Tiliqua Rugosa Asper

Tiliqua Rugosa Asper

This little fella is also known as Shingleback and he is found in the arid and semi-arid areas of eastern Australia. The Shingleback’s habitat does not reach the eastern coast. The other three subspecies of Tiliqua Rugosa are found in the State of Western Australia.

The Shingleback is slow moving
The Shingleback is slow moving

Appearance

The images with this post show the Shingleback is:
• Heavily armoured
• Slow moving
• Short with a wide stumpy tail
• Blue tongued
The Shinglebacks colouring varies from cream to dark brown.

Tail shaped like the head to confuse predators
Tail shaped like the head to confuse predators

Common names:

The Shingleback is commonly known as
• Two-Headed Skink,
• Stump-Tailed Skink,
• Bogeye,
• Bobtail,
• Sleepy Lizard and
• Pinecone Lizard.
I think Shingleback and Pincone Lizards are my favourites!

Common name is Pinecone Lizard
Common name is Pinecone Lizard

Defense Mechanisms

Adult Shinglebacks are 26 to 31 cm long. They have a heavy body for their length. Their legs are short and it is difficult for them to lift and move their body.

Dingos and snakes may predate on these lizards but the greatest threat is feral cats, foxes and dogs, and being struck by vehicles.

These lizards need to sun themselves and sometimes choose road and road verges.

The Shingleback uses three defence mechanisms namely their:
• Armoured body
• Tail resembles their head to confuse predators, and
• Threat response
The Shingleback does not have autotomy. This means unlink many lizards and skinks it cannot shed or discard an appendage to escape a predator.

I was fortunate at this sighting to capture the threat response vividly.

Shingleback threat response
Shingleback threat response

Diet

Shinglebacks are omnivores. This Shingleback was sighted in early spring when he was sunning himself. They spend much of their time foraging for preferred food including insects, vegetation and flowers.

Brumation

The Shinglebacks tail contains fat reserves for Brumation.
During research for this post I found this word – BRUMATION
Well it turns out Brumation is like hibernation but different metabolic process are involved.
Shinglebacks are reptiles. Brumation is triggered by dropping temperatures and reducing hours of daylight. Shinglebacks will wake during brumation to drink water but they will go months without food. The length of brumation depends on temperature and the condition of the reptile.

Reproduction

Shinglebacks are viparous – wow here is a third new term! That means they do not lay eggs. Instead the embryo develops in the mother leading to a live birth. A typical brood is 1 to 4 offspring relatively large given the size of the mother.

Pairing

These lizards are monogamous and their pairing extends beyond the breeding season. Pairs return to each other for many years.

Family Life

Offspring stay with their parents for several months. Parents share the parenting duties. The male acts as look out. When the offspring leave they will stay near as part of a colony of closely related members.

I love the Shinglebacks blue tongue. There are other species of blue tongue lizards in Australia which I will show you – as soon as I catch them on film.

By Amanda Jackson

Say Hi to Willy Wagtail

Say “Hi” to Willy Wagtail

This fellow and a few of his friends were caught in a summer shower but seemed to be very happy and posed for me!

Happy Willy Wagtail

 

I would love him to show his tail fan.

This lovely little bird (about 20 cm) makes me feel very happy.

They flit around and sing a musical song.

Though they also have a scolding voice and an alarm call if they need them.

Their tail fans beautifully and when they land or stand they fan their tail and sway or wag it as if they think their tail is lovely too.

Everything about them is energetic and fun.

Willie Wagtails are found throughout Australia’s mainland and parts of Tasmania.

 

 

willywagtail

Cheers

By Amanda Jackson

 

 

Flock of Little Corellas

Flock of Little Corella’s

In the Australian bush there is every chance you will be buzzed by a flock of birds.

Many species are noisy and sociable.

Pretty much like Australia’s people!

flockofcorellas

This is a flock of Little Corella’s that came upon my Canadian friend and me while we were walking.

 

pairofcorellas

 

You can see from the close up shot that they were looking right at us – I think they were enjoying screeching at us flying low and wheeling around and around until they headed off again.

I have traveled in Canada and found our birds were noisy by comparison to their Canadian cousins.

Little Corella’s like living inland from the coast.

They have yellow under wings and tail and a short crest on their head which is white.

They are 36 to 39 cm in size.

People sometimes confuse them for Sulfur Crested Cockatoos but these are a bigger bird, have a large yellow crest on their head  and their style of flight is quite different.

Cheers

Amanda


 

Pale headed Rosella

This beautiful bird is called a Pale Headed Rosella

There are two races: one with more yellow around the neck and chest (adscitus) and the other without (palliceps).

That’s why I call this one very pale.

