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)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


We sometimes forget that our most needed and greatest resource on the planet is clean fresh water. Without it we would not last much more than three days!

Water is so important in arid Australia and a great wildlife magnet , especially for birds. When we were in Alice Springs a few weeks ago, the strong hot dry wind blowing throughout most of the day, dehydrated everything very rapidly. As this video shows, birds can quickly dehydrate, and need regular visits throughout the day to water sources. A dripping tap or a water-filled old hubcap often make an important source of water.

So if you're visiting the outback of Australia and see a dripping tap, if there's a good water supply, maybe just let it drip. That tap may be providing a whole community of animals with much needed water.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trilobite Beetle

This is just some quick footage of a red and black Trilobite beetle I found during our walks on the slopes of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo. I've seen other videos and the beetles seem to come in a variety of colours, depending on where they are in Asia.

They are such a weird looking insect and I love the way they move, very robot-like. I now have a good close-up lens for video, so hopefully next time I will get some great close-up shots. Looks like another trip to Borneo!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Outback Waterhole

When my wife Liz and I were at Alice Springs a few weeks ago, the weather was warm and sunny, but the wind in the area was crazy. It started early in the morning and usually finished only at dusk. Not good if you want to take video footage!

I did manage to piece together some footage of a wonderful day we spent at Trephina Gorge, especially at a small waterhole where birds and lizards came in to drink in the heat of the day. I know it's probably only my imagination, but it seemed like big gusts of wind would come as soon as I hit the record on the video camera.

The animals in the video are White-plumed Honeyeater, Peaceful Dove, Pied Butcherbird, Zebra Finch, Painted Finch, Long-nosed Dragon, Magpie-lark and Ta-ta Lizard.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bornean Angle-headed Lizard

When we were in Danum Valley in Sabah last Christmas, during one of our walks along the river we spotted this beautiful Bornean Angle-headed Lizard (Gonocephalus bornensis). Even though it was a wild animal, after the video it allowed me to walk right up to it and pick it up and have a good look! No biting, clawing or fighting. We just looked at each other, then I put her (?) back on the tree and we left. One of those magic wildlife moments!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Marbled Velvet Gecko

During our recent trip to Alice Springs, we wanted to check out some areas to the east which we had not seen during our visit years ago. We headed off to the East MacDonnell Ranges, which turned out to be one of the better places for wildlife. We spent the whole day at a wonderful area called Trephina Gorge. Great spot for wildlife, especially birds.

It was getting dark by the time we started heading back to Alice Springs, about 70 km away. On the way back we stopped at a place called Coroboree Rock to have a look for some night animals. It was still windy so I wasn't sure if we would see anything. Besides a small bat disappearing over the rocks and a small Bynoe's Gecko (Heteronotia binoei) running into a hole, it was pretty quiet. Suddenly on the wind-less side of the rock I spotted a Marbled Velvet Gecko (Oedura marmorata) waiting to catch dinner. I managed to get a few photos and some video before our wonderful gecko decided he wanted to get away from these annoying people interfering with his dinnertime.

The typical gorge habitat around Trephina Gorge with lots of good cracks and crevices for reptiles, especially geckos such as the Marbled Velvet Gecko.

Velvet geckos (Oedura) in Australia tend to be one of the larger gecko species, with Oedura marmorata being one of the biggest of the thirteen species found here. Our gecko was about 200 mm long, but I have seen bigger ones in the Pilbara in WA.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Alice Springs

My wife and I had some spare time and thought, where can we go to do some interesting birding and get some video? Alice Springs had a good deal on, so off we flew. We had been to Alice before during our trip down from Darwin years ago, but this was a chance to look at some new areas and get some new life birds. Plus new reptiles and other animals.

The video and sound gear now has to come on most of our trips, plus the still camera for some close-up and landscape shots. Sometimes it's like moving David Attenbrough's BBC film team!

Unfortunately, at this time of year Alice has strong westerly winds that spring up in the morning and last all day, making good video a challenge, but at least it's cool and almost no flies. Some great video shots were ruined by big gusts of wind that wobbled the camcorder during shooting. But on the bright side, I also got some great bird footage of desert birds.

We headed out to look for good bird areas in the West MacDonnell Ranges, our main bird targets being Rufous-crowned Emu-wren and Spinifexbird. Both species needing big old unburnt areas of spinifex. Sadly, most of the places we went to had been burnt in the past few years, and with the strong winds, missed out on our target birds.

Ormiston Gorge turned out to be the best for birds and I got some great close-up footage of beautiful Spinifex Pigeons. It would be a great place to camp for a few days.

The colours of the soils at the Ochre Pits were stunning, especially with the deep blue sky. Not a bad place for the birds as well.

Most of the bridges over dry creeks had old nests of Fairy Martins (Hirundo ariel). This one small bridge must of had over a hundred mud bottle nests, many from the last rains a few months ago.

Waterholes are so important for desert wildlife, like this one at Ormiston Gorge, and a good place to video animals when it's quiet. Lots of rock to explore for reptiles as well.

A fine looking 300 year old Ghost Gum. These eucalypts provide lots of hollows and food for the local animals.

The whole area around Alice Springs, seemed to have large numbers of Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum). This is a freshly dropped sticky mistletoe seed that will probably germinate into the parasitic adult plant. The mistletoebirds wipe their bottoms on branches to void the sticky seeds, that pass through them quickly after being eaten.

Despite all our searches in better spinifex patches, we still missed out on our target birds. Oh well, a good excuse to come back to Alice again sometime.

One of the places you must visit when birding in Alice, are the Alice Springs sewage ponds. A great place for lots of migratory waders and waterbirds. It is locked, so get the key off the local Power & Water office in town.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pilbara Habitats

Some Pilbara trap sites are in beautiful locations such as this spinifex covered hillside, but often it's hard work to dig in ten 25 litre buckets into rock! Thank God for jackhammers. Sometimes though it's still a crowbar and shovel job.

