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)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shark Bay Holiday

Having recently found quite a few speciemens of Barking Geckos, it reminded me of the fun we had showing one to my brother-in-law Simon and his daughter Rachel, who had come out from England for a holiday. Young Rachel wasn't so sure about animals in Western Australia, especially a leaping angry gecko!

Meet the family - my wife Liz, Simon and Rachel at the Stromatolite (ancient marine organisms) viewing platform. Still smiling after a two day journey up to Shark Bay.

The reason for our Shark Bay journey, to see the Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) at Monkey Mia. A local boat trip is a must, as it's also a great place to see Dugong, turtle and ray species.

It's a rugged coastline near Kalbarri, about half way between Perth and Shark Bay.

A popular coastline spot near Kalbarri to see marine mammals and fish. In the short time we were there, we managed to see a number of Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaengliae), pods of Bottlenose Dolphins and small sharks.

Some of the fantastic gorges and cliffs of Kalbarri National Park, an excellent place for many arid zone birds and reptiles. Unfortunately due to the mostly cold and rainy weather and our limited time we had little chance to really explore the area for animals. I must get back there soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In From The Coast - Reptiles

During our late spring fauna surveys in Banksia woodland, we always catch some wonderful reptiles.

A beautiful Narrow-banded Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis fasciolata). I got into a bit of trouble over this snake from my employer Jen, because I let it go without showing it to her. It's an uncommon snake and she had never seen one before. I still occasionally remind her how fantastic it was!

To match the white sands of Banksia woodland, here's a light-coloured Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor).

I'm a stick, I'm a stick. You can't see me and I'm just a stick.

Another more common Brachyurophis species, a Southern Shovel-nosed Snake (Brachyurophis semifasciata).

What a beautiful colour and pattern on this harmless burrowing snake. Amazingly the two Brachyurophis species in Western Australia feed on reptile eggs.

The common Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus spinigerus) again, but this time the orange-eyed form inornatus.

This is another of my personal favourites, not a snake, but a harmless Burton's Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis). This one's a light coloured individual to match the coastal white sand. He's an ambush reptile hunter, so if you're a gecko, look out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In From The Coast

Perth sits on the Swan Coastal Plain, which once you go past the coastal dunes has Banksia Woodland. Banksia are wonderful trees and shrubs that are so important to the local animals for all the nectar, pollen and seeds they produce. Year round food, there's always one flowering somewhere.
Lots of hungry ticks in this habitat too, not a fun place to work in at spring or summer!

Not a very good photo, but this is what it generally looks like with tall Banksia and small shrubs on sand.

This photo shows the poor Banksia woodland after the introduced Dieback fungus is in the area. It moves through wet soil as a front killing plants as it goes. It's the same Dieback that's is destroying our Jarrah forests and kills over 50% of our native plants. It is sad that with massive urban developments and dieback, the Banksia habitats are changing and so will the animals in them.

No he's not dead. He's a sleepy Honey Possum (Tarsipes rostratus), but these little guys live off the nectar that Banksia supply and are in real trouble from dieback, cats and foxes.

A wonderful 'goanna' or monitor, a Black-tailed Tree Monitor (Varanus tristus) found in many WA woodland and forest areas.

He's a small monitor and grows to less than a metre. They are usually quite tame when you try to get him out of a trap, but they do have needle sharp claws!

In arid places they sometimes use rocky areas, but usually like tree hollows to hide in. Around Perth they need habitats with older trees.

He is fairly common, but so hard to find unless he's caught in a funnel trap. They just climb or slide around a tree trunk when they see you coming.

This guy a Moaning Frog (Heleioporus eyrei), better watch out for the Monitor or he will end up as a snack. They are common around swampy places on the coastal plain. I remember as a kid growing up in Bassendean near the Swan River and hearing these frogs every night in winter calling from every ditch and pool of water. Mum and I would sometimes walk to Gran's place at night and it was quite spooky to have dim street lights, a low fog and hear moaning all around you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Big Coastal Inverts

On general fauna surveys we normally only record animals with backbones, as there are so many invertebrate species that you really need to be a specialist in that field. On some surveys we have specialists that record Stigofauna, which are mainly newly discovered invertebrates living in underground water and short range endemics (SRE's), which are invertebrates that are usually found in one area and nowhere else.
Here's a few big invertebates we found on recent coastal surveys.

These big black Mygalomorph spiders are sometimes found in pit traps in the morning. They are super aggressive and you can hear their fangs hitting the metal tongs that we often use to remove things from pits. I wouldn't want one to reach my finger!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Land of Sand

Here's a view of the coastal plain habitat of the Southwest of Western Australia, typical of the coastal area of Perth, especially before it was built over with suburbs.

With strong coastal winds, huge sand dunes move through the landscape unstoppable and covering every thing in their path.

Interesting patterns on the dunes formed by the wind.

One of the many beautiful reptiles found living in vegetated areas between the dunes, a Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus spinigerus). This female which was trapped near Jurien Bay has a bulging little belly and is pregnant with eggs.

What a beautiful face she has and those lovely eyes. She is the yellow-eyed form of spinigerus.

A well camourflaged Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor) digging a burrow, one of the more common dragons trapped in coastal systems.

A nice prize, a lovely Side-barred Delma (Delma grayii) caught during a coastal survey. Only half a metre long and totally harmless as it's really a legless lizard, you can see the lizard like face.

One of my personal favourites, a Heath Dragon (Rankinia adelaidensis). I love these little guys and always look forward to catching them in a coastal fauna survey. They are beautiful little animals that grow to only 12 cm and are often quite tame.

