Channel Country, SW Queensland, Australia, Oct2010

moloch

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
171
Hello everyone,

Spring is always my favourite time of the the year but most of my time this year has unfortunately been consumed by work. I finally had a break a couple of weeks back. My original intent was to travel up to northern NSW to photograph butterflies. I wanted to search for Richmond Birdwings in the Mt. Warning area but the weather forecast was not good. I studied the weather charts and predictions before finally deciding to head out the channel country of south western Queensland. I am really pleased now about this decision since the inland had received so much rain. It was lush and green and the animals had responded accordingly. It really was a lovely sight.

Butterflies are normally scarce in the interior but this year they were abundant. I saw Chequered Swallowtails (Papilio demoleus), Orchard Swallowtails (Papilio aegeus), Small Grass Yellows (Eurema smilax), Spotted Jezabels (Delias aganippe), Caper Whites (Belenois java), Meadow Argus (Junonia villida), Lesser Wanderer (Danaus chrysippus), Two-spotted Line-blue (Nacaduba biocellata), Saltbush Blue (Theclinesthnes serpentata) and Common Grass-blue (Zizina labradus). I was able to photograph a few and will add these to this post. I will group the photos below by habitat.

Firstly, I will start with the red dunes, my favourite habitat in this part of the country. This year, the flanks of the dunes were mostly covered with grasses and annuals so that only the crests of many dunes were exposed. Spinifex is the dominant plant.






These fruits looked similar to watermelons but their skin was tough. Something enjoyed them and a number had been chewed open.





I think that this is a Two-spotted Line-blue (Nacaduba biocellata),



I am not certain but I think that the following are Common Grass-blues (Zizina labradus). They were the most common butterfly on the dunes but they rarely sat still for long.





I don't recognize this butterfly. It appears to be quite worn but there was very little obvious pattern.


I saw one of the blues land and lay eggs on this pea:



Again, I am not certain but I think this to be a Long-tailed Pea Blue (Lampides boeticus). The lower wing was tattered so I could not see whether it had a tail.


Chequered Swallowtails (Papilio demoleus) were common on the flanks of the dunes. I also found a couple where roadworks were underway. A truck had just sprayed the road and a swallowtails and blues stopped to puddle.






A colourful hemipteran:



Variegated Fairy Wren. These travel about in small flocks that usually remain within cover. I tried squeaking and this male briefly emerged. They are great looking little birds.



Flats like this were the home of many lizards as well as the Chequered Swallowtails.


One of my favourites was the Central Military Dragon (Ctenophorus isolepis). These are gravid females:




... and nicely marked males. These males in breeding colours have a yellow stripe on the face.




Central Netted Dragons (Ctenophorus nuchalis) were also common. Their behaviour is so strange. When they were basking on the road, I could usually step out of the car, lay down next to them and take as many photos as I want. If, however, they were basking on something natural such as a termite mound, they were almost impossible to approach.




Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) were particularly common this year. They are looked plump and had no doubt been eating some of the hordes of grasshoppers and locusts. These lizards change colour with their emotion. When displaying, they often became very pale above and their throat and chests were black. They would stand with their head held high and occasionally bob at other nearby dragons.





These small skinks were common on the crests of the dunes. Someone suggested in an earlier report that these are Wedge-snout Ctenotus (Ctenotus brooksi).


Leonhard's Ctenotus (Ctenotus leonhardii) -- common on the spinifex flats.


Sand Goanna (Varanus gouldii)


Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes): I always love to see these giant lizards. They are one of the biggest species in the world. On this trip, I unfortunately only encountered this single animal. It was foraging in tall grass along a flowing creek. Despite its large size, I lost it immediately when it stepped off the road so I could not take any better photos.


Night driving produced some lovely geckos. These Smooth Knob-tailed Geckos (Nephrurus laevis) are such cuties:



This Western Hooded Scaly-foot (Pygopus nigriceps) -- This was my first sighting of this pretty pygopodid in Queensland.


Northern Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus ciliaris). I saw many of these this year. They are similar to S. krisalys but are easy to separate if the mouth lining can be seen. S. ciliaris has an orange lining whereas that of S. krisalys is blue.



Snakes were surprisingly scarce. I saw three of these small elapids (e.g., cobra family) known as Ringed Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja modesta). The juvenile was quite colourful but the adults were drab.




Nice, fat kangaroos that were out foraging at dusk.


Animal life was abundant on the dunes. This was obvious the following morning when looking at all of the tracks in the sand.











 

zonbonzovi

Creeping beneath you
Staff member
Joined
Oct 20, 2008
Messages
3,346
Always a pleasure seeing the results of your latest adventure, Moloch. I noticed a lot of moisture in the butterfly pictures...is it the rainy season or transitioning from one season to the next right now?
 

Terry D

Arachnodemon
Old Timer
Joined
Nov 21, 2009
Messages
733
Moloch, You never fail to WOW us!! Incredible pics. :)

Terry
 

moloch

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
171
Thanks very much, everyone.

The moisture on the road was just due to roadworks. A truck has sprayed water on the road and these butterflies flew in immediately to puddle.

I always like to drive this one-lane road seems to lead nowhere at all and ends with dirt tracks that continue into the interior. This country is interesting with different animals to those of the red dunes.


This is the edge of the Eyrean Basin.



I saw a number of these "Road Trains". They were moving cattle mostly at night. They tended to travel in convoys of 4 or 5 vehicles that were spaced about a km apart. Their roar was ominous at night and I could hear them when they were a number of kms away. Slowly, the noise would grow in volume and then I would begin to see their flickering headlights. Once they were close, I pulled my car off the road as far as possible, waited for the beasts to flash past and hoped that they would not throw a rock through my windscreen.


