Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
October 19-21, 2015
Sydney Area Alice Springs and Yulara West MacDonnell Ranges Adelaide to Flinders Ranges Flinders Ranges National Park Arkaroola to Marree Northern Eyre Peninsula Southern Eyre Peninsula

My first multi-day stop in South Australia was in Flinders Ranges National Park, which encompasses a wide variety of habitat types, and thus a wide variety of herps. I stayed in the Wilpena Pound Resort near the southern end of the park. I was happy to see that the staff maintained a lizard-friendly environment, as evidenced by this colored chalk masterpiece inside the general store & information center.

Everybody loves a Shingleback, and rightly so

The walls of the resort were also lizard-friendly, though only with little skinks when I was looking. These little Cryptoblepharus skinks are everywhere in Australia. Once upon a time, they were all considered a single species. By the end of the twentieth century, Australia was the proud home to five or six differentiated species. Then Paul Horner split out a bonanza of new species in 2007 based on extensive morphological and genetic studies. Now there are more than 20 defined species in Australia, many of which can only be distinguished by examining the teeny-tiny scales on the bottoms of their teeny-tiny feet. Fortunately, most places only have one or two or three candidate species, and Horner's paper does a good job of calling out differences in areas where species overlap.

I think this one is a Ragged Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus)

Several trails start at the resort and head out in various directions. On my first afternoon I chose a trail that is basically flat until the end, when it climbs a rocky hillside to a viewpoint. Along the flat part I saw various skinks, including the following four.

I think this one is another Ragged Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus pannosus)

I think this one is an Inland Snake-eyed Skink (Cryptoblepharus australis)

Tree Skinks (Egernia striolata) outnumbered all the other herps combined. I mostly saw them basking on logs and rocks.

Cryptoblepharus is not the only group of "snake-eyed skinks" in Australia. This nervous little leaf-litter denizen is a Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink (Morethia boulengeri).

The previously mentioned rocky hillside at the end of the trail.

This rocky hillside was ideal habitat for lizards. (Probably snakes too, but I didn't see any.) Very soon after I left the flat ground and started climbing, I saw the first of many Tawny Dragons.

Male Tawny Dragon (Ctenophorus decresii). This poor guy has at least three huge ticks attached: one on the chest, one on the top of the head, and one in the left ear. The lizard seemed none the worse for it though.

Female Tawny Dragon, checking out which of the many nearby males is worth her precious time

Pick me! Pick me! I'm way more colorful than tick-boy over there.

The so-called Tree Skinks were as numerous in the rocks as they had been down on the flatlands

I noticed that an occasional skink on the rocks seemed to have slightly different proportions than the very common Tree Skinks, and also to move a little differently. I hadn't gotten a good look at one of these other skinks until I turned a corner and found this one basking on a low rock right in front of me. The light-colored eyeliner turned out to be a key identification characteristic.

Flinders Ranges Masked Rock-skink (Liopholis margaretae personata)

One other basking skink struck me as different. It was at least essentially the same size, shape, and pattern as the Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skinks I had seen earlier. But this one seemed significantly darker, and this one held its position for at least a few minutes, whereas the ones I had seen earlier were all scuttling around in leaf litter, and never stopped moving for more than a few seconds. But I couldn't find any other candidates in my books, so my best guess is that this is indeed another of that kind.

Probably Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink (Morethia boulengeri)

On another morning I drove out to hike Wilkawillina Gorge, because (A) it seemed like a significantly different type of habitat, and (B) it had an entertaining name.

Sign in the parking lot, a.k.a. dirt clearing at the end of a long dirt road

One of the attractions of Wilkawillina Gorge was another chance to see the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby that I had missed back at Telowie Gorge in Part 4 of this account. This time I had more luck, and spotted one of these colorful rocky outcrop specialists just after it spotted me and bounded away.

Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale xanthopus), mid-jump

Flinders Ranges National Park had cool to cold nights while I was there, so the temperatures didn't reach maximum herp-friendliness until late morning at least. I was impatient as usual and started my morning hike earlier than that, so the lizards were few and far between at the start of my hike. I first saw a few species that I had encountered in other parts of Australia.

Another Boulenger's Snake-eyed Skink. I uncovered a few of these, which generally raced off instantly.

Bynoe's Gecko (Heteronotia binoei). This one was bigger than the very small ones I had seen on Red Centre roads near Yulara and Glen Helen, but still a youngster.

Variegated Dtella (Dtella variegata). This one had been under a dead branch.

Eastern Striped Skink (Ctenotus robustus). This was an extremely uncooperative individual, and the only photo I managed to get was with my iPhone during a rare stationary interval of a few seconds as the skink contemplated how to navigate my shoe. (It eventually went up and over.)

I eventually found a herp that was actually motionless and in plain sight. It was at the top of a small rocky outcrop; I saw it from the bottom and carefully climbed around the back side to get photos before it could get spooked.

