….is an old light-hearted colloquial name for the Gippsland Water Dragon, Intellagama (formerly Physignathus) lesueurii ssp. howittii, and a recent encounter at Bellbird Corner was the springboard for this post. It is reasonably common on some local waterways, although often shy and seen disappearing into the water at high speed. The species can become used to people, and while eating his lunch on the farm by the Avon River, my late uncle used to kill march flies and feed them to one that became quite confiding. Until now I’ve only come across the high speed variety, but while working at Bellbird recently I saw a large individual basking on the footbridge over the Newry Creek. Luckily I had a camera, and to my surprise was able to quietly approach to within a couple of metres before it eventually climbed up the bank and moved off.

water dragon


water dragon

Adult females grow to about 60 cm. and males to about 95 cm, this very large character photographed on the Avon River would have approached the latter size.

water dragon

Although named water dragon, it is an arboreal as well as aquatic species, climbing trees to sleep or escape floods, and also to gather food, large insects, spiders, grubs, fruits, etc. Along the river it will feed on yabbies, frogs, fish, and other lizards, it enjoys a very varied diet. The female digs a burrow in a bank, lays up to twenty eggs, then carefully closes and camouflages the entrance.

water dragon

The preceding picture was also taken on the Avon, which, with its tributary the Valencia Creek has good populations of the water dragon. A long time ago while fishing the Valencia I caught a big Longfin Eel measuring over 1.5 metres in length. When I cleaned it I found two partly digested 20 cm. trout and 32 cm. of the tail of a dragon unwise enough to sit with its derrière in the water.
They also live happily along the shores of Lake Glenmaggie where this final picture of an adaptable and rather wonderful dragon species was taken.

water dragon

Click to enlarge

Mothing Fairy Dell.

Fairy Dell is a gully of warm temperate rain forest covering forty eight hectares. It has many interesting and rare plants including the Prickly Treefern, Cyathea leichardtiana, and the Yellow Milk Vine, Marsdenia flavescens, one of the larval food plants of the sought after Noctuid, Fodina ostorius, that I vainly hoped might grace us with its presence.

fairy dell

I was joined there for a night of mothing by the Bairnsdale Field Naturalists and four French lads who are out here volunteering with the Gippsland Plains Conservation Management Network. It is worthwhile to try areas of differing habitat in an effort to get new moths, and Fairy Dell is the closest location of its type. The rig was set up in the picnic area facing the rain forest, and did we get new moths? yes, we did, and a few were significant. The night was perfect, warm, humid, and calm with no mosquitoes, and as night fell with the light shining, moths were soon arriving, the first being Elhamma australasiae, Hepialidae. This moth can come to the light in quite large numbers, and it was so on this night with dozens, males and females clinging to the sheet as time went on. Everyone, including the French lads, showed a lot of interest and many photos were taken with cameras, and in the now popular way, smart phones.

field nats

The Hepialids weren’t the only moths to come in by a long way, many different families, sub-families, and genera were represented in a diverse range of moths attracted over two and a half hours, of which three of the most interesting follow. Photographs of these were of interest to the authors of the Moths of Victoria volumes. The first is an uncommon small female Geometrid, Ennominae sub-family, (Tephrosia) desumpta.

Tephrosia desumpta

Secondly, another uncommon Geometrid, Ennominae, Casbia tanaoctena, a male, note the striking antennae.

casbia tanaoctena

Moths in the Arctiidae sub-family Lithosiinae were well represented with the star being this Scaphidriotis species with only a handful of Victorian records. A feature of this moth is the thickening of the antennae bases, visible in the image.

scaphidriotis

These three moths made the night well worth while, but there were lots more of interest. The genus Amata had largely eluded me up to now with just a single record, but several came to the light showing their spectacular markings.

amata sp.

In my experience male Anthelids are by far the most common at the light, so it was good to get a very nice female Anthela acuta.

anthela acuta

Three species of timber moth came in, two I knew, but this Leistarcha scitissimella was a first. Note the large up-turned sickle shaped palps, a feature of many moths in the Xylorictidae family.

leistarcha scitissimella

This beautiful little moth is a Cossid, a family noted for very large species, it is Idioses littleri.

cossid

Gallaba eugraphes is an attractive Notodontid and a favourite for some unknown reason…

gallaba

At one stage I thought we had a Twisted Moth, Parepsiparis species, but it was a false alarm, then when everyone else had departed, two came in. These moths usually keep their hind wings hidden, but this female P virgatus was an exception to the rule. Geometridae, Oenochrominae.

parepsiparis virgatus

As usual my thanks to PM and MH for identifications and information. Click images to enlarge.

Older Posts »