And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Accidental Art

On a recent fauna survey up at Camballin in the Kimberleys, my boss' camera went a little strange, probably from the extreme heat which affected the processor. It began taking wonderful artistic pictures.

This is a picture of me at one of the trap sites. It is straight from the camera with no modifications or alterations what so ever. I really do think you could have a good art exhibition with some of the photos!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To The Top of Mt Kinabalu

My wife Liz and I are almost ready for our my Christmas/New Year wildlife adventure. This year it's wildlife-watching in North Queensland and a birding trip to the top of Cape York and islands off the coast of New Guinea.

Last year it was birding in Sabah Borneo, with one of the highlights being, finally seeing a group of the elusive Bornean Bristleheads. One of my wife's highlights was also climbing to the top of Mt Kinabalu by herself. I thought in honour of that achievement almost one year ago, I would put up some pictures of that event.

The goal, to climb up Mt Kinabalu (4101 m) to the small point on top in the middle. The highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea.

My wife and her mountain guide Miak ready to begin the two day journey. I'm laughing because I don't have to go! I can stay down here and do some birding.

About 3/4 up the mountain, the overnight stop at the Laban Rata guesthouse, with an early start at 3 am to begin the final journey in darkness to the top.

The rainforest is far below and only the toughest high altitude plants survive, till higher up there is only rock.

One cold but happy Liz. Been to the top, now for the long journey back down.

Low's Peak (4101 m)

Spectacular views and rock formations.

Kinabalu conquered and a happy wife with secret plans for Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro etc......

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Barking Geckos

With the Western Australian summer here, the temperatures are too hot to find our garden and local geckos just under sheets of tin or thin slabs of rock. Most are now deeper down in cracks or under larger rock outcrops.

Here is a video I took of a Barking Gecko when temperatures were cooler and geckos could sometimes still be found moving in the early morning.

These beautiful Barking Geckos (Underwoodisaurus milli) are found over most of southern Australia. They are one of the two species of thick-tailed geckos found in Australia. They are called barking geckos because of their threat display, where they lunge forward, raise their body and yelp and hiss.

They grow to 17cm and have a wonderful fat tail, especially if it has been a good season, but can quickly drop it if you pick them up. These geckos can also give you a good nip and not let go, if you get your finger too close. There was one time where I had to sit for ten minutes with a gecko attached to my hand, before he decided to let go and went his way.

They look very similar to the nine species of Knob-tailed Geckos found in Australia and will shortly (or already) be placed in the Nephurus genus.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Quacking Frogs of Winter

Well, summer is here in Perth with temperatures reaching 37 and higher ones expected soon. Most of the creeks near our home have dried up and only the large ones with granite outcrops have pools of water in them. The Quacking Frogs (Crinia georgiana) of winter have gone quiet, with only the local tree frogs calling from the better-watered gardens in the street.

Here is a video I took of Quacking Frogs a few months ago when the streams were flowing.

A little info about them. The Quacking Frog or also called Tschudi's Froglet, is a common frog found in creeks and swamps around Perth, Western Australia. The colour and pattern variations on individuals are incredible. The best way to identify these frogs is to look for the gold or red eyelids and red markings on the inner thighs, and the loud 'quack' call.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Holland Honeyeater

Seeing that due to a computer hard-drive crash that has wiped out all of my video editng programs, I may not be able to place videos on the web for a while, I thought I would put on a few I made some months ago.

These noisy New Holland Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) spend the year in our garden feeding on all our nectar-producing plant, such as the red Grevilleas in the video. They tend to breed at almost any time of the year and this spring I found a nice little cup-shaped nest in one of our large pot plants.

One of young New Holland Honeyeaters, probably only about a week or two out of the nest. These honeyeaters are usually in little groups and keep a watch out for the goshawks and falcons that often cruise over the garden.

They are an aggressive honeyeater and often drive away other birds, especially smaller honeyeaters from the nectar plants in the garden.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Camballin Fauna Survey

Well, another blog post after being away in the southwest Kimberleys at Camballin for two weeks, down south of Perth for a fauna clearing and a computer crash that wiped out the hard-drive.

This was our camp at Camballin for about two weeks. A basic public camping area on the Fitzroy River about 2 hours east of Derby, with fly nets as home, a small caravan as kitchen and 42 degree temperatures most days.

