All posts tagged: Reptiles

Northern Spiny-tailed Gecko Broome Bird Observatory Western Australia

Spiny Tailed Gecko

Spring slipped past us rather suddenly. Wildflowers common not even a fortnight ago disappeared without a single trace while Rose-tipped Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus manglesii) have popped up almost everywhere, signalling the start of summer with its dry and hot weather. Although these conditions have restricted my outdoor activities to some extent, recent upgrades of camera gear as well as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the main culprits for my absence in the field. While spending many hours behind a computer screen is not my favourite pastime, I’ve become to realise that my photographic collection is in desperate need of proper organisation; a task postponed too often and which now I’m trying to complete bit by bit. I guess that looking back at memorable moments is the fun bit though, and now and then I even stumble upon some almost forgotten encounters, as this Spiny Tailed Gecko (Strophurus ciliaris) which was seen during a night walk at the Broome Bird Observatory. Well-adapted to hunting in the dark, geckos’ eyes are around 350 times more sensitive to light than …

Tiger Snake Notechis scutatis Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Tiger Snake – Moyup

With the season of Kambarang in full swing reptiles are out and about again, and a walk around Herdsman Lake at this time of the year will be rewarded with an almost guaranteed sighting of a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatis). These beautiful but highly venomous snakes call this wetland home, where they hunt mainly for frogs, although lizards, small mammals and young birds are also taken. Their live young are born in autumn and early winter, at the same time when the first baby frogs appear. They’re most active during spring and summer, although they prefer to forage at night as they dislike hot weather.

Oblong Turtle Chelodina Oblonga Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Oblong Turtle – Booyi

The Oblong Turtle (Chelodina oblonga) or Booyi is one of 8 species of long-necked turtles represented in Australia, where it can be found in the wetlands and swamps throughout the southwest region. These carnivorous reptiles use echolocation to hunt for fish, molluscs and crustaceans in low visibility water, and when identified prey is near their head strikes forward to snatch it. Although seemingly slow, large female turtles attack ducklings and even swamp hens with astonishing speed! Life for metropolitan turtles is not easy, as many ephemeral swamps have been converted in housing estates and playgrounds, leaving their habitat rather fragmented in a hostile world, and although Oblong turtles still migrate, for many their journey ends when crossing busy roads. In spring females can be spotted out of the water in search for a safe spot to lay their eggs: they can produce up to 3 clutches of 2-16 eggs that take between 26-41 weeks to hatch. Although many hatchlings are born at the end of winter, many will never find their way back to the water as …

Ornate Dragon Ctenophorus ornatus Boyagin Nature Reserve Western Australia

Ornate Dragon

Over the past few weeks I have not only been looking for Western Brush Wallaby (Macropus irma), as mentioned in my previous post, but also for the Banded Anteater or Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus). This carnivorous marsupial has featured on my bucket list for quite a while now, and several trips have been made to Boyagin Nature Reserve to find it. Located in the Wandoo woodlands of Western Australia’s wheatbelt, Boyagin is one of the few places where Numbats can be found, as a once thriving population has been dramatically reduced due to land clearing and predation by feral cats and foxes. The translocated Boyagin population has been estimated at 50-100 animals, but as their home range is around 50 hectares, chances of casual sightings are not that high. Although my patience and luck are still tested as far as Numbats go, Boyagin is a beautiful reserve to explore with plenty of other interesting animals and plants to discover. The huge undisturbed granite outcrop that lends its name to the reserve is a prime habitat for the Ornate Dragon …

Gould's Goanna Racehorse Goanna Karda Beelu National Park Western Australia

Gould’s Goanna – Karda

When spring temperatures hit summer-like highs not only wildflowers and bushwalkers come out of hibernation. Reptiles make the most of the sunshine and soak up the heat to warm their bodies. This Gould’s Goanna (Varanus gouldii) lazily hung around the DPAW’s offices in Beelu National Park, where the dark spaces underneath the buildings provide ample opportunity to cool down again. As slow and docile as those large goannas might seem, when threatened they can rear up on their hind legs and make a dash for safety at such an astounding speed that their nickname racehorse goanna is well-deserved.

