During the past two weeks I have been in northern Queensland, on a trip to the Iron Range national park where I was part of a group banding birds. On the way north I flew into Cairns and went bird-watching in the local botanic gardens and adjacent cemetry - a well known haunt of Bush Stone-curlews Burhinus magnirostris.
These birds forage and breed quite happily on the short turf and bare patches of earth between the gravestones. Once a familiar bird in southern Australia, the stone-curlews are now rare wherever there are red foxes. These are European predators which were deliberately introduced by man over a hundred years ago. The foxes have not yet colonised the far north-east and the stone-curlews find sanctuary in this cemetery.
A pair of stone-curlews lead their chick through the tombstones.
A group of six stone-curlews pass the middle of the day under the shade of a tree. They are nocturnal birds and their calls at night have an eerie beauty.
This handsome male bearded dragon was out displaying today. He has a sulphur-yellow colour to his head, legs and upper tail, and a dark grey throat which he extends while bobbing his head. Another one I watched last week was doing this on the top of a high broken branch. Very spectacular.
They have sharp spiked scales on their head, legs and along their flanks.
The spikes around their face are particularly long and sharp, all for defence and not only from predators, but from other male dragons.
In a previous blog page I showed a fierce fight between two male dragons. Here we can see the value of the spiked scales, even on the eyelids. Many of the scale tips are broken, he has some missing from his upper lip and chin, and there is a hole in his throat. All this was probably inflicted by an opponent in a fight with another male. Their teeth are obviously sharp and strong.