Friday, October 10, 2014

A weekend with the Devil

The Eyre Peninsula in South Australia is a great place to visit. Large stands of old growth mallee from Kimba across to Iron Knob and through to Whyalla  is home to some excellent bird species along with exciting reptiles and mammals.
I spent a couple of days exploring the Middleback Range between Whyalla and Kimba. I unexpectedly ran into my friends Dave and Sue who had also planned a weekend here so that was a very pleasant surprise and it was one of the most social weekends I’ve had in a long time.  Although the weekend was very windy, which made birding difficult we were still able to locate the areas specialities, Blue-breasted Fairy-wren and Western Yellow Robin, along with Pipits who were very active in the heat of day, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Slender-billed Thornbill who favoured saltbush areas as well as one of the mallee's most precious jewels, Splendid Fairy-wren.

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren

Western Yellow Robin

Australasian Pipit

Yellow-rumped Thornbill

Yellow-rumped Thornbll

Splendid Fairywren

Splendid Fairy-wren

Sue and Dave
Old growth mallee as far as you can see

Reptiles were the main highlights for me over the weekend. This area is well known for Peninsula Dragon. A trip to Secret Rocks provided great views of both the well coloured male and the plainer female.

Gravid Female Peninsula Dragon
Peninsula Dragon - female
Peninsula Dragon - Male


Crested Dragon, which are also known as Bicycle Lizard because they stand up and run on their hind legs when disturbed were seen basking on the side of the track.

Crested Dragon

Mallee Military Dragon favour the old growth mallee and are dwarfed by the Common Bearded Dragon. 

Common Bearded Dragon
Bearded Dragon climb saltbush to sunbake
Western Blue-tongue Lizard

Sand Goanna were seen in a few locations especially in Spinifex dominated understorey.

Sand Goanna

I had driven back to Whyalla when I received an sms from Sue stating they had seen my most wanted target species – Thorny Devil, so the following morning I returned again to Middleback Range searching a 30km stretch of mallee in the hope of finding one for myself. Thankfully I was successful. 

Moloch horridus - Thorny Devil - also known as Thorny Dragon
This species have a fake head behind their real head, if a predator approaches they bend their real head forward leaving the fake head in its place!
Thorny Devil look prehistoric

To say I was STOKED would be an understatement!  This gorgeous reptile has the unfortunate name of Moloch horridus which I think is rather unkind. Interestingly though, this is the only species in the Genus Moloch.
If you look closely it’s head resembles the prehistoric Triceratops! These amazing creatures move very slowly, they only eat ants, up to 5000 of them a day! They conserve energy by waiting for the ants to come to them and then use their tongue to catch them.

 I drove the 7 hrs back to Adelaide a VERY happy camper! Thank you Sue and Dave for encouraging me to get back out there to search – weekend made!!
Getting out and about on weekends is definitely worth it. It really is amazing what you can fit into a weekend and what you can find within a days drive from home, so go on, what are you waiting for? GET OUTSIDE and start looking!!