Australian Outback – Western NSW (Reptiles)

Bearded dragon

Prior to arriving at Scotia, I considered reptiles to be the masters of the desert. I was surprised to realize that they are only abundant in spring, when Bearded dragons in particular can be seen sunning themselves on virtually every surface available. Goannas emerge from their winter slumber as do many smaller species: Painted dragons, Mallee military dragons, Nobby dragons and various skinks. But as summer arrives in full swing, reptiles become less conspicuous during the day. An odd Shingleback or a Goanna can still be seen but not as commonly. One of the rarer lizards is the Western blue-tongue. In 13 months at Scotia I have only seen a single individual.

Shingleback crossing the road

Goanna

Western blue-tongue

Painted dragon (male)

Painted dragon (male)

Military dragon (female)

Military dragon (female)

However, the most adorable members of the lizard world belong the the family of geckos. The most notable representative of the family in the western NSW is the Knob-tailed gecko. These guys remind me of little puppy dogs with their huge eyes, wide feet and short fat tails. There are also Marbled gecko, Beaked gecko, Jeweled gecko, Eastern Spiny-tailed gecko, Beaded gecko and Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko.

Knob-tailed gecko

Velvet gecko

Beaked gecko

Beaked gecko

Marbled gecko

Marbled gecko

The third and the most abundant reptile family is skinks. There are dozens of different species most of which can only be identified by counting the scales on their faces. Some, however, are quite distinct, such as Sand swimmers.

Broadbanded sandswimmer

Broad-banded sand swimmer

And yet another group is the legless lizards. These guys look like mini snakes, but are in fact closer related to skinks than to snakes.

Unbanded delma

Unbanded delma

And then there are snakes. Their beauty is very different to that of fragile-looking geckos.  Australia’s snakes have a deadly reputation. Seven of the world’s ten most venomous snakes are found in Australia. But despite the danger, or perhaps because of it, snakes are very appealing to many ecologists. The most common and perhaps the most venomous snake in western NSW is the Mulga or the King brown. This species is actually misnamed, as it belongs to the family of black snakes. Once, when driving home at night with a friend I saw a pair of male Mulgas engaged in some sort of dispute. It was an amazing sight to witness. Their bodies were intertwined and their movements lightning-fast. Seeing one of these deadly snakes usually leaves a lasting impression, but two angry males… I was not going to leave the safety of the vehicle. Western brown snakes are also quite common, but their coloration can be so variable that I always found it difficult to distinguish them from Mulgas. Another beautiful snake that can sometimes be found in the region is the Murry-Darling python. Of the smaller snakes there are: Ringed brown, Bandy bandy and Coral snakes.

Murray-Darling python

Brown snake

Juvenile mulga

Juvenile mulga

Ringed brown snake

Ringed brown snake

Most of the smaller reptiles can only be seen during the pitfalling survey. Here is the link to Peter Hammond’s blog describing his experience with pitfalling at Scotia:

 

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