With such a good cover of spinifex, this site was very good for grass-loving animals.

The river courses are great places in the Pilbara to look for animals, ones that live around the eucalypts, those that prefer rock gorges and often those found in the grassy areas in between.

Fellow zoologist Cameron and herpatologist Brad checking out a good wildlife area near a waterhole in one of the Woodie Woodie gorges.

One of the beautiful local tourist spots near Woodie Woodie, Carawine Gorge on the Oakover River. A great spot to camp for a couple of days.

If you are going there, it's best to have a 4WD, as the tracks can get a bit soft at times.

A nice site to trap and look for animals.

And a not so nice site, burnt about 6 months before. We did have to have traplines at this site, which we called the 'Nuked Site', due to it's specific location.

Believe it or not, we did catch a few geckos and other small animals here most nights.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Horned Spider

This is some footage I took of a beautiful little brown spider with four horns and small circles on it's abdomen, building a web. The video was taken during the Christmas 2008 trip to Danum Valley, Borneo.

It's a lovely spider and looks similar to other horned spiders, but I still can't find it's real name. Knowing Borneo, it could be a new species, as I haven't seen any of them during any of our trips. If anyone does know what it is, please let me know.

A friend of mine recently said she had trouble watching the videos, as they would start and then stop for a while, then start. I occurred to me that some people may be unaware how to get the most out of videos on the internet.

I have found that if you play the video for a second, then hit the pause button and let it buffer near to or to the end, then hit play, you can watch the complete video without the annoying stop starts. If it's a long video (10 min +), the buffer may take a while, so I usually go get myself a coffee while it's downloading!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


With spring approaching we often have fauna work in the Pilbara region, which located about half way up Western Australia. One of the areas that we have been to a number of times to do surveys, is the Woodie Woodie area. This is a beautiful area, basically on the western edge of the Great Sandy Desert.

Some of the red rock gorges of the Woodie Woodie area surrounded by golden spinifex grasslands.

In certain areas, the red gorges are cut by a grey clay-like stone ridges with sharp edged rocks.

This has to be one of the most beautiful monitors (goannas) found in Australia. A well-camouflaged, with what looks like aboriginal paintings, Pilbara Rock Monitor (Varanus pilbarensis). I think this is my favourite goanna species and when we are up here, I always look forward to catching one, but they are not easy to find.

"You want me to climb up where? Up here?"

Some of the gorges have lots of caves, ranging from small holes to big caverns. These caves make great homes for a large number of animal species found in the area, especially as shelters during the extremely hot summer temperatures.

This cave is being used by a small colony of Fairy Martins (Hirundo ariel), who have built their mud bottle-shaped nests at the entrance.

The little nooks and crannies in the caves provide a good environment for geckos and many insects, such as this lovely Crusader Bug.

In many places at the bottom of steep gorges, you can find very good patches of spinifex due to the extra water runoff. These are usually good places to find many arid habitat animal species.

One of the reptile species you may catch is this beautiful large skink, the Centralian Blue-tongue (Tiliqua multifasciata). It's always good fun to find out what lives in a certain area.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mammals of Borneo

During our Christmas 2008 trip to Borneo, we managed to see a large number of Borneo's fantastic mammal species. Some were small, very shy and ran away, some were large, aggressive and ran at you. The Danum Valley elephants for some reason seem to really dislike humans. As a French researcher at Danum said after running away from some angry elephants wanting to stomp him, " You don't want to become a bad sandwich".

Here's a video of some of the wonderful smaller daytime mammals.

The animals are Giant Squirrel, Plain Pygmy Squirrel, Prevost's Squirrel, Mountain Treeshrew, and Red Leaf Monkeys (Maroon Langur).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Giant Millipede

Here's some video of the Giant Millipede of the rainforest around Danum Valley. They are fantastic animals, with the big ones like this guy being about 11 inches long. Great to play with if you're game to pick them up, but may squirt or leave a smell. The small native ones in the Jarrah forest near home squirt an orange liquid that smells of eucalyptus.

Tractor Millipede

During out last Borneo trip at Christmas 2008, I managed to get quite a bit of video footage of some of the interesting invertebrates in the rainforest of Danum Valley in Sabah.

This is the ancient-looking Tractor Millipede (Genus Barydesmus) which feeds on rotting vegetation in the rainforest. About 5 inches long and quite harmless.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Winter is ending.

Well, winter is ending as the fungi in the Jarrah forest are disappearing. I am normally on the lookout for animals, but you just can't ignore the wildflower show that is just starting. I did work in the state herbarium for about six months after finishing my biology degree, mainly in the plant indentification unit, so I do like my plants as well. I love getting to know plant-animal interactions.

At this time of year a lot of the native peas start to flower. I'm always interested to know what native insects must pollinate them at this time, as it's still quite cold and wet. I believe native bees (as well as introduced honey bees) are the main pollinators, but whatever insects they are, they must have some resistance to the colder temperatures of early spring.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Borneo Birds Video Reloaded

It's reloaded! This is very first video footage I took of some Bornean birds, with the new Canon camcorder during Christmas 2008. It was a big learning curve in taking footage and video editing, and still is, but it's good fun.

The birds in the video are Diard's Trogon, Mountain Wren-Babbler, White-browed Shama, Indigo Flycatcher, Flavescent Bulbul, Grey-throated Babbler and Little Pied Flycatcher.

This video now looks a lot better in this larger format, but HD takes too long to load and looks a bit jerky on here. If you do want to watch this or future videos in full HD, I suggest going to the Youtube site, though at the moment you still may have some problems.