The Camballin Barrage Dam, one of our main washing and water obtaining areas while at camp. At night with a light you could see all the Freshwater Crocodile eyes shining. It seems that there would be no reason why you could not get to big Saltwater Crocodiles below the dam!

The story goes that you should not go to the same spot at rivers up north, because the saltwater croc, the first time he sees you, second time he plans, third time he gets you!

A story also goes that the northern Aborigines, if they did cross in the same spot a number of times, would cross a river with the old people going last, because the croc would usually grab the last person. If you lost an old person, it was no big deal!

One of the many beautiful Boab trees in the survey area. These trees when in flower are one of the best place to see birds, with many of the nectar-feeding birds, like honeyeaters feeding here all day.

The small silvery acacias had huge amounts of seed pods, attracting large numbers of cockatoo and parrot species.

We caught over 40 species of reptiles in the survey area. This is one of the beautiful small burrowing snakes of the Kimberley area, a Northern Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis roperi).

Another nice inhabitant of the area, often found basking on fence posts as you drive along fencelines. A Central Netted Dragon (Ctenophorus nuchalis), who managed to give a good nip to a finger when being caught!

Once caught, he's happy just to sit around and get some more warmth.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Koolan Island

I just got back from a week long fauna survey on Koolan Island, it's located about 130 km north of Derby in the Kimberley region. A fantastic place. A 10 km long sandstone and iron ore island in a aqua coloured sea, surrounded by dozens more orange-red islands.

It was a fairly small survey area, but we still managed to trap and record over 40 local species of animals. Thanks to Jess, one of the minesite environmental officers, these are a couple of photos of a really nice speciemen of a Ctenotus inornatus.

These skinks are found over most of the Kimberley region and were the most common large skinks on Koolan Island.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Kimberleys 2

These are more pictures of the wonderful habitats and animals found in the southern Kimberley region near Halls Creek.

Not nice to walk through, but good healthy spinifex habitats like this one are one of the best areas to capture reptiles and small mammals.

An artistic shot of a Kapok Tree (Cochlospermum gillivraei) one of the common small trees found in the Kimberleys and throughout most of northern Australia. During the dry season they drop their leaves and are basically only sticks.

The Kapok has beautiful big yellow flowers which develop into these big seed pods that open to spread fluffy seeds into the wind. This is a bush tucker plant and the seeds were once used to stuff pillows.

One of the many old scenic cattle yards, which sometimes have with good shade trees, like this stunning one planted at the yard. Often good places to look for reptiles under old pieces of tin and junk.

A lovely Leopard Ctenotus (Ctenotus pantherinus) caught during trapping in one of the good spinifex sites. I think this has to be one of the most beautiful skinks found in arid regions of Australia.

Found in one of the creek waterholes in the survey area, a Ornate Frog (Limnodynastes ornatus).

One of the more common small monitors in our survey site and found in many rocky areas of northern Australia, a Spiny-tailed Monitor ( Varanus acanthurus). Usually easy to identify with a hard many-ridged long tail and striped neck.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Kimberleys

The spring fauna surveys are starting to pick up and it seems a couple will be in one of my favourite regions, the Kimberley. Next week I shall be doing a small fauna survey on Koolan Island, about 130 km north of Derby, which is the gateway to the Kimberleys.

I thought I would put up some photos of our last fauna survey in the south Kimberley, just north of Halls Creek.

On some days the heat and humidity keep building throughout the day to cause huge thunderstorms in the late afternoon.

A camouflaged Ta-ta Lizard (Amphibolurus gilberti), so called because of a territorial hand waving behaviour. You can often see these guys running around the mining accommodation near well-watered gardens.

A view of the typical Kimberley woodland which was part of a survey area, located to the north of Halls Creek.

Woodland areas in northern Australia are good places to find Frilled Lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii). Many people have seen what adult Frilled Lizards look like, but these pictures show a juvenile which has a different colour and very small frill on the back of the head.

The eye and patterns on the head are wonderful on this young guy, hopefully he will stay out of the way of hungry predators, such as eagles, and grow up to be a fine adult.

Not a snake, but a legless lizard, a Delma borea found in areas in northern Australia with a good ground cover of spinifex.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Birds of Herdsman Lake

A compilation of the birds found at Herdsman Lake in Perth, Western Australia. As most of this footage was gained during winter, many of the birds are not in their full breeding plumage.