An interesting fisherman's camp that we came across during a survey near Jurien Bay. It's made from an old army bunker and scrap tin and has a great outdoor fireplace too. A good place to look for reptiles!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fauna Survey

It will be interesting to see how the economic downturn will affect the amount of fauna and site surveys this year. Most of the surveys are for mining companies and developments, usually a government legal requirement to see what there, especially any protected or endangered species. Spring and autumn are usually my busy times, but this year, well we will see.

I love my work, so I hope things pick up. In my job you get to see so many wonderful places and fantastic animals, and you never know what you're going to see next.

A survey starts by picking trapping sites in different habitats of the area, usually trying to get as many vegetation types trapped as you can. Different vegetation types often mean different animals.

Some sites aren't fun, thick tangled vegetation and lots of roots. We normally put in pit traps which involved digging a deep hole for a 25 litre bucket. Not much fun in rock hard clay soil!! A single hole can take over 45 minutes to dig and you may need 10 at one site.

Here I am baiting an Elliot trap, a metal box great for catching small mammals and reptiles. I once had a small rabbit in one, must of been keen to get in!

You also have to be careful if it has a snake, sometimes it's hard to see what's in there. If the trap's heavy, then watch out!

A trapping site always has some funnel traps, such as the one I'm checking here. These are simple 'lobster pot' style traps that are excellent for catching reptiles.

Looks like I'm really concentrating here. Probably a tiny Menetia skink that's warmed up and running like crazy from one end of the trap to the other. A bit like catching a running matchstick! Sometimes you catch lots of different skinks in one funnel, trying to get them out can be fun!

I once had a Whip Snake, a beautiful but fast venomous little snake in a funnel that managed to get his body out one end while I was looking for him. We had a real eye to eye a few moments later. I got a good look at his beautiful face close up!

If you catch a big really venomous snake, it's best if you just open the zip on top and pop the trap on the ground and let him move out all by himself. Some guys get a bit annoyed from being in there and some individuals just seem to have a bad attitude anyway.

A couple of big cage traps usually go in at each site for good measure, just to catch those larger animals. Unfortunately, often due to predation by introduced cats and foxes, there are few big animals caught

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Days At Mokine

What looks like an army of Grasstrees marching down a hill. Why are there so many grasstrees in this spot? No one really knows, but most of the area around Mokine Nature Reserve is cleared, so as these are a different species of grasstree to those at Wambyn, maybe clearing helped them. Wambyn is about 20 kms south.

Mokine has been logged and probably grazed in the past, but still provides habitat for a lot of animals.

Mokine is a great place to spend warm spring days, a place I love to go to with my cousin or my wife. Here's my cousin Fred taking a photo of a Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus). Photography and the love of wildlife run in the family!

Check out Fred's Flickr site. www/

Gotcha! A female Ornate Dragon.

A darker male Ornate Dragon trying to blend in with the lichen. They get really colourful in spring.

One of the most common geckos found on granite outcrops at Mokine, Wambyn and around our home in Gooseberry Hill, a Variegated Dtella (Gehyra variegata). Lift a small slab of rock and you may find half a dozen of these guys running in every direction.

Another fairly common gecko in the Mokine area, a Southwestern Clawless Gecko (Crenadactylus ocellatus). This is an tiny adult found under a granite rock. They are Australia's smallest gecko at only 6.5 cm, and yes they have no claws!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trip To Wambyn Nature Reserve

On Sunday we took a trip to Wambyn which is about 1 hour east of Perth, in Wandoo country on the edge of the wheatbelt. I was hoping to get video of animals at the reserve and was lucky to find three of these beautiful big Barking Geckoes (Underwoodisaurus milii) under granite slabs.

I got some of the best footage I've ever taken and hope to put it on the web soon. After shooting one latched on to my finger and wouldn't let go for about 5 minutes. Normally they are all bluff with their barking and leaping forward, but this one had a real bad attitude!

We also found a single Wheatbelt Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus granariensis) who was more interested in sleep than anything else.

A typical view of Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) on the edge of the cleared wheatbelt.

Some of the wonderful and important Grasstrees (Xanthorrhoea sp.) at Wambyn, which provide a great shelter for small animals such as bats under that thick layer of dead leaves, as well as habitat in the cracked trunk when they die.

There are a number of grasstree species, with this one having a distinct separation of living and dead leaves.

They used to be called Blackboys, but that's not politically correct nowdays.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dryandra State Forest

My wife Liz makes a new little friend, a hungry young Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) looking for termites at Dryandra State Forest, one of our favourite places about 2 hours south-east of Perth.

He wasn't worried, he just wants to find a nice big nest of termites.

A Western Spotted Frog (Heleioporus albopunctatus) found on a track when we went spotlighting. Dryandra's a great place as there are so many tracks to go on at night without getting lost.

Congelin Dam is a good spot at Dryandra to hear the 'woop, woop' of Western Spotted Frogs calling on a autumn night, as well as being a great spot for birdwatching.

After looking under lots of rocks, logs and old tin we found a Gould's Snake (Parasuta gouldii). A fairly common small snake found in the Southwest of Western Australia. It is venomous but would probably only make you sick.

A regular visitor to the bird bath at the Dryandra cabins is this Carpet Python (Morelia spilota). From the feather and that bulge in his belly, I would say he just had breakfast, probably one of the many Ringneck parrots that come to the bird bath.