Sullivan Rock Herping

I have been wanting to go out herping in the colder weather for a while now.  It’s a good time when reptiles can be found brumating (the reptile version of hibernating) and can be quite sluggish giving good views up close.

Jimmy was again game to join me with my 4 year old son and we managed to pick a beautiful clear winters day, but with some rain looming in the evening.  We headed out at midday with Liam enjoying the car trip.

Liam enjoying an audio book on the trip out

We headed to Sullivan Rock on Albany Hwy in Mt Cooke – it’s where the Bibbulmun  track crosses the highway and there is a good sized car park.  We crossed the road following the track where it crosses Sullivan Rock.

As we got to the rock we headed East to get to some areas where we thought less people would visit.  Along the way we lifted rocks looking for reptiles – always carefully placing the rock back in exactly the same spot to minimise disturbance.  Many rocky outcrops in the Perth Hills have been damaged with people taking rocks for their gardens, rock cairns being built, vehicles driven on the rocks damaging habitat and rocks just generally being moved.  Many living things use the rocks as habitat – so they must be treated with care.

The first reptile we found was a Barking gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii).  This is a pretty cool gecko that, when threatened, will raise its whole body up on its legs and ‘bark’ like a small dog.  This one was pretty sluggish and ambled off underneath another rock.

Barking gecko @ Sullivan Rock

The next thing we found was a scorpion under a rock – Liam was very keen to touch but we had to insist it was a bad idea!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the rock and then kept looking.  There was quite a lot of water seeping down the rock but we didn’t find any frogs under the wet rocks or in some of the rock pools.

We found a couple of small skinks that moved off too quickly to ID or photograph.

We then found a family of Ornate crevice dragons (Ctenophorus ornatus) – there was one larger with three smaller.  Three of them dashed off to another rock but one just sat there, pretty much motionless.

We then headed for home – pleased we had found 3-4 species of reptiles and really giving Liam a good nature experience.  He loved his time and had been so good clambering over the rocks.  He was pretty tired after this and got a few Zzz’s in the car on the way home!

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Herping at Canning Dam

My naturalist buddy Jimmy and I planned to come out herping just before Christmas on the really hot 38°C day.  Hot days mean warm nights and this can mean the herps are more active into the evening.  It was also moonless so we hoped that would help us see more.

We headed up to Canning Dam – our primary target Southern Death Adder – Jimmy has been looking for them for a number of years with no luck as they are really hard to find.  They tend to sit in leaf litter motionless just waiting for an unlucky prey item to come past – the warm nights can bring them onto the road to be found.  Jimmy had checked it out the night before with no luck but had found a roadkilled one a couple of weeks before – so we know we are in the right spot.

We brought our bikes as the Water Corporation block off access at night – this allowed us to cover plenty of ground.

Our first wildlife was an inquisitive Tawny Frogmouth that checked us out.

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Tawny Frogmouth

We then found our first of what was to be many – Barking Gecko.  They get their name from their behaviour when threatened – they arch their backss and bark quite loudly.  They have real character and are beautifully marked.

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Barking Gecko

Just across the road from the Barking Gecko, Jimmy spotted another gecko – which after a closer inspection was a Clawless Gecko – Australia’s smallest species.  This one was only 4-5cms long and beautifully coloured.

{edit  Jan 2018 – I have since had it identified by Ryan Ellis a WA Museum research assistant – that this is a Speckled stone gecko (Diplodactylus lateroides) – recently described in 2013 in this paper – Thanks Ryan!}

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Speckled stone gecko @ Canning Dam

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Speckled stone gecko @ Canning Dam

We found plenty more Barking Gecko but they weren’t that obliging for photos!  They are the biggest geckos that I have seen.

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Barking Gecko

We looked carefully on a granite outcrop where Jimmy had seen a good sized Carpet Python the night before – sadly not there tonight.  Our night was snakeless – shame…

We did hear a few White-striped Freetail Bats – they are audible with the human ear and often heard.

Towards the end of out travels we crossed over the river that comes from the dam and there were plenty of frogs – Motorbike, Slender Tree and probably a Moaning Frog.

All in all a great night with two new geckos for me but a distinct lack of snakes – well we will just have to do another trip!

On the way home I took some shots of a roadkilled 2D rabbit and bobtail.