Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hamersley Range, Western Australia

The Hamersley Range contains Western Australia's highest peaks (Mt Meharry at 1249m is the highest), and is found in the southern Pilbara. The country is spectacular, with ancient mesas clad with spinifex dominating the landscape.

Reptile diversity is incredible, and during 11 days of surveying we recorded close to 60 species (31 lifers!). Two species of reptile we found were of conservation significance, the 'Pilbara' Olive Python and a Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops ganei) that is very poorly known. Unfortunately, the high temperatures (avg 34/night, 46/day) meant that it was too hot to photograph most of the species for 2 reasons: they were too active to stay still, and more importantly, there would be a high risk of heat stress on the animals capable of easily causing death.

Prevention of animal deaths when trapping is also a must to consider. We successfully did this by checking the traps at dawn, closing all cage and elliot traps and funnels, and covering the pits and buckets that animals fall in to. We would keep all collected animals found in the morning cool throughout the day (in air conditioned rooms), and would release them in the late afternoon when re-opening the traps. Unfortunately, a previous survey in the same project area used different methods, and experienced extremely high numbers of animal deaths, even with conditions that were cooler.

All in all it was a very successful first Pilbara trip, and I managed to see a few new birds as well, including the hilarious looking Spinifex Pigeon, the skulky and struggling-to-fly Spinifexbird, and the beautiful black, red and white-spotted Painted Finch.

Hamersley Gorge in Karijini National Park was the best place to be at 48 degrees Celcius.

Dawn Birding

Strophurus wellingtonae ? (Thanks Bruce for the photo)

Marbled Velvet Gecko (Oedura marmorata). We saw these large geckos on rock outcrops at night...something to note: once latched onto your finger they can be difficult to get off.

Desert Cave Gecko (Heternotia spelea) - 2 were seen spotlighting near the Marbled Velvet Geckos

Burton's Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis) - my first encounter of this widespread species. It had an incredible pattern (Thanks Bruce for the photo).

Egernia formosa, the only one we saw.

Ctenotus rutilans, basically a Hamersley Range endemic, and a species I had hoped to find

Desert Tree Frog (Litoria rubella) - noisy and abundant across Australia

Cyclorana maini - quite common in the few areas water persisted

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Some Snakes of Western Australia

Western Australia is also a fantastic place for snakes. So far I've encountered 12 species, two of which were roadkill (Pseudechis australis and Pseudonaja nuchalis). I was very excited to see my first Jan's Banded Snake (Simoselaps bertholdi) in the coastal dunes around Perth. We also found one in the Robinson Range.

Southwestern Carpet Python (Morelia spilota imbricata), Cervantes, Dec 2009

Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus), Perth, Oct 2009

Jan's Banded Snake (Simoselaps bertholdi), Perth, Oct 2009

Ramphotyphlops hamatus, Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Monk Snake (Parasuta monachus), Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Northwestern Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis approximans), Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Southern Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops australis), Darling Ranges, Oct 2009

Gould's Snake (Parasuta gouldii), Darling Ranges, Oct 2009

Some Geckos of Western Australia

Since moving to Perth, Western Australia, my reptile list has blossomed nicely. Geckos are a particular favourite family of mine, and 8 of the 12 species I have seen here have been new. Fortunately I've been able to work in some intersting places, and was able to observe some unique species. Additional species I have seen, but not photographed, are Christinus marmoratus, Diplodactylus pulcher, Gehyra punctata and Rhychoedura ornata.
Fat-tailed Gecko (Diplodactylus conspicillatus), Jack Hills, Sep 2009

Sand-plain Gecko (Lucasium stenodactylum), Jack Hills, Sep 2009

Banded Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus wheeleri cinctus), Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Lucasium wombeyi, Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Western Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus granariensis rex), Robinson Range, Nov 2009

Thick-tailed Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii), Darling Ranges, Oct 2009

Tree Dtella (Gehyra variegata), Darling Ranges, Oct 2009

Clawless Gecko (Crenadactylus ocellatus ocellatus), Darling Ranges, Oct 2009

Soft Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus spinigerus), Cervantes, Dec 2009

Aus Bird #486 - Bridled Tern - Penguin Island, WA

On the 26th of January, 2010 (Australia Day), Jaime and I visited Penguin Island, about 1hr south of Perth. We were hoping to see the Bridled Terns that nest on the island. We were in luck, as there were hundreds of them all over the island. Many of the nests had chicks of various sizes. We also found Buff-banded Rails to be very easy to see around the picnic area on the island, and we counted 11. King's Skinks (Egernia kingii), another lifer, also roamed about in equal numbers, often outcompeting the rails for food scraps such as watermelon peel.

Bridled Tern #486 (excluding introduced species)

Little Penguins (2 underneath jetty)

Buff-banded Rail