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11-28-2006, 06:28 AM #1
Windorah, Queensland -- habitat and geckos
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I will post reports of each of these areas but will begin with Windorah, the most exciting site to me. Windorah is remote. Driving to it was quite an experience since the nearest town of size was over 470km to the east. To the west was the vast, empty heart of Australia. Windorah itself was tiny as can be seen in this Google Earch image:
We traveled to Windorah with hopes of finding some of Australiaís most spectacular reptiles. Possibilities included Woma, Black-headed Python, Inland Taipan and Perentie. Windorah also provides access to a group of reptiles that inhabit the barren, black soil plains of the channel country. This area sometimes floods but normally is dry with frequent deep cracks in the soil. Most of the reptiles of this habitat are specialized to live in these cracks since there is very little cover on the surface. Inland Taipan, the snake with possibly the world's most toxic venom, is the most famous of these.
We found the best herping in the Windorah area to be along the 120km paved road that continues west until it ultimately gives way to 4x4 tracks. This road was excellent due to the range of habitats that it traversed. The habitats seemed to change every 20km or so and it included clay pans, red sandy plains, red dunes with spinifex, a hilly area with plateaus and finally, the gibber plains and black soils of the Eyrean basin.
Here are a few habitat photos that I took along the road one afternoon while I was doing a little reconnaissance for the night-drive later in the evening.
Red sand plains with spinifex. This was the habitat that encircled the town of Windorah: We found Beaked Geckos (Rhynchoedura ornate), Northern Spiny-tailed Geckos (Strophurus ciliaris) and Jeweled Gecko (Strophurus elderi) in this habitat.
Red dunes with spinifex. The road to the west passes several areas with long but narrow red dunes. We found a Smooth Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus levis levis) in this habitat.
Red dunes with nearby Mulga woodland:
Clay pan. This habitat was the home of Tessallated Geckos (Diplodactylus tessallatus) and Fat-tailed Geckos (Diplodactylus conspiciallatus)
Woodland area with Mulga and Eucalyptus. Gehyras were common in these trees at night.
Rocky escarpment. I was told by the locals that Perenties live in these hills. I walked along the cliffs but the temperature was high (40C) and the Perenties were no doubt in deep shade awaiting the cooler hours of the evening.
Gibber flat with cracking soil (Morney Plain, 100km west of Windorah). This is the home Diplodactylus immaculatus but I failed to find it. I did see Tessallated Geckos (Diplodactylus tessallatus) and Gehyra variegata. I really hoped for D. immaculatus since most of the range of this species is in remote western Queensland and the central eastern portion of the Northern Territory.
We had good success at night and found a number of geckos. Here are examples of each of these.
We only found a single Fat-tailed Gecko (Diplodactylus conspicillatus). This gecko was more darkly coloured than the fat-tails that we found in Western Australia last November. The gecko was crossing the road in an area of clay pans.
Tessallated Geckos (Diplodactylus tessallatus) were the most common species on the road, particularly where the surrounding habitat was either clay pans or gibber (small, stony flats). One of these was quite nicely marked.
We saw a single Smooth Knob-tailed Gecko (Nephrurus levis levis) in an area where the road crossed a few red dunes.
Beaked Geckos (Rhynchoedura ornate) were the common gecko around the town of Windorah. I saw a number of these where the adjacent habitat was red sand plains with spinifex.
Tree Geckos (Gehyra variegate) were occasionally encountered when there were trees near the road. We saw them on the road in the Morney Plain where there were few trees as well as near Windorah where mulga trees were numerous.
I believe that this is a Gehyra purpurescens. It had a more mottled pattern than the G. variegate and the colour was slightly different. Windorah is near the eastern-most distributional limit of this species.
We only found a single Northern Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus ciliaris). I only took this photo since my son discovered a Jeweled Gecko and we were immediately engrossed in photographing it.
This Jewelled Gecko (Strophurus elderi) was one of the most exciting discoveries on the trip. My sonís sharp eyes spotted the gecko as it stood within a clump of Spinifex. This species is restricted to spinifex and this grass affords it considerable protection. Another name for spinifex is porcupine grass due to the sharp points at the end of each stiff blade of the grass. Jewelled Geckos are skillful climbers in the spinifex.
This Burtonís Snake Lizard (Lialis burtonii) was found on the road near our cabin. These pygopods are hunters of other reptiles including geckos.
While not a nocturnal lizard, Nicholas found this juvenile Central Netted Dragon (Ctenophorus nuchalis) in a spinifex clump while we searched for Jewelled Geckos.
Finally, this is another "creature" that inhabits the outback roads of Australia. I found it to be the most dangerous by far and the ominous rumbling of its engine at night always filled me with a sense of dread. I would pull my car as far off the single lane roads as I could when one of these beasts approached. Soon, there would be a blast of dust and a shower of small rocks as it rocketed by. On this trip, the windshield of the car survived but on two other trips, I have ended up with cracks.
11-28-2006, 06:51 AM #2
Impressive, David!BACK IN THE GAME! Keeping U. milii - more coming soon
11-28-2006, 07:39 AM #3
Thanks for the shots, love that elderi.
11-28-2006, 08:31 AM #4
Again wonderfull photos!
Interesting landscape and fine geckos!! Wish I could visit your country.
I think the dragon you show on your photo should be a Pogona, perhaps P vitticeps, but no Ctenophorus.
11-28-2006, 08:33 AM #5
11-28-2006, 09:17 AM #6
Nice pics! Really love the elderi!Pachydactylus and Malagasy geckos
11-28-2006, 10:19 AM #7
Very cool. Thanks for sharing the photos. Its nice to see the native landscape of these great animals we're all crazy about!
11-28-2006, 02:29 PM #8
ummm.... sensory overload?
thanks so much for sharing, as always!Tom Wood
11-28-2006, 03:10 PM #9
Great shots. That elderi is fantastic. No wonder you rushed over to him. I always look forward to your posts. I would rather be in your shoes, but for now, your pictures satisfy my cravings until I can visit your country for myself. Keep them coming.
11-28-2006, 04:32 PM #10
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You are certainly correct about the dragon. It should have read Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps), not Central Netted Dragon.
I spoke with the locals and they said that early spring (late August/September) or autumn (late April/May) are better for the Inland Taipans. At that time of the year, the temperatures are cooler and the snakes will warm themselves on the road in the mornings. When Nick and I were there, the temps were around 40C so the snakes are only active for a brief time in the early morning. The same would be true for the Perenties which we also missed on this trip.
Most of the Road Trains (big trucks) that we saw were carrying livestock.
Here are shots of the four species of snakes that we sighted on our drive.
Stimson's Python (Antaresia stimsoni)
Unbanded Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis incinctus). This little elapid is not considered dangerous and it is thought to feed exclusively on reptile eggs.
King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis). A large and dangerous elapid.
Curl Snake (Suta suta). A small but dangerously venomous elapid.
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