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Dave, master of dragons


Sarah Todd

This morning we headed off about 8am to the "Grassland" survey site where the Dave from the SA Museum and us as his reptile team checked the pitfall traps, but only found invertebrates - spiders, beetles and ants. These are still valuable specimens and were shared with the South Australian Museum invertebrate group.

We then headed to the "dog fence" (which keeps feral species out of the conservation park) and drove through to the beach, stopping to explore many places along the way.

This is where our dragon hunt began...We stopped first the first, a crested dragon (Ctenophorus cristatus) of which is common in this area. Fallen branches are the perfect requirement for their habitat with a hollow to escape predators.

Our next dragon was a juvenile western bearded dragon, (Pogona minor) which was basking in the sun on a post of the dog fence. We crept up to take a photo, it posed for us to get a few snaps, then it disappeared! They have two fantastic specialties, speed and camouflage. We kept stopping and exploring more vegetation and were surprised by lots of skinks and more dragons!

My favourite was the painted dragon (Ctenophorus pitcus). We saw a female running around close to the sand dunes and coastal vegetation. It was probably foraging for food as the sun was out and being ectothermic, it was feeling quite comfortable with the warmer temperature. I began looking around and could see lots of burrows in the sandy banks and asked reptile specialist Dave who the holes belonged to. He began to share information about the behaviour of these dragons, for example how it prepares test burrows to get the perfect humidity, temperature and location ready for laying its clutch of 4-6 eggs. When it is ready to lay its eggs, the female goes in, lays the eggs, backfills the burrow and uses her head to compact the entrance shut.

On the return trip we were surprised by a confrontation between a Goulds Goanna and a Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis, a snake). It was so exciting, we weren't sure who would win! On closer inspection of the animal tracks, it was in fact the snake that had started it!

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