Only 7km from the city, Herdsman is a great place to see Perth birds as you can get over 70 species in a day just around the lake.

The birds in the video are Australian Reed-Warbler, Welcome Swallow, Freckled Duck (rare), Australasian Shoveler, Black Swan, Blue-billed Duck, Grey Teal, Black-winged Stilt, Coot, Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Buff-banded Rail, Great Egret, Glossy Ibis and Nankeen Night-heron.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zebra Spider Hunter Wasp

This is a video of a Zebra Spider Hunter Wasp found at Emu Rock, east of Hyden in Western Australia. The wasp has caught a spider and is dragging the body to her nest. I have seen Spider Hunters dragging whole spiders but never a de-legged spider before. Was it just too heavy or maybe this is a specific behaviour for this species?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Huntsman

Video close-ups with music of a wonderful Huntsman Spider found east of Perth in Western Australia. Great views of his eight eyes and big black fangs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr Dove meets Jaws

A fun video of a worried Peaceful Dove who comes in for a drink at an outback waterhole, then spots fish moving in the water. He has a 'What the hell is that in the water' look on his face.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I thought I'd post some of the pictures from a week-long site survey to the east of Laverton in the northern goldfields, which I just returned from. The very windy and dry cool conditions in this arid area at the time, made it hard to see many birds and other animals, but we did manage to find some interesting sites and fauna.

Some of the survey area has these wonderful breakaways. Great homes and shelters for many of the local animals, especially during the unbearable hot summer temperatures.

It was sad to see the remains of Pebble-mound Mouse nests at most of the rock outcrops and breakaways. The way you spot them, is to look for large collections of same sized stones. These mice were probably members of what is now called the Pilbara Pebble-mound Mouse (Pseudomys chapmani), which is only found in a small area far to the northwest in the Pilbara region of WA.

No one knows for certain why they became extinct in over most of these arid areas, but it was probably due to introduced rabbits, cats and foxes.

A picture from the web of a Pilbara Pebble-mound Mouse working hard to drag large pebbles to build it's rock-protected nest.

The other two rodents of which you can find old nests at outcrops, and which also became extinct in these areas, are the Lesser and Greater Stick-nest Rat. These nests were made of small sticks, often cemented with a black tar-looking substance.

One of the fantastic geckos we found in the survey areas, a Goldfields Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus assimilis). Many Spiny-tailed Geckos look similar, but this one can be told apart by the wavy lines of spines (instead of straight) on it's back.

These guys also have wonderful eyes with beautiful patterns and interesting eyebrows made up of long hard spines.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hooded Robins

This is video of Hooded Robins (Melanodryas cucullata) seen at Trephina Gorge, east of Alice Springs. There is a nice adult black and white male looking for insects, as well as a possible young female also on the lookout. It was really windy when I was taking the footage and the female shows how to keep a steady still eye on a wildly moving branch, when looking for insects.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Orchid Time

Springtime is here. When I'm out in Kalamunda National park looking for nesting birds to video, with the warmer weather I'm now hearing the movements of skinks in the leaf litter and it's usually then that I notice the newly opened spring orchids. Having done some work at the state herbarium, I always enjoy seeing interesting plants like orchids.

Here are a few of the orchids found growing near our home in the hills and some from the coastal plain.

These are one of the more common orchids found in the hills area at this time of year, the Cowslip Orchids.

Another common orchid is the Donkey Orchid, found growing in many areas at this time of year.

This is the Bird Orchid, due to it's colour and small size, amazingly hard to see under trees on the forest floor.

A small beautiful orchid found only in certain open areas amongst the forest, the Autumn Leek Orchid.

Another common orchid of the Jarrah forest and coastal plain, the Pink Fairy Orchid.

One of the many, many Spider Orchids belonging to the Caladenia genus.

A wonderful plastic-looking orchid, the Pink Enamel Orchid.

Another Caladenia species, possibly the White Spider Orchid. You really need a Caladenia book and a hand lens to often tell which species it is, and there seem to be new species all the time.

This one looks like the proper White Spider Orchid.

This one always looks like an angry triffid or the plant from the movie Little Shop of Horrors. A small but wonderful Rabbit Orchid.

And yet another species of Caladenia, the Leaping Spider Orchid.

And to finish, a nice Purple Enamel Orchid.