See also a couple of cool herps in Wildlife Watching – South Coast NSW and Canberra – Pygmy Possums and Gliders
Interested in Thorny Devils? See the following post :- Australian Lizards – Herping the Thorny Devil
The North West
I was fortunate to get work as a locum pharmacist in the North West town of Exmouth. My initial desire to work in Exmouth was to spend time diving on the Ningaloo Reef, but soon I discovered a new world of terrestrial wildlife that was just as exciting.
Exmouth Pharmacy has a photo lab as part of the business and during quiet times I would wander down to admire the many photos taken by tourists on the “glory wall.” One particular photo exited me more than the others and this was a photo of a Thorny Devil. I was captivated by such a curious lizard and really wanted to see one for myself. My love of reptiles was born….
The first reptile I saw at Exmouth was basking in the middle of a hot day (quite unusual for a reptile,) and was a Central Netted Dragon. I also found this species burrowing in manmade dirt banks around the new marina development fairly regularly.
Central Netted Dragon (Ctenophorus nuchalis.)
Driving back from Exmouth Marina after an excellent day diving the reef I was surprised by a Perentie lumbering across the highway. It is Australia’s biggest lizard and this resident of the town Golf Course would not have been far shy of the 2m these monitors can reach in length.
Perentie (Varanus giganteus.)
I visited Karijini National Park while I was living in Exmouth, (a mere six hour drive away,) a dramatic series of gorges in the centre of the Pilbara. The Ring-tailed Dragon below was basking in the winter sun near Dale Gorge.
Ring-tailed Dragon (Ctenophorus caudicinctus.)
After discovering the “Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush” book by Maryan, Bush, Browne-Cooper and Robinson, I got into the habit of turning over rocks and discarded bits of metal, then the number of species I saw dramatically increased. I picked up my first diminutive Ridge-tailed Monitor this way.
Another species I found this way was the Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko, a ground hunting gecko unique in that some populations of this gecko consist solely of genetically identical females, no assistance from males for reproduction!
Bynoe’s Prickly Gecko (Heteronotia binoei.)
There is no shortage of dragons in the Cape Range area. I had Long-snouted Water Dragons (Lophognathus longirostris) living in my garden, Central Military Dragons and Central Netted Ground Dragons common on the paths around town, Western Bearded Dragons on the Golf Course and below is a Spotted Military Dragon found on a vehicle track near Learmonth Airport.
Spotted Military Dragon (Ctenophorus maculatus.)
Fifteen months in Exmouth had passed and there was no sign of the Thorny Devil that I was so keen to see, despite searching high and low.
The 8th September was a warm Spring day (partly cloudy 31C) so I decided to drive the 155km to Coral Bay for the day searching the road for the Thorny Devil as I went. All the way down I laboriously checked debris on the road “just in case,” exceeding no more than 60kph
After a few hours at Coral Bay, I started the return trip to Exmouth, again checking the road as I went, but to no avail. The sun was starting to get low in the sky so I picked up my speed to 110kph not wanting to be driving at dusk when the roos and cattle were a high probability on the roads.
Then I drove past something on the road 65kms South of Exmouth. I couldn’t make it out at that high speed, but something told me to turn around and check it out. Then finally there in the middle of the road tail held high was a Thorny Devil, I was literally shaking as I moved it off the road for a picture. What an absolute beauty of a reptile to this day my favourite!
Despite looking so fearsome this dragon feeds only on ants and is found on sandy country throughout Australia. In the South of WA this means East of the Darling Range out to Kalgoorlie and they are found at all of Dryandra, Boyagin and Tutanning Nature Reserves with September being the easiest month to find them.
This species also found at Tutanning Nature Reserve – Wildlife at Dryandra – Boyagin – Tutanning Nature Reserve – 2017-2018 – Part 3 – Summer into Autumn
Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus.)
Recently, I have found a location for this species closer to Perth, having twice come across them on warm March mornings in Tutanning NR.
It was hot much of the year in Exmouth and the flies so bad that I preferred to venture out for my evening walk after the sun had set.
One September evening I was walking my usual route through the town Golf Course when I heard an almighty racket coming from the nearby bush.
It was Yellow-throated Miners causing the racket and the source of their wrath was the beautiful Perentie below, no doubt looking for an easy meal.
Perentie (Varanus Giganteus.)
See also Southwest Snakes in – South West Snakes – Western Australia – Carpets and Tigers
Monitor Lizards – Varanids
I had brief views of a Gould’s Sand Monitor basking on a track at Shark Bay on a hot January day 2010 before it shot off when I approached, but my first longer lasting encounter with this species was at The Pinnacles North of Perth.
Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii.)
They are the most common monitor lizard in WA with their extensive range stretching from a line South of Perth all the way up to the Kimberley Coast.
I have found them common at Boyagin Nature Reserve on Spring days and although they must occur at Dryandra Woodland curiously I have never seen this species there.
Gould’s Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii.)
