Saturday, 12 September 2015

Warming up

A Gippsland Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii howitii sun-basks on a rock
The days are lengthening and warming up now in Canberra and the reptiles are beginning to show themselves. There are various species of skinks basking on the rocks in our garden, they are little animals of only several centimetres in length, but while at the Botanic Gardens yesterday, I photographed this metre-long water dragon. By its colouring this one looks like a youngster turning into adulthood - its back is more green than dark brown or grey, and there is some yellow coming through on its throat. Full adults have a pale but true green skin and