Tag Archives: desert

Remote north-western South Australia

Dr John Read and I entered APY Lands in early November 2015. This was a routine trip for him but was a first for me. Very few people in Australia will have been to this part of the country, a permit is required on entry.camel3It didn’t take me long to realize  was in a different country from the one I was used to.  John allowed me to spend some free time wandering across huge ancient boulders of the Musgrave Range. 393A2794

As I neared the top of the range the silence and remoteness seemed almost palpable. The danger of losing direction in unfamiliar country was both clear and frightening.

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Yet the rugged beauty was enticing,  I wanted to see a little more of what lay beyond, but had only two hours and we had work to do.

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Dragon lizards are always present,

crested bellbird

Crested bellbird glimpse, a bird of arid mulga and…

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Splendid Fairy-wren, turquoise form…

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Western bower-bird, a fig eater with  habitat in north-western SouthAustralia.

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Ubiquitious white-plumed honeyeater, the inland bird seems finer to me and has more yellow on face.

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Rufous whistler and..

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Singing honeyeater made their presence known with song.

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Desert oak (note the bottle-brush shaped young trees behind)

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and even ferns!

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and lichen! Enormous lichen.This was something I hadn’t expected. It seemed that at every turn I was seeing something new.

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This native with succulent leaves

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turns the plain purple, but I have lost its name. So if you recognize it please inform me.

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Hakea shedding seeds

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Figs which grow on bare hot rock, roots not touching the ground,  a bonsai in a desert with no water. All a bit astounding.

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John was more interested in the termites which ate this patch of grass to the ground. More about this shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Twitching in arid South Australia

I don’t really see myself as a ‘twitcher’ but I admit to spending time observing birds with camera in hand. My recordings are logged to the Atlas of Living Australia at http://www.ala.org.au/    ALA records  all Australian species and is used for research etc.

Birds can be viewed as the canary in the coalmine, they readily indicate how habitat is being altered or alternately, conserved for future generations.

Travelling north in South Australia means moving into arid country,  a landscape type called Mallee. 100 kms north of Port Augusta I made camp but soon had my camera operational. In the following hour I photographed what I think was a mixed species flock. Small bush birds in Australia sometimes travel this way maybe as a protection strategy. black-capped sitella female

Sitella (male) Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata is now listed as threatened in NSW due to habitat loss. This widespread but not often seen species is a very active tree trunk forager so tree loss means no food.black-capped sittella

The female Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata with a black cap seems a more striking bird to me, but I don’t see the world in ultraviolet as birds do, their colour receptors are much more advanced than our mammal eyesight.

purple backed wren

Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti was in on the fun, as was his missus with that strange eye make-up…purple backed wren female

Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti (female)

chestnut tailed thornbill

This LBJ (little brown job) is the Inland Thornbill Acanthiza (Acanthiza) apicalis but  I could be mistaken. This thornbill was feeding on the ground and in low bushes, behaviour which together with light eye-colour,  helps in identification.

unknown bird

If you look hard you will see a crested bellbird running across the sand, this was my first sighting of this inland bird hence the poor quality photo. According to Birdlife Australia ” Sometimes they occur in mixed feeding flocks with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Red-capped Robins.” So it seems I was right. This species is listed as now endangered in Victoria where it should inhabit the Big Desert.

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The Mulga Parrot Psephotus (Psephotus) varius also made its presence known.

mulga parrot

I was heading to Coober, so soon I was to enter true arid Australia.

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From here on its a good idea to carry extra water!

Bird observations in southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

 

November is nesting season in the southern Flinders Ranges, so almost all the following observations included adults and juveniles in various stages of fledging.

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Rainbow bee-eater Merops (Merops) ornatus , a most beautiful bird

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Brown tree-creeper Climacteris (Climacteris) picumnus

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Adelaide or western rosella Platycercus adelaidae up there with the most beautiful parrots…. and young below

adelaide juvenile

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White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus (Morganornis) superciliosus…. and teaching feeding to young below

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Dusky Woodswallow Artamus (Angroyan) cyanopterus…… and young below

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Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys

Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys…… and nestlings below

wagtail juvenile

From the Flinders I travelled up to Coober Pedy where I was to meet Dr John Read.

Storm north of Port Augusta

North of the gulf and Port Augusta the weather was unusually wet and stormy, and the vegetation  reduced to  treeless arid. The normally dry salt lakes contained water!

Hart Lake

To be continued..

 

Big spiders and big snakes in the Big Desert

I’ve just returned from a field trip to the Big Desert National Park with research scientist Tim Doherty(Deakin University, Melbourne) surveying small mammals in long unburnt Mallee vegetation. Seven days without a shower! My job was to grab a handful of very smelly fish, carry them 100 meters into the bush and bury them near our infra-red night video cameras. Hot days, copious flies and rotting fish is not a fun combination. Now add, no shower…. I was walking blowfly nirvana!

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The trip enabled me to see much of the park which though named “Big Desert” was semi-arid bushland, very much burned and now fire scarred in most places. Finding areas which were not burned for many years took much of our precious time.

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Working from sand tracks near the South Australian border.

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Recently burned mallee

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A large brown snake with no manners

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a billy buttons, probably an asteraceae

brush-footed trapdoor

A bit too friendly arachnid near my open tent door after dark, probably a brush-footed trapdoor Idiommata blackwalli?

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Common bronzewings lining up to drink at Big Billy Bore soak

lasiopetalum behrii

lasiopetalum behrii

 

white-eared honeyeater

white-eared honeyeater, common but beautiful.

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Dr Tim checks out the vegetation, note the soft sand.

Increasing our understanding of small mammal vegetation preference aids  our scientists’ efforts in limiting extinction. This study is related to what you can see here: