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)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Northern Wheatbelt Site Survey

Perth was battered by huge severe thunderstorms that arrived late Monday afternoon and caused some major damage. We had planned to go out to dinner and then the monthly Birds Australia meeting, but we only made it half way before having to turn back due to the storms. As the road we take into Perth was blocked for miles with traffic, over a foot of water starting to flood all intersections and tree branches as thick as an arm falling on the road, it was time to turn back and head for home. After a nice round trip of about an hour and a half through a crazy storm, we arrived back at our safe but dark home, as the power was out over most of the Perth area and was going to be for a long time. Oh well, it wasn’t too bad, we did have a nice calming drink or two, and a candlelit dinner at home with a lightening show!

I was hoping that the storms would clear quickly, as the next day I had a long 4 hour journey to conduct a two day fauna site survey in the northern wheatbelt.


Wouldn't you know it. When we arrived at the survey site in the afternoon, so did the local thunderstorms and rain!

The next morning at the site was fine, warm and sunny.

The most of the survey site had been cleared many years ago, as most of the wheatbelt has been, but some of the more hardy vegetation had grown back. A large protion of the animals now found in the area are insects, such as this Case Moth caterpillar in it's protected home of sticks.

The area had a lot of old logs and branches scattered over the ground, so you had to watch your step in case one of them was a snake, such as this Mulga Snake out hunting in the early morning.

This lovely skink is the Pygmy Spiny-tailed Skink (Egernia depressa) which caused some excitement for a while, as the reason for the survey was to look for any threatened animals, such as the local Western Spiny-tailed Skink (Egernia stokesii badia) which looks very similar. The Pygmy Spiny-tailed Skink is fairly common over a large part of the drier areas of Western Australia.

These Egernia skinks are interesting lizards, as they live in small groups and have communal toilets outside their hollows. One of the best ways to see if the Egernias are living in a hollow, is to look for the long faecal droppings with the little white acidic ball. I think future research may reveal that these mass droppings have some social display function. Maybe it provides information on how many lizards are living there or their social rank?

A typical home for the Pygmy Spiny-tailed Skinks at the survey site. Lots of small hollows where they can hide and use their spiny tails and backs to wedge themselves in if something tries to get them out.

A lovely young Egernia depressa who came out of a hollow, to have a look at the people surveying his home.


Iain D. Williams said...

Love the image of the E. depressa - great angle

Richard King said...

Thanks Iain. He was a very calm and quiet during the photos. Wonderful animal.

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