I spotted a few more Tree Skinks, but didn't expend much energy trying to photograph them since I had seen so many earlier on the trip and gotten good photos then.

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Tree Skink (Egernia striolata)


A small apparently-permanent waterhole housed a busy population of tadpoles. Less than a handful of frog species are known from Gawler Ranges, but I have failed to identify these tadpoles so far.

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Tadpoles of Trilling Frogs (Neobatrachus centralis)? Painted Burrowing Frogs (Neobatrachus pictus)? Water Holding Frogs (Cyclorana platycephala)?


Back on the rocks, mixed in with the numerous Tree Skinks, lurked a few Gidgee Skinks. This is another medium-sized ("huge" in American) communal rock skink. I saw four or five of them, all very shy.

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Eastern Gidgee Skinks (Egernia stokesii zellingi). I didn't notice the smaller one in the foreground until I looked through my photos later.


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I managed to get one close-up of this Gidgee Skink before it vanished into a crevice and plugged the crack with its spiky tail, as this species is wont to do.


As the day gradually warmed, Peninsula Dragons started to appear. The first one I saw was an apparently gravid female, in the relatively dull pattern and color typical of the fairer sex.

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Female Peninsula Dragon (Ctenophorus fionni), with a big ol' tick in her ear


Shortly thereafter, male dragons started popping up all over the place.

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Male Peninsula Dragons


While I was trying to focus my 100mm lens on a male dragon a few feet away, another male popped up and started chasing the first one. They scampered all around the rock, at one point chasing each other between my legs. The 100mm lens was too long to capture both animals at once, and swapping lenses would obviously spook them, so I pulled out my iPhone and got a photo that way.

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The huge bull dragon, enraged by the rock, endeavours to encircle its sprightly opponent. If you do not understand this joke, I feel sorry for you.


Later in the afternoon I encountered a Crested Dragon splayed out on the road. You can imagine from its strong back legs and long tail that it is an excellent runner, and you would be right.

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Crested Dragon. The males and females sport similar patterns in this ground-dwelling species, though the males tend to be more prominently marked. I don't know the gender of any of the ones I saw.


I'll throw in another Crested Dragon here, though it is somewhat out of place. I saw this one a few days later south of Kimba while driving from the southern Eyre Peninsula back north on my way to Adelaide.

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Crested Dragon proving that even a ground dragon enjoys a nice viewpoint from time to time


My final stop at Gawler Ranges National Park was the popular Organ Pipes formation. Note that I call it popular based on comments elsewhere, as I was the only person for miles around when I visited.

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Organ Pipes formation


By the time I reached Organ Pipes it was late in the afternoon and the temperature was dropping. I didn't expect to see any herps but one female Peninsula Dragon was still out.

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Female Peninsula Dragon. You can really see the camouflage at work against these multicolored rocks.


The drive back to Kimba featured one unidentified snake and many, many kangaroos.

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Typical view of a Red Kangaroo in the late afternoon.


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Even more typical view of a pair of Red Kangaroos a few moments after they noticed my car.


When I was in Kimba the nights were too cold for herps. I did spot my second lifetime monotreme (another Echidna) bobbling across the road one night, but that was it for nocturnal wildlife in this area.

That's it for part 7. In the 8th and tragically final part of my trip account I'll be spending a couple of days down in the southern Eyre Peninsula to see if I can pick up any new species there. (Hint: yes.)

John

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chrish
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by chrish »

Excellent installment! Loving the trip so far, looking forward to part 8.....although "tragically final" has me concerned!

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Ribbit
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks chrish. It's only tragic in that I do eventually have to leave Australia and return home.

John

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TravisK
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by TravisK »

WOW John,

I have loved this series so far. Thank you for sharing your trip with us, your herp porn helps take the chill out of all this snow and ice that is surrounding me right now.

NACairns
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by NACairns »

Wonderful. I love the look of those Egernia stokesii. Can't wait for part 8.
Thanks for all the effort to put these up.
Nick

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Mike Pingleton
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Mike Pingleton »

Male Peninsula Dragons are just so cool - really different and striking patterns and colors.

-Mike

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Ribbit
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

They are indeed, MISter Pingleton! Hopefully I will finish writing Part 8 on the plane flight I'm about to take. This darn holiday family stuff slows a person down.

John

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Ribbit
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

Part 8 is now available here: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=22966

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Kelly Mc »

I love your pictures, all of them, but you are my favorite photographer of lizards.

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Ribbit
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

Kelly Mc, I am honored!

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Kelly Mc »

Me too!

Lizards are astonishing. You showcase that so finely.

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moloch
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by moloch »

Very nice photos and finds, John. I am so glad that you had such good success with the Thorny Devils. I loved the photos of the Crested Dragons ... they are such beauties when in their nuptial colours.

Regards,
David

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Fieldnotes
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Fieldnotes »

WoW, you're like an Australian local, you found a tone of cool stuff. Many, many years ago my brother and I got a flat at Alamo Lake, Arizona, the lugs were frozen and the tow truck driver that arrived to help, simply took out a hammer and broke them off. I had never forgot that, and as long as not all lugs are frozen, breaking them off is an option. Later the threaded studs can be replaced once safely out of the desert.

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Ribbit
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Re: Thorny Devil Dreaming: Part 7, Northern Eyre Peninsula

Post by Ribbit »

Thanks Fieldnotes. I'm sure an Australian local herper would have found three times as many species, but I found enough to make me very happy.

Interesting to consider just breaking the reluctant lugs off. Of course, that requires the right tools too!

John

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