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Australia, Queensland, Dajarra. Natural History.

Discussion in 'Field Trips (Natural Habitats)' started by moloch, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. Advertisement
    In October, 2009, I went on a quick 6 day trip from Wollongong, NSW, to Dajarra, QLD. Dajarra is a numbing 30 hour, 2500km drive from Wollongong. I headed up to that area since the route took me through a variety of habitats with the possibility of many new herps. Also, it was spring and it is always nice to see the flowers that are out at that time of the year.

    This post will be a big one and will include many photos of the habitat, invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals that I encountered on the journey.


    Firstly, here is a map of Dajarra. Dajarra itself is a tiny aboriginal settlement in an area with lots of granite outcrops. The enormous mines of Mt. Isa are not far to the east.
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    The drive westward from Winton was scenic once the Eyrean Basin was reached. This area is low lying and when it floods, the water travels southwest and eventually reaches Lake Eyre in South Australia. The edge of the basin is bounded by escarpments and clumps of Spinifex (Triodia sp) were frequent. Spinifex is sometimes known as Porcupine Grass due to its stiff leaves that are needle sharp. Spinifex is the home to a large number of the arid adapted Aussie lizards.

    Eyrean Basin between Winton and Dajarra (roughly 400km apart):
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    Beyond the escarpment, the country became drier. Buttes were a frequent sight. I climbed a few of these but this was hard work due to the crumbling soil. This area once was the bed of an ancient sea.
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    The habitat in the Dajarra area was different again. Granite outcrops were everywhere and many of these had exfoliating sheets or crevices. This area looked to be ideal for reptiles but I unfortunately did not find many. October is near the end of the dry season and I think that the reptiles were probably awaiting the approaching rain.
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    The habitat between Winton and the little towns of Aramac and Muttaburra was flat and covered with low growing grassland. This area is known as the Mitchell Grass Downs and is surprisingly the home of a number of endemic reptiles. The soil is cracking clay and most of the animals shelter in this to avoid the high mid-day temperatures.
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    Much of inland Queensland was covered with Mulga or other Acacia trees. I especially liked the areas with red sand.
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    Invertebrates:

    Caper White (Belenois java) -- This dry country was not good habitat but I saw a few of these butterflies in gardens at Muttaburra.
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    Wattle Blue (Theclinesthes miskini) -- I am not certain but think this to be a female Wattle Blue. There are only a handful of blues here in the interior.
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    Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti) -- these were common beneath logs along a creek bed.
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    I found a few of these large cockroaches in spinifex along the escarpment of the Eyrean Basin.
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    Some sort of orthopteran:
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  2. BIRDS


    Brolga were seen at times around waterholes in the Eyrean Basin. These are shots of a pair with their single young.
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    Flock Bronzewings must have had a good season. There were huge flocks of these flying to the water. They would land a fair distance away and then walk to the stock dams to drink. The birds were wary and exploded into flight whenever something disturbed them. A Black Falcon was hunting in the area and the sight of this predator caused them to fly repeatedly.
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    Budgerigars ("budgies"), Cockatiels and Masked Woodswallows arrived in large flocks. Budgies were so numerous that they weighted down the branches of nearby shrubs.
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    I occasionally saw family groups of Emus:
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    Spinifex Pigeons were a nice sight. These were common on the granite outcrops in the vicinity of Dajarra.
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    Open grasslands are the habitat of these turkey-sized Australian Bustards. I watched males display. Unfortunately, they were always too far for photographs but they would inflate an air sac in their throat. This would hang almost to the ground. Their call was a loud, hollow sound that carried a great distance.
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    Here is a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles and an Australian Magpie. These eagles often were seen near the road where they would feed on road-killed kangaroos.
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    Most of the interior of Australia is nearly devoid of people. I would stop and camp on the side of roads like this and usually not even see another car until the following morning. The stars at night were spectacular due to the clear, dry air. When I turned off my lights at night, I would not see another light in any direction.
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  3. Moloch, NICE! As always..

    :)

    Terry
     
  4. Thanks, Terry.

    REPTILES

    I always enjoy seeing these beautiful Yellow-spotted Monitors (Varanus panoptes). This one was initially on the road and munching on a dead kangaroo but then it moved to a pasture. These are huge lizards!
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    I saw another a few kms later. I whistled to it as it moved into the grass on the shoulder of the road. These animals appear to be curious and it soon stopped and elevated its head to see what was making the noise.
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    They often seem fearless and I can walk along with them without them running away.
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    I saw a few Gould's Monitors (Varanus gouldii) as well. They were more common on red soil with Mulga forest. This one had a lovely, long tail.
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    ... the hand of one that had been killed on the road. Their claws are substantial.
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    Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) were a frequent sight on the trip. I saw more on this trip than ever before. I think that this may have been due to the temperatures that were not as high as when I usually head out west. I usually saw the dragons standing with their tails arched upwards and their heads held high.
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    If I stopped and approached a dragon, they would often attempt to blend with the surrounding plants and soil.
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    The following dragon was very lucky. I stopped to take a photo but it just vanished. I did not see where it ran and could not find it. I gave up and began driving down the road until I heard a strange scratching sound coming from the engine cavity. I stopped, opened the hood and found the dragon clinging below the engine. After a bit of an effort, I managed to remove it to the shoulder of the road
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    A new lizard to me was this Down's Bearded Dragon (Pogona henrylawsoni). Like Spencer's Monitors, it is a grassland inhabiting species. I saw two in the Mitchell Grass Downs a little south of Winton.
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  5. syndicate