Palliceps live in central southern Queensland.

They are about 30 cm in size.

Pale headed Rosella’s are part of the family “White Cheeked Rosella”.

Other white cheeked Rosella’s live in the northern and eastern areas of Australia.

 

paleheadedRosella
Photo by Amanda

 

All the best

Amanda

This is not a Grey Falcon

This is not a Grey Falcon but it could fool many!

About a year ago I started bird watching and took my Camera along to some bushland near my home. I didn’t know very much about birds. I just looked, listened and tried to get a few photos. The second day I became very excited over a grey bird that dived quickly from a very high perch in a tree.

This photo is the best I could get:

IMG_5902 (3)

When I got home I put all the photos I had taken onto my computer. I then proceeded to identify each bird using the Simpson and Day Field Guide. The last bird was this grey one.
The best match I could find was the “Grey Falcon” – a rare bird.

Identification process for the Grey Falcon:

The Grey Falcon is grey with black streak under eye, black wing tips, white under belly with fine dark streaks, grey tail, and tail and wings faintly barred .
The habitat of Grey Falcons is woodland, plains and scrub in the arid interior often near waterholes.

The birds features include; eye brown, bill grey; eye ring, and cere and legs yellow.

Grey Falcons may be seen singly or in pairs. When hunting they fly very fast, close to the ground and pounce on prey. Normal flight is rather slow alternating wing beats and gliding. Grey Falcon can soar to great heights and spread their tails as they rise.

What to do with a rare find?

A fundamental principle for beginner bird watchers where there are two species your specimen could be:

If one is commonly found in the area you are in and the other is not known to be found in the area you are in … then your bird is probably the one commonly found there!

When it comes to grey birds of prey there was only one option at this location a Grey Falcon. But what would be the chance someone on their second day bird watching would find a rare bird.

So I surfed the net until I found a professional ornithologist searching for Grey Falcons. I sent him an email with my images and asked him to please identify my bird.

Clue: Look closely at the image and you will see a dark band about two thirds of the way down the tail.

pay attention
Look closely

This actual marking confirms the bird is a Nankeen Kestrel. The Nankeen Kestrel is a common species ( meaning it has a strong population)

However Nankeen Kestrels are not grey on their back and wings. The standard colouring of a Nankeen Kestrel is rufous (red-brown).

This means my specimen is not a rare Grey Falcon but it is unusual in that it is a grey Nankeen Kestrel.

From this point on I have been hooked and I do hope to find a Grey Falcon one day.

How to help researchers and our declining and/or endangered species:

This experience with identifying unusual grey coloured Nankeen Kestrel is an example of how you can help researchers and maybe help save declining species.

I have set out these steps in a previous post, and will repeat them here for our readers:
1 familiarize yourself with the species and its habit
2 observe carefully every chance you get
3 take a note of exactly where you are and what you see and find
4 report anything you might see to this website and to the National Parks and Wildlife authority for the State you are in.

Have fun wildlife watching

By Amanda Jackson

Goo-goor-gaga: The Laughing Kookaburra

Kookaburra call the sky people to light the great fire that illuminates and warms the earth by day….

As the morning star fades Kookaburra laughs his loudest to wake the sleeping for sunrise…..

The Kookaburras call sounds like a laugh – like their native name “Goo Goor Gaga”. For many aboriginal people it is taboo, given the function to start the day, to mimic the Kookaburras call.

The Laughing Kookaburra is found throughout the eastern states and southern Western Australia. There is a similar species called a Blue Winged Kookaburra which as the name suggests has more blue in its plumage.

The Laughing Kookaburra is the largest of the Kingfishers. They are territorial and nest in tree hollow in open woodlands and forest.

Female Laughing Kookabura
Female Laughing Kookabura

You will notice in my photos, that the Kookaburras beak is large the top bill is black and the lower bill is bone coloured.

The head is light coloured with brown marks and a brown stripe from the eye. The wings are brown with a blue mottle. In this image you can see the rufus barring of the tail.

Males often have blue on the rump. So this bird is probably female. Female’s heads are more buff and their rump is brown.

Kookaburras live in family groups. Kookaburra young are not forced to leave their parents territory on maturity. The territorial space is used to meet the needs of young adults (called auxiliaries) and breeding pairs before breeding season. The family group works together to protect offspring, raise offspring and defend territorial boundaries. The auxiliaries do not have a breeding territory or breed while they are in the auxiliary role (usually 4 years). These living circumstances help keep reproduction rates low. Research has shown the auxiliaries provide about 30% of incubation and brooding time, and 60 percent of the food for the hatchlings.