In the far South of the state, Gould’s Monitors are replaced by the Southern Heath Monitor. This similarly sized species has a darker colouration to absorb more heat in the cooler climes it inhabits.
They are found almost anywhere towards the South Coast of the state but Salt River Road in the Stirling Ranges is almost a guarantee for this species on a warm spring day. The tracks around Perup are another place where Southern Heath Monitors are very common. Once the temperature rises above 16C is when I find they come out to bask on roads and tracks.
Southern Heath Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi.)
The final monitor lizard pictured below is the Yellow-spotted Monitor, a desert dweller. I travelled to Payne’s Find to photograph this species, but on the day I was there I only saw this little tiddler. The previous day had been the first warm spring day and they were apparently everywhere around the settlement on that day.
Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes.)
The granite outcrops of the Wheatbelt and Darling Range are excellent habitat for the Ornate Crevice Dragons. These lively little lizards are found on almost any large granite outcrop, providing they have suitable cracks and loose slabs for protection.
Ornate Crevice Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus.)
The fabulous little dragon below is Western Bearded Dragon. I have often seen them in the Capes Region near Margaret River but it is the most widespread of the dragons in the Southwest and is found over an area stretching from the South Coast almost up to the Kimberley.
In common with other dragons, they communicate with head bobs and waves. The animal pictured below was found near the town of Two Rocks North of Perth but I have also seen one on Red Gum Pass Road in the Stirling Ranges.
Western Bearded Dragon (Pogona minor.)
The Western Heath Dragon is at the Southern limit of its distribution in Perth and as its name suggests it is found in sandy heaths near the coast. The dragon pictured below was found in the sand dunes behind Swanbourne Beach.
Western Heath Dragon (Ctenophorus adelaidensis.)
Geckos and Legless Lizards
Easily the most common gecko found spotlighting the Swan Coastal Plain (including Rottnest Island) is the Spiny-tailed Gecko. This species of gecko doesn’t drop its tail like many species and legless lizard instead it squirts a harmless fluid from pores on the top of its tail as a defence against predators.
Spiny-tailed Gecko (Strophurus spinigerus.)
The Marbled Gecko is very common around the Perth Metropolitan Area, indeed the gecko pictured below is a resident of my back garden in Como. I have also found this species around Perup Cottage at night also spotlighting roads North of Perth during warm Spring nights.
Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus.)
My favourite gecko is the incredibly cute Barking Gecko. This gecko as its name suggests barks when threatened. The barking is accompanied by raising the body off the ground and a yelping/squeaking. The first time I saw this display I wasn’t sure whether to jump or burst out laughing (I think I did both!)
The easiest way to find these geckos is to turn over rocks, peaks of the Darling Range can be productive for this species. I have also found them in the Wheatbelt Reserves not always associated with granite outcrops.
Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii) in defensive pose.
A work colleague and friend of mine Karen has a farm out in the Wheatbelt near the town of Beverley. The old farmhouse is near a granite outcrop that had been undisturbed by the general public and so is a wonder to visit for both reptiles and orchids (in season.)
The most common reptile by far at the farm is the Variegated Dtella, almost every rock turned over has a dtella beneath it, with some larger slabs containing up to seven individuals. Ornate Crevice Dragons are also common.
Tree Dtella (Gehyra Variegata.)
In October 2014 I visited Mount Observation in Wandoo NP near the township of York over a weekend. Both days were overcast with temperatures of 16C and 18C respectively.
The habitat that I focused on were exposed granite areas on the side of Mount Observation amongst the she-oak thickets. I found an incredible number of species in a total of four hours over the two days.
The first day produced a Clawless Gecko, Ornate Crevice Dragon, Tree Dtella, Western Granite Worm Lizard (Aprasia pulchella) and a Bull Headed Skink (Egernia multiscutata.)
Clawless Gecko (Crenadactylus ocellatus.)
The second day I also picked up Ornate Crevice Dragons and Variegated Dtellas but in addition also a Barking Gecko and a new species for me the Wheatbelt Stone Gecko pictured below.
Wheatbelt Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus granariensis.)
The Speckled Stone Gecko (below) is another gecko of the Darling Range and I have found it both under rocks and foraging on roads on Spring nights especially the Canning Dam area.
Speckled Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus polyophthalmus.)
Below is a very commonly spotlighted lizard around the Perth region, the Burton’s Legless Lizard. The legless lizards are a family of lizards that lack fore limbs and have much reduced hind limbs.
The legless lizards are related to geckos and this can be seen in two ways, the first as pictured below is that they use their tongue to clean the face, secondly both squeak when picked up.
At first glance, these lizards are confused with snakes but the fleshy, not forked, tongue gives them away. The presence of ear holes in some species, absent is snakes is another clue. The Burton’s Legless Lizard also has a pointed snout quite different from the snakes.
Burton’s Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis.)
