….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.
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.
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.
Click to enlarge