I believe this is another Inland Snake-eyed Skink

When I was climbing down from the rocky outcrop I caught a glimpse of another Ctenotus skink. I couldn't tell whether it was Ctenotus robustus again or some other of the many Ctenotus candidates, so I crept around the outcrop for a few minutes trying to spot it. I did not see it again, but I did spot some sort of rock dragon in the process. The rock dragon was colorful, and its colors seemed different than those of the Tawny Dragons I had been seeing, but I didn't get a good look. I figured that this was just a sign that the lizards were starting to emerge in force, and with any luck I would see this dragon again soon.

On the other side of the rocky outcrop I reached the main gorge itself, and there was even a little waterhole nearby.

Wilkawillina Gorge itself

I poked around at the edges of the waterhole and quickly discovered a population of small frogs. I assumed at the time that they were the same species I had seen at Telowie Gorge, but later discovered that the Flinders Ranges have two resident species of froglet, and this was the other one.

Northern Flinders Ranges Froglet (Crinia flindersensis)

As I was admiring the froglets, I spotted a flash of color out of the corner of my eye, and turned to spot one of the most beautiful lizards I'd ever seen doing its macho push-ups on a nearby rock. This was a plain-sight version of the dragon I had glimpsed earlier. I recognized it immediately as a Red-barred Dragon, a species I had particularly hoped to see on this trip. In fact, at David Fischer's suggestion, I had specifically added a place called Arkaroola to my itinerary in the hopes of seeing this gorgeous lizard.

Male Red-barred Dragon (Ctenophorus vadnappa)

The object of this male's affections was elsewhere on the same rock. I followed the two of them around for about fifteen minutes as they traveled from rock to rock, sometimes hunting, sometimes just showing off.

Female Red-barred Dragon, content to let the male be the pretty one

The same male in a couple of other poses. I ended up seeing a few more of these guys, but none of them were willing to put on a show for me the way this one did.

On my way back to Wilpena Pound from Wilkawillina Gorge, I stopped for a picture of a colorful parrot.

Port Lincoln Parrot (Barnardius zonarius zonarius)

Just beyond the parrot was a familiar road-lizard silhouette.

Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

This beardie ran off the road as I approached, as was typical. When I parked my car and found it hunkered down in the scrub, and it noticed me, I expected it to run off further. Instead, it chose to bluff, puffing out its body and its glorious beard and running a few steps toward me. (After a minute or two of holding its bluff pose, it then turned and ran off.)

Ooh, so scary!

For my final afternoon excursion from Wilkina Pound I chose the charmingly named Mt. Ohlssen-Bagge Trail, whose brochure description was: "Steep rocky inclines followed by rewarding views of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding area. This hike incorporates excellent reptile habitat." Of course I could not resist.

Some excellent reptile habitat

Some excellent reptiles were indeed out and about on this trail, all of them lizards:

First up was this rarest of Ctenotus skinks: one that actually held its position in the open for more than a few seconds. I believe this is another Eastern Striped Skink.

And it's about time I included a photo of another of the many Eastern Shinglebacks I saw in South Australia.

Male Tawny Dragon

Female Tawny Dragon

Eastern Blue-tongued Skink (Tiliqua scincoides scincoides)

Young Flinders Ranges Masked Rock-skink

Wary Tree Skink

Last but certainly not least, my first Sand Monitor (Varanus gouldii) of the trip, just hanging out in the middle of the trail.

Kangaroos cluttered the roads and grassy habitat at dusk. I saw over a hundred in about forty-five minutes one night.

This one is a Red Kangaroo (Macropus rufus).

Pair of Red Kangaroos

I believe this one is a Common Wallaroo, a.k.a. Euro (Macropus robustus erubescens)

I believe this one is another Common Wallaroo

Feral European Wild Rabbits were unfortunately also very common, especially around dusk. They are a very troublesome invasive species in Australia, though in terms of ecological disaster they probably aren't quite as bad as Cane Toads or domestic cats.

European Wild Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

I didn't see many herps after dark in Flinders Ranges National Park, presumably because the temperature dropped rapidly after dark. I did manage to find a couple of new-to-me geckos though. The first one was fairly nondescript by Australian standards.

Ranges Stone Gecko (Diplodactylus furcosus)

The second type of nocturnal gecko was a most excellent one, the Common Thick-tailed Gecko, a.k.a. Barking Gecko. I didn't hear them bark, but I did get to see them look amazing. They are known to be more cold-tolerant than most Australian geckos.

Juvenile Barking Gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii)

Adult Barking Gecko. The strong banding on the tails of both individuals indicates that the tails are probably the originals; regenerated tails are generally patternless.

One other nocturnal herp of note near Wilpena Pound was another King Brown Snake. It was moving on the road when I first saw it, so I pulled over and followed it on foot for awhile. It never stopped moving, but I managed to get a few shots as it prowled the roadside vegetation.

King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis). You really don't want to mess with any snake that has a face this serious.

After leaving Wilpena Pound, I traveled north from Wilpena Pound as far as Marree (on the Oodnadatta Track), with a stop at Arkaroola. I just love Australian place names.

Next: Arkaroola to Marree