Places like this were home to Ring-tailed Dragons (Ctenophorus caudicinctus)








Diamond Dove -- common small dove
Hall's Babbler -- an endemic to the channel country
Crested Bellbird -- has a lovely call that is difficult to locate.
Spinifex Pigeon -- The pigeons are quail-like. They tend to run and then explode into flight when frightened.






This area is usually rocky and almost devoid of small plants. It looked so different this year.


I looked for Fierce Snakes in this habitat where I saw one a few years ago. The plant cover this year was much to thick so it was not possible to spot basking snakes. I think that the Fierce Snakes would doing well at the moment and would be feasting on the abundant rats. Their population will probably increase in the next year or two. It was strange to walk around here and be eaten alive by mosquitos during the day. They were unexpected in this normally arid environment.


There was a locust plague out on these plains. It was an eerie sight at dusk to see thousands and thousands of these insects take flight. Fortunately, most flew 3-5 m above the ground. I still needed to close my windows so that I did not get smacked in the side of the head by one of these big insects. Driving through the swarm felt really strange. I had to clean my radiator the next morning since it was packed with dead insects.


Blues like this were common but I am not certain of their identity.


Tesselated Geckos (Diplodactylus tesselatus) were the common reptile here at night.


Eyrean Earless Dragons (Tympanocryptis tetraporiphora) were abundant in this sort of habitat. I saw many gravid females like the lizard in the first photo below as they basked on the road. When the day became hot, they often stood upright with their tails arched upward for balance.



I found two of these Curl or Myall Snakes (Suta suta) on the plains. They are small elapids.
 

moloch

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
171
The following set of photos were taken while I headed back to Wollongong.

In this season of plenty, all of the animals seemed to be reproducing as quickly as possible. This shot of an Emu dad and his kids was typical (Emus are polyandrous). Most had troops of up to 10 young following them around. The dads were protective of their kids and they would often run towards me while the kids scampered away.


Pink or Major Mitchell's Cockatoos were numerous along the roads. I wish that I could capture one in flight but that is hard to do. The underwing linings are a beautiful salmon colour. They are really gorgeous birds.


Roadsides near Cunnamulla were lined with flowers.





Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) were common in the Cunnamulla area. I watched a territorial dispute between two of these males. They walked with their heads held high and their tails curled upwards. One approached the other and they both bobbed their heads. After awhile, one arched its back a little like a cat, then resumed the normal position and marched away. There was no contact at all between the males.






I normally see large numbers of Shinglebacks (Tiliqua rugosa) on trips through this area. For some reason, I only encountered this single, half-grown animal. It looked grumpy and displayed when I approached it for photos.



Monitors were common in this habitat.


Sand Goannas (Varanus gouldii) were particularly common but I also saw a few Black-headed Monitors (V. tristis). The following pair of Black-headed Monitors had me totally confused when I passed them at high speed. I glanced in the rear-view mirror but still could not recognize what I had just seen. I thought that it was something dead on the road but could not make it out. I spun the car around and returned to find this sight ... definitely not dead and in fact, quite enthusiastic!




Both Black-headed and Sand Goannas will readily climb trees.



Burn's Lashtails (Amphibolurus burnsi) were one of the common lizards on this trip. They lived in this open habitat as well as well wooded areas.




This dry, rather boring looking habitat near Bourke, NSW, was the home of a nice Jezabel.


These Spotted Jezabels (Delias aganippe) were common but they usually remained at tree-top height. I took a half-hour break here and finally found one that had perched low enough for a couple of photos.



At dusk, I made a detour from Bourke and continued driving south towards Cobar. The road that I followed borders on Gundabooka National Park. I have seen some interesting reptiles in this area before and since the evening was mild, I hoped to find a few others. This area proved to have received lots of rain like Queensland and their were pools of water on both sides of the road. I only found two reptiles including the following Prickly Gecko (Heteronotia binoei) and a Box-patterned Gecko (Lucasium steindachneri).




The highlight to me was finding one of the frogs that was high on my wish list. These are Holy Cross or Crucifix Toads (Notaden bennetti). The actually are frogs and not toads despite the name. These frogs are dormant underground for years until good rains arrive. They then dig their way to the surface and enter a breeding frenzy. When calling, they look so bizarre!








Common Spadefoot Toad (Neobatrachus sudelli) is another of the burrowing frogs. These were the most common frog around the roadside pools.






Some mulla mullas (Ptilotus sp.) are colourful but this one was rather drab. I like their fluffy flowers.


An Eremophila sp.





Here are a few more photos to show how different it looked out there this year. It was amazing to see how the plants responded to rain.


The photos on the left are from 2007 or 2008. Those on the right are from 2010.









Well, that is it for now. I hope that you enjoyed the view of inland Australia. I had lots of fun although I spent too much time driving. I covered about 5000kms in 5.5 days. Australia is a big place!

Regards,
David
 

LovePets

Arachnosquire
Old Timer
Joined
May 19, 2009
Messages
104
Amazing as always,moloch!I would LOVE to visit Australia some day.
 

moloch

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
171
Thanks very much, LovePets. I hope that you make it over here someday. I am sure that you will enjoy it since it is so different to most parts of the world.
 

tarcan

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Mar 8, 2003
Messages
2,098
wow, amazing series of pictures, thank you for sharing them.

The amphibian series did it most for me, this Holy Cross frog is amazing!

Martin
 

moloch

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 17, 2009
Messages
171
Thanks, Martin. There are some very interesting amphibians in the outback but seeing them requires lucky timing. Most of these are only on the surface after heavy rains. Rains like this do not happen every year so the animals remain dormant underground for several years at a time.

Regards,
David
 
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