Water Monitor Varanus salvator Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Water Monitor – Portrait of a Dragon

The Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) is the second-heaviest lizard in the world after the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) – a fearsome looking animal with a muscular body, split tongue and sharp claws. Scanning their surroundings by walking upright, defending themselves with infection causing bites and feeding on carrion, birds, eggs and young crocodiles, this aquatic and arboreal carnivore is one of Borneo’s apex predators. Although the water monitor is a common inhabitant of the island’s riparian zones and rivers, we were fortunate to watch this dragon up-close on several occasions. Note the sheer size of the claws in the photograph below – and compare it to the innocent look of the juvenile above…

Borneo Bow-Fingered Gecko Cyrtodactylus malayanus Sepilok Borneo Malysia

Life in the Understory # 2 – Bow-Fingered Gecko

There are around 5,600 species of lizards living on our planet and around 1,500 are gecko’s (infraorder Gekkota). Scientists keep discovering new species that in one way or another have adapted to their unique habitat, however, despite all their differences gecko’s share some common traits as for example the regular shedding of skin, the voluntary dropping of their tails when attacked by a predator and large eyes, with vertically elliptical pupils that lack eyelids. Many gecko’s have clearly dilated digits with adhesive toe pads – enabling them to run up smooth and vertical surfaces – while others have slender toes as this Borneo Bow-Fingered Gecko (Cyrtodactylus malayanus) we spotted on a night walk in the Sepilok Forest Reserve.

Saltwater Crocodile Buaya Tembaga Kinabatangang Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Saltwater Crocodile – Buaya Tembaga

In the Kinabatangang Nature Lodge every new day is welcomed with the sound of a fast-beaten gong, a wake-up call that is followed with a 6am river cruise to meet the local wildlife. The inhabitants of the river and surrounding rainforest have their own rhythms with certain animals showing themselves at different times of the day. At dawn most primates are just waking up from their sleep – high in the treetops where they are safe from predators. Soon they will disappear deep into the shady jungle only to go to the riverbanks again late in the afternoon. Morning is also the time when birds start calling, and hornbills, eagles and egrets begin to hunt their favourite food.  The first rays of light start to warm all boat passengers now, waking up everyone for real in this peaceful and serene setting. However, the tranquility is deceptive as we are not the only ones waking up and getting active: Borneo’s Kinabatangang is one of the most crocodile infested places we’ve ever seen with the fearsome and …

Nile Crocodile iSimangaliso Wetland Park KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Crocodile – Economy of Scales

South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of our favourite destinations. This unique estuarine park consists of over 300,000 hectares of lakes, swamp forests, giant sand dunes and one of the most beautiful coastlines in Southern Africa. And of course there is an abundance of wildlife, an ever important asset for the local tourism industry with its headquarters based in the pleasant and laid back town of St. Lucia. In fact, (eco)tourism has become such an important economic driver that the park has seen major changes over the past 15 years with new sections created, the rehabilitation of former agricultural land and the reintroduction of thousands of animals including elephants, rhinos and lions – notably in the uMkhuze part of iSimangaliso. Not less spectacular are the hippos and crocodiles that live in the park’s waterways – with around 1,200 crocodiles iSimangaliso holds one of South Africa’s most important wild crocodiles populations. Apart from being important predators in a complex ecosystem crocodiles are also of vital importance for the local economy – boat cruises on the …

Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas Monkey Mia Shark Bay Western Australia

Green Sea Turtle – Buyungurra

Western Australia’s vast and remote Shark Bay is a unique region covering more than 2.2 million hectares of land and sea. It is home to a great diversity of plants and animals, some of them found nowhere else on earth. Unfortunately many of the species that live in this immense wilderness are vulnerable or even critically endangered. One of them is the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), a species that depends on the bay’s plentiful seagrass meadows – just as the more than 10,000 Dugongs (Dugong dugon) that graze in this World Heritage Area. Considering the high number of sightings of this massive turtle out in the water, it is hard to believe they are under serious threat. But although Green Sea Turtles are legally protected in Australia and hunting is restricted to traditional use by aboriginal people, they still face numerous challenges. Apart from crabs, goannas, birds and sharks that feed on hatchlings, the major threats are created by human activities. Each year thousands of turtles end up on baited longline hooks as bycatch, …

Gilbert's Dragon Ta Ta Lizard Amphibolorus gilberti Kalbarri NP

Gilbert’s Dragon

Some visitors of iAMsafari might have noticed my fascination with dragons. I guess the sheer variety of shapes, patterns and colours simply intrigues me – together with the fact that the latter can change according to gender, temperature and behaviour. But when I met this Gilbert’s Dragon (Amphibolurus gilberti) I was most impressed with its speed because this little agamid is a true sprinter – moving rapidly and agile on the rocks and branches that lined the banks of the Murchison River – and as it quickly waves its forefeet after each sprint this dragon is aptly called “Ta Ta Lizard”. Most of the time these creatures observed me carefully in a vigilant posture – arched back, tail down and head tilted towards me. Just long enough to take some close-up portraits before waving good-bye.

