A great northern migration

In June last year a friend and I migrated north for the winter. It was a very short migration, but it was enough time for us to poke around Darwin, Kakadu and Katherine. The middle of the dry season is not the best time of year to go looking for reptiles, but I had lots of free time so it was convenient. The two species I really wanted to see were Oenpelli pythons and chameleon dragons. Both of these species are really rare/cryptic, so I didn’t hold out much hope. But my chances of seeing them were certainly better than if I’d have stayed in Brisbane.

Darwinian Adventure
The trip started off well when we pulled into a spot at a caravan park and I jumped out of the car to find myself face to face with a swamplands lashtail dragon (Amphibolurus temporalis). I had wanted to find some mangrove snakes along the edges of Darwin Harbour, but the sneaky little blighters eluded me. Next time I’m up there I’m going to meet up with Darwin’s foremost authority on these semi-aquatic colubrids, and he’s guaranteed me that he’ll be able to show me all three species.

Amphibolurus temporalis
Amphibolurus temporalis

Amphibolurus temporalis
Amphibolurus temporalis

Katherine the Great
After spending three unproductive nights wading through Darrwin’s mud, we accepted defeat and headed south to Katherine. We met up with a friend who took us to some local Gouldian finch spots. Alas, no finches (not to worry – I found one this year), but I did get some good looks at hooded parrots. At night we managed to track down some ubiquitous scaly critters.

Burton's legless lizard (Lialis burtonis)
Burton’s legless lizard (Lialis burtonis)

Bynoe's gecko (Heteronotia binoei)
Bynoe’s gecko (Heteronotia binoei)

We left Katherine and headed north to Kakadu, stopping for a brief look at Katherine Gorge.

Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge

Kakadu, du, du, push pineapple shake a tree

We spent about two nights in Kakadu. We went on a cruise on the Yellow Water Billabong and saw lots of birds. The rest of the time we just wandered around aimlessly trying to see whatever we could. I saw a number of new reptiles, plus some new birds and one new mammal. The highlight of the trip was the chameleon dragon (Chelesonia brunnea). Finding it was a product of sheer skill and determination. It wasn’t chance at all. Nope, definitely not.

Carlia triacantha
Carlia triacantha

Carlia triacantha
Carlia triacantha tail. It looks like the tail tip was damaged, and another tip started to grow.

Pied heron (Ardea picata)
Pied heron (Ardea picata)

Female Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)
Female Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)

Female Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)
Female Australasian darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)

Plumed whistling-duck (Dendrocygna eytoni)
Plumed whistling-duck (Dendrocygna eytoni)

Plumed whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) and wandering whitling-ducks (Dendrocygna arcuata)
Plumed whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) and wandering whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna arcuata)

Rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus)
Rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus)

Black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)
Black-necked stork (Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus)

Comb-crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea)
Comb-crested jacana (Irediparra gallinacea)

Nankeen night-heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)
Nankeen night-heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)

Green pygmy-goose (Nettapus pulchellus)
Green pygmy-goose (Nettapus pulchellus)

Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) trying to keep away from those pesky tourists.

Northern hooded scaly-foot (Pygopus steelescotti)
Northern hooded scaly-foot (Pygopus steelescotti). Now I’ve seen all four scaly-feet species.

Northern hooded scaly-foot (Pygopus steelescotti)
Northern hooded scaly-foot (Pygopus steelescotti)

Heteronotia planiceps
Heteronotia planiceps

Heteronotia planiceps habitat
Heteronotia planiceps habitat.

Hipposideros ater
Hipposideros ater. We saw this bat fly into a cave, so we stuck our heads in to find it roosting.

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)
Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)
Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)

Boiga irregularis habitat
Boiga irregularis habitat.

Gehyra australis
Gehyra australis

Gehyra australis?
A dark Gehyra australis I think.

Geyhra pamela habitat
Geyhra pamela habitat.

Carlia amax
Carlia amax

Black wallaroo (Macropus bernardus)
Black wallaroo (Macropus bernardus). A new mammal for me.

Metallic snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus metallicus)
Metallic snake-eyed skink (Cryptoblepharus metallicus)

Nourlangie Rock sunset
Sunset on Nourlangie Rock, Kakadu National Park. Picture taken from Little Nourlangie.

Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata)
Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata)

Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata)
Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata)

Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata)
Dotted velvet gecko (Oedura gemmata) hiding from me.

Northern spotted rock dtella (Gehyra nana)
Northern spotted rock dtella (Gehyra nana)

Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)
Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)

Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)
Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)

Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)
Northern spiny-tailed gecko (Strophurus ciliaris ciliaris)

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea). Close up of the eye showing the unusual scaly eyelids.

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea). They extend their dewlap when they feel threatened.

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea)

Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea) habitat
Chameleon dragon (Chelosania brunnea) habitat.

Bynoe's gecko (Heteronotia binoei)
Bynoe’s gecko (Heteronotia binoei)

Fogg Dam
On the way back to Darwin we called in at Fogg Dam to see some of the locals, before flying back home to Brisbane.

Fogg Dam
Fogg Dam.

Water python (Liasis mackloti)
Water python (Liasis mackloti)

Water python (Liasis mackloti)
Water python (Liasis mackloti)

About Stewart Macdonald

I'm a wildlife ecologist living and working in Queensland, Australia. I spend most of my time in the bush finding and photographing wildlife.
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4 Responses to A great northern migration

  1. Ryan Harvey says:

    G’day Stewart

    Another nice lot of pictures, just wondering what number you are on for reptiles? Are you gonna do birds soon? Well done on the Chameleon dragon! I have really slacked off from herping in the last few months, only new things I have seen have been Common tiger snakes and Hemiergis decresiensis, which were seen down near Goulburn. Moving to Melbourne in a month and will get right back into it, will get Canon G11 as well, so hopefully that will make it easier. Will set up a flickr as soon as I start taking decent pictures!

    Regards, Ryan

  2. Hi Ryan,

    My Australian reptile count is currently 293. I’ve also got a frog, mammal and bird list, but I can’t remember those figures off the top of my head.

    Let me know how Melbourne treats you.

    Stewart

  3. Angelika says:

    Hi Stewart!

    I’ve just discovered your blog and have really enjoyed it, I went to Australia in 07/08 and loved every bit of it, I’m very interested in all wildlife and got particularly fond of both snakes and birds while down under. Hope u post some new bush adventures soon!

    Cheers, Angelika

  4. Thanks Angelika! I’ve been travelling since about June, so there are plenty more photos to come when I find the time to sort them out.

    Stewart