    syndicate Arachnoemperor Old Timer

    USA
    :clap:Excellent photos!!I would love to travel out there one day!
    Thanks for sharing!!
    -Chris
     
  6. Thanks, Chris.

    Eyrean Earless Dragons (Tympanocryptis tetraporophora) were abundant in the Eyrean Basin west of Winton. I have seen a few near Windorah before but west of Winton, they seemed to be everywhere. These are such strange lizards that stand upright on the hind legs with their tail arched upward. They stand like this on anything that they can find that is slightly elevated. On this trip, I was never able to take a shot of one standing completely upright. They always dropped or sat when I stopped the car for a photo.
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    Another new species to me was the Pebble Dragon (Tympanocryptis cephalus). As the name implies, they are pebble mimicking dragons and they blend well when on a gibber flat. I found two at night on the road, probably the only easy way to find these cryptic lizards.
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    I was surprised to find only a single Ring-tailed Dragon (Ctenophorus caudicinctus) in the Eyrean Basin west of Winton. The habitat looked good but I could only find one lizard after lots of searching.
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    Thanks, Khew. I hope that my photos entice some of you to come over and explore some of Australia!


    Many species of Ctenotus skinks were possible in the areas that I visited. In the end, I only saw a single lizard near Dajarra. It was sheltering beneath a piece of metal.

    Leopard Ctenotus (Ctenotus pantherinus):
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    I only saw a single live Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa) on the trip. It was near Bourke (NSW) and was walking along the shoulder of the road and plucking the flowers of a Solanum. Shinglebacks, like Blue-tongues, will gape when disturbed. This one had a "present" for me!
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    Geckos are the second largest family of lizards in Australia. I believe that the current count is around 120 species but this changes every year with new discoveries or the splitting of complex species.


    Tessellated Gecko (Diplodactylus tessellatus) -- this was by far the most abundant species. There were hordes of these on the road through many areas. They seemed to be particularly common in the Mitchell Grass Downs.
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    Tree Dtella (Gehyra variegata) -- these lived on the same rock outcrops as the next species, G. robusta.
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    Robust Dtella (Gehyra robusta) -- a new species to me. It was common on granite outcrops. Some animals were ghostly pale (maybe shedding?) but others were nicely coloured.
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    Prickly Gecko (Heteronotia binoei) -- I like the glowing eyes. This animal was found during the day. At night, they are a light grey with black barring on the back.
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    Box-patterned Gecko (Lucasium steindachneri) -- their disruptive colouration makes them hard to see on dry grass:
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    Pale-striped Ground Gecko (Lucasium immaculatum) -- these were numerous here at the northern end of their range. I have only seen one previously in the Windorah area of QLD.
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    Prickly Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus asper) -- I was very pleased to find this species. It was new to me. I saw two adults and a very cute little juvenile.
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    Marbled Velvet Gecko (Oedura marmorata) -- these are also a lovely sight. I saw several.
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    Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus krisalys) -- I only saw this single animal.
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  7. VinceG

    VinceG Arachnobaron

    Really nice pictures! Love thos giant Varanus!
     
  8. Thanks, Vince!


    Here are photos of some of the spring flowers.

    I passed through the Bourke area in northern NSW while on the drive to/from Dajarra. Bourke must have had good winter rains. Wildflowers were numerous and included a variety of composites, peas and other plants.
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    Paper Daisies were a frequent sight. These have stiff, dry petals that remain on the flower for a number of days.
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    Mulla-mullas (Ptilotus sp.) were one of my favourites. There were a number of species in flower. These are members of Amaranthaceae.
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    These dry areas were not the best habitat for Proteaceae but there were a few species to be seen including these Grevillea with nice flowers:
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    Purple-flowered Hibiscus were common. I really like these showy flowers.
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  9. *Self_DeFenCe*

    *Self_DeFenCe* Arachnosquire

    Great post and pictures, thanks for sharing and the time spend making it !
     
  10. Thanks, Self Defence.

    I forgot a few shots that I intended to include.


    Burton's Snake Lizard -- this is a lizard that is almost legless. It is in the Pygopodidae family (flap-footed lizards). These are close relatives of geckos.
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    Curl (aka, Myall) Snake -- a small, dangerous elapid:
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    Red Kangaroo -- the largest species of all roos.
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    Rock Wallaby:
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    ... now, I am really finished!


    Regards,
    David
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2010
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