The delma family of legless lizards have a rounded snout or in some cases a pointed snout. I have found both Side-barred Delma and Marble-faced Delma in the sandplain country North of Perth, but not before December when the nights are really hot.
When I have encountered this species on roads they leap into the air thrashing and it is quite an effort to catch them before they make their escape into the surrounding bush.
Side-barred Delma (Delma grayii.)
The King’s Skink mostly occurs on the coast, Rottnest Island being a hotspot, although it also occurs inland to a lesser extent. The peak of Mount Hassell in the Stirling Ranges is another place they occur in good numbers.
They’re named after a Mr King not because of size, although adults could definitely be described as a sizable lizard. Their dark, sometimes black, colouration and silent movement can at a glance imitate a Dugite with which they share their habitat.
A resident King’s Skink lives in the roof of friend’s cottage near Margaret River and is very fond of the tomatoes from the fruit bowl, often giving the owner Gerald a fright! I myself have seen them appear from rock crevices to devour fruit skin but they eat just about anything including bird eggs, insects, carrion and plant material.
King’s Skink (Egernia Kingii.)
The most common lizard encountered in the Southwest is the Western Bobtail (including the Rottnest Island subspecies.) I usually find the first individuals emerge on warm August days, spring being the season that they are seen most often in common with many other reptiles. Like the King’s Skink they definitely not picky eaters and will consume carrion, insects and plant material.
The picture below is my favourite reptile picture because it is a joint effort with my partner Lorenz. It was taken on a wildflower trip to the Northern Wheatbelt early September. Lorenz has the reptiles attention while I lay on the ground to photograph the reaction.
Western Bobtail (Tiliqua rugosa.)
During an overnight trip to Payne’s Find on a hot day in late September looking for the Yellow-spotted Monitor, I found a Western Bluetongue crossing the Great Northern Highway. I managed to remove it from the highway seconds before a truck came along.
When I placed the lizard down in the nature reserve, from whence it had come to photograph it, it shot off like greased lightning into the nearby scrub ( I perhaps should have anticipated this because it was late in the morning on a warm day.) I was however disappointed with this first encounter with that species.
Three weeks later in the Stirling Ranges I found a dead Western Bluetongue on Salt River Road. It was news to me that they occurred in this location having never before seen any alive or dead.
On a warm Sunday morning with a cold front imminent in keeping with my theory this is an excellent time for finding reptiles there were many around, including Western Bobtails, Southern Heath Monitors and Southwest Crevice Skinks. Something told me to persist for this species and I cruised Salt River Road a few times before coming across the individual below. Finally, a Western Bluetongue I could photograph!
Western Bluetongue (Tiliqua occipitalis.)
The Southwest Crevice Skink is very common inhabitant of the Southwest. I have found them along the Bibbulmun Track, in the Margaret River Region, at Perup and they are very common indeed on the peaks of the Stirling Range National Park.
Southwestern Crevice Skink (Egernia napoleonis.)
There are plenty of the smaller skinks around but photographing them can be a more difficult task.
The Lerista below was pit-trapped in Bold Park and so the location makes it an Elegant Lerista although it appears to have three toes on the hindlimbs more like a Perth Lined Lerista except these don’t occur North of the Swan River, confused? me too at times!
Elegant Slider (Lerista elegans.)
There can be no doubt of the identification the Skink below found crossing roads while spotlighting on the coastal plain North of Perth during the warmer spring evenings
Dotted-line Robust Lerista (Lerista lineopunctulata.)
Below is the beautifully coloured Red-legged Ctenotus, found hibernating under a rock on a granite outcrop in the Darling Range, during a cold August day walking the Bibbulmun Track. This is a species commonly encountered turning over rocks at this location. Unlike other Ctenotus species they do not usually flee, enabling photographs.
Red-legged Ctenotus (Ctenotus labillardieri.)
The species below was sunning itself on a log in the Capes Region making the most of the last rays before a cold front moved in. Unlike the similar looking Morethia species also found in the Capes Region both sexes may have the red throat.
Western Three-lined Skink (Acritoscincus trilineatus.)
The Buchanan’s Snake-eyed Skink is a very common lizard of the Southwest. It is often encountered basking on logs in the bush although they are also common within the Perth Metro Area. The picture below was taken at Yanchep National Park, North of Perth, but Dryandra is another place I have found these lizards very common.
Buchanan’s Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus buchananii.)
Another inhabitant of my suburban garden in Como is the Two-toed Earless Skink, although it is hard to establish the identity of the skink below because it seems to have lost its front foot!
This species is an inhabitant of the Swan Coastal Plain and was found whilst gardening and the species is commonly encountered because it shelters beneath leaf litter, rocks and logs and in this case my garden pond casing.
Two Toed Earless Skink (Hemiergis quadrilineata.)
The Frogs of Southwest Australia are covered in – South West Frogs – Western Australia – Motorbiles and Banjos
also the coolest of the Australian Frogs in – The Turtle Frogs of Bold Park – Perth