Southern Tree Agama Mpila Hluhluwe-Imfolozi

Southern Tree Agama – Chasing Dragons

The past week showed some rather erratic spring weather – glorious sunny days with temperatures in the high thirties immediately followed by unusually cool days. Especially the cloudy ones didn’t help me much in the search of my next wildlife-fix: the Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus). This colourful lizard lives in and around the numerous granite outcrops near our tree hut, and with their extremely flattened body it shelters in ridiculously narrow crevices. On about every sunny day I expect them to be out there basking on some boulder, but for almost one year now I have been looking in vain. It’s frustrating although I know that patience and perseverance are the key words here. However, sometimes nature provides us with wildlife effortlessly – just by being at the right place at the right time we are able to witness the most memorable spectacles. This made me think of an encounter with a Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis). This arboreal African dragon was sitting unhurriedly in a tree right next to our bungalow in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi’s Mpila camp …

King Brown Snake Mulga Kalbarri NP

King Brown Snake – Mulga

Australia has no big game. Elephants, hippo’s or big cats can’t add that thrill of imminent danger when going bush – except the saltwater crocodile in the Top End of course. Sheer size and power don’t pose any threat but toxic venom does instead, subtly engineered for the smaller animals such as spiders, jellyfish and snakes. As far as the latter concerns, we had a magnificent encounter with a completely harmless, almost docile Carpet Python a few months back, but the real venomous and notoriously elusive species have been avoiding us so far. Until our last trip. Driving on the corrugated road towards the gorges of Kalbarri National Park I was focused on spotting emus instead of snakes, as all at the sudden we spotted a curled shape in the corner of our eyes. On sunny days reptiles are a common feature anywhere near warm surfaces – mainly as roadkill unfortunately. But as dead animals typically show those faded colours, the glossy black skin of this one clearly contrasted with the soft yellow sand. As …

King Skink Egernia kingii

King Skink

We have a family of King Skinks (Egernia kingii) living under the laterite blocks just in front of our tree hut. With the weather warming up significantly the entire family can be seen basking in the sun almost every day now. It is easy to observe them as long as you don’t make sudden movements or cast your shadow over them – those lizards are extremely shy and the slightest movement will make them hide in their burrow. Despite their skittish nature they’ll quickly take a peek to see if the danger has gone after being disturbed, and once your spotted they closely keep an eye on you. Smart thing to do when you’re considered a tiger snake’s favourite prey… Who’s watching? Tell me who’s watching. Who’s watching me? Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me  

Bobtail lizard

The weather is changing. May is a beautiful time of the year with mild days and crisp nights. Autumn’s chill creeps in and the first rains have started to transform the landscape with grass growing, water flowing and the first trees flowering. As soon as the sun appears on these cool days reptiles can be found on granite outcrops, absorbing heat to regulate their body temperature. When I was looking for Ornate Dragons (Ctenophorus ornatus) hiding in the cracks and crevices of the granite boulders,  I actually stumbled upon this Bobtail lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) at the side of the trail. Absolute motionless with only its eyes observing my movements, it offered the perfect opportunity for some close-up shots.  They are slow, docile and easy to pick up, and therefore often traded as exotic pets for as much as $9,000 on the Asian black market. In order to curb this practice smugglers are sentenced heavily while trying to get those reptiles out of the country stuffed in handbags or teddy bears. Sad but true. Confiscated Bobtails are …

Black Mamba Khamai Hoedspruit Reptile Centre South Africa

Black Mamba

We are moving back to Australia. So a question frequently asked is about our chances of survival in the presence of dangerous animals, venomous snakes in particular. During our first residence I have witnessed only one unfortunate individual – through my rear view mirror after I ran over it. It doesn’t mean those beautiful creatures are not around, in contrary, some illustrious specimens like Tiger snakes and Dugites show themselves even in the Perth Metropolitan area where they prey on rats and mice, but mostly head away from humans rather than attack. While my experience with snakes is minimal, my wife has definitely seen more. During her work at the Albert Schweizer hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, there were regular sightings of Black Mamba’s that took shelter in the tall grass and trees on the hospitals grounds. Although this snake certainly makes its casualties among the rural population, the real killers still are malaria carrying mosquitos. Nevertheless, the Black Mamba definitely is high on my list of animals I’d love to see from a save distance …

Flap-necked Chameleon dilepis KwaZulu Natal South Africa

Flap-necked Chameleon – A natural curiosity

I watched David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities on the BBC last week and thought about our inspiring encounter with this flap-necked chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis). Although they are often regarded as primitive reptiles, their fast tongue, 360-degrees rotating eyes and spectacular colour make them really sophisticated creatures. We have seen quite a few of these fascinating animals on the occasional night-drive, always wondering how well they blend into their surroundings. In fact, we nearly missed this one sitting on a branch ready to pose for iAMsafari!