Kookaburras favour a diet of insects and invertibrates. They also eat snakes, lizards, rodents, and occasionally small birds. When a small a snake or lizard is caught the Kookaburra holds its catch in its beak to shake and beat the catch against a tree branch until it is dead.

e

This female Kookaburra above was observed catching a 15 cm snake and flying to this branch where she killed and ate the snake. She noticed me observing at a distance but allowed me to advance slowly until I was about 10 meters away. She then flew to another perch at a more comfortable distance. She again allowed me to advance slowly to 10 meters. She surveyed the area regularly and eventually flew to a high perch.

I was amazed to discover Kookaburra may live for 20 years. Because the population turnover is slow the birth rate is very low. Kookaburras form permanent pairs. This pair of Kookaburra were perched very high with quite a few people, bicycles and dogs passing by underneath without disturbing them.

A Breeding Pair
A Breeding Pair

Notice the blue rump on the male in this photo below.

The male has a blue rump
The male has a blue rump

Kookaburras are one of my favorite birds. I hope you enjoy them to.

By Amanda Jackson

The Storm Boy Story Line

The Storm Boy Story Line

Storm Boy is a 1976 classic Australian film. It is a story of communion between a boy and a pelican. The movie was promoted in 2001 DVDs as “His free spirit roams with his pet Pelican, Mr Percival, and his secret Aboriginal friend Fingerbone Bill.”

Fingerbone Bill gives the boy the name Storm Boy. The way of life for Storm Boy and his father is hard and remote. Their survival, like Fingerbone’s survival, is connected to and reliant upon the land. They are living in Coorong a coastal area of South Australia. While his father is fishing for their livlihood Storm Boy has solitary time to paddle his raft and explore the wetlands.

The central characters are storm boy (played by Greg Lowe), his father (Peter Cummings) and Fingerbone. These characters demonstrate living with the land. By this I mean living from what nature offers as opposed to altering nature and trying to force the land to produce. Fingerbone is played by David Gulpilil with his trademark brilliance. David’s work is a credit to the Aborinial people of Australia.

The movie is visually spectacular with lovely water, sky and birdlife images.

The movie has a strong conservation message. At the time hunting and dune buggies was permitted in the Coorong. Shamefully the shooting was indiscriminate. Dune buggies damaged fragile dune ecosystems.

The sound track is beautiful. It is clear and haunting. It accompanies the imagery and use of silence very effectively. Silence is very effectively used in this movie. In Aboriginal communication, and in spiritualism, silence is very important.

Communion

Communion is the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially on a mental or spiritual level. The relationship between Storm Boy and Mr Percival is clearly an extraordinary communion. Fingerbone brings the focus to spiritual matters by sharing the traditional story of Pelican and foretelling a storm will follow the killing of a pelican. After this death Storm boy becomes foster parent for the orphan pelican hatchlings.

The Pelican chicks are raised. Storm Boys relationship with Mr Percival is special. When set free Mr Percival returns. There are beautiful images of them playing and finding comfort with Mr Percival sitting on Storm Boys lap.

With shooters again in the Coorong it seems Mr Percival may have been killed. Storm boy searches everywhere and he cannot find Mr Percival. The scene is sad and lonesome as Storm Boy walks along the beach in the bleak last light of day. His father offers him words of comfort and the hope “if he’d been killed you would have found him”. But the heavy rain, wind and thunder can be heard. Storm Boy is silent. He knows a pelican has been killed.

With the new day Fingerbone comes for Storm Boy. Fingerbone found Mr Percival and he was dead. He has buried him. Fingerbone shows storm boy the grave … and a clutch of new pelican chicks.

This movie in the context of communicating aboriginal spiritualism and in the concept of communion between people and animals contains a glaring inconsistency. Aboriginal spiritualism and communion with regard to Pelican is beautifully done. However the scene with the Red Belly Black Snake is unnecessary, inconsistent with the treatment of Pelican, and an incorrect portrayal of aboriginal spiritualism.

In this scene the snake comes towards Fingerbone Bill and Storm Boy while they sit on a log reading. Storm Boy is frightened and Fingerbone shoots and kills the snake.

Killing the snake was unnecessary as it posed no risk and safe conduct around snakes has been known by Aborigines for many thousand years. Killing the snake is the same as killing pelican in the spiritual context. Aboriginal people respect the snake as much as the bird and a much as the person. Aboriginal spiritualism does not allow them to kill any animal unnecessarily. There is no concept of snakes being bad. Snakes have their essential role in nature.

Communion is subtle and real. Sometimes dramatisation take communion so far the plot requires an animal to comprehend a range of steps and perform a rescue. In Australia there was a long running television series “Skippy” where a kangaroo assists the park rangers to perform rescue and capture crooks. Similar concepts in the televisions shows “Lassie” and “Flipper.” In my view it is unnecessary and inconsistent for the pelican Mr Percival to be essential to a rescue of men stranded at sea during a storm. Storm Boy is the movie adaption of the 1964 novel of Colin Thiele. I have not read the book but am curious to see if this aspect of the plot was included in the book.

Coorong National Park

The novel was published in 1964. In 1966 Coorong Nationa Park was established. The National Park is a 447 square kilometer park south east of Adelaide, South Australia. The wetlands of this area are internationally significant and provide a breeding ground for many water bird species. The species include pelican, ducks terns, swans, grebes, cormorants. Many migratory species visit these wetlands. The geography consists of sweeping sand dunes on the Younghusband Peninsular which shelters a series of saltwater lagoons and wetlands.

The Coorong is the tradition land of the Ngarrindjeri people. The land is the center of every aspect of aboriginal life. Saying that land is culturally significant to aboriginal people does not express the full meaning of the land to aboriginal people.

I look forward to visiting Coorong National Park one day it will be a fantastic place for photography, bush walking and canoeing.

If you have been to the Coorong, or seen Storm Boy, I would love to hear from you.

Amanda Jackson

Red Kangaroo – Boomers and Flyers

The Red Kangaroo – Boomers and Flyers

The scientific name for Red Kangaroo is Macropus Rufus which means red great-foot.

Aussies just call them ROOS.

Males are called BOOMERS, females are called FLYERS and babies are called JOEYS.

Hey good looking!

The photos with this post were taken near St George Queensland this spring.

Red Kangaroo
Red Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo males are red and much bigger than the females. Females can be blue-grey or reddish with lighter colored chest and abdomen. The more arid the region the more likely females will have red coloring. You can see the males have a red chest and abdomen.

On average a male stands 1.5m tall and weighs 66 kg. A mature male can stand 1.8m and weigh as much as 85kg. The largest specimen recorded was a huge 2.1 meters tall and 91 kilograms. The red kangaroo is significantly larger than the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo.

Female and Male Red Kangaroo
Female and Male Red Kangaroo

I find the muscular chests and arms of the Red Kangaroo striking. The black and white markings at the side of the mussel and the absence of hair between nostril and lip are the easiest way to be sure the Roo’s you are looking at are Red Kangaroos.

Habitat and diet

Red Roos live on inland plains and grasslands and need access to shade cover. I am so lucky to live where the habitats of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Red Kangaroo meet and frequently see each species.

Kangaroos eat grass. While they have preferred grass they will browse on a range of grass and shrub species if their preferred food sources are not available.

Family Groups

Each family group is led by a dominant male. Groups range in size from two kangaroos to hundreds of members. Group membership is flexible. There may be several males in a group as they are not territorial. They do compete for females who are ready to mate. When there is a contest between males “boxing” may be seen.

When I came upon the group in this picture the males were boxing. As it is early spring one would be challenging for females. However as soon as they became aware of me the stopped and watched my approach until I was abaout 120 meters away before fleeing.

To box they stand on their hind legs and hit out with their forelimbs. Rocking back on their tail they kick out at their opponent. Red Kangaroos also engage in a wrestling behavior not seen in the other species of Kangaroo. Fights establish the hierarchy between the males in the group. When a dominant male loses he leaves the group.

Recently I was told of an encounter with a group of 200-300 Red Kangaroos about 8 hours west of Brisbane Queensland. My colleague stopped his car on a dirt road for a group “flying” across the road. I am told it was an inspiring sight. Just as the last of the flyers bounded past he noticed the boomer standing having overseen the whole procession and looking directly at him. The boomer, supremely confident in his power, hopped slowed past the stationary vehicle. I hope one day to see a large group on the fly.

Coping with the heat and dry

Red Kangaroo have developed a variety of physical, physiological and behavioral adaptions to keep their body temperature at 36% when the temperature soars to 45 degrees celsius and higher. These adaptions include:

• Red Kangaroos are not usually active in the warmer hours of the day and eek shade/cover in high temperatures.
• Kangaroos pant, sweat and lick their fore limbs to cool themselves.
• The fur of Red Kangaroos has an insulating layer.
• Roos will consume drought tolerant food sources as necessary
• The Kangaroos kidneys concentrate urine preserving the water in its body.
• Kangaroos eat the freshest shoots available as they have the highest water content

Other interesting adaptions

Eyes: The position of the Roo’s eyes allows for a 300 degree field of vision.
Swimming: These kangaroos are great swimmers

It was great researching this article. If you know other interesting facts about the Red Kangaroo let me know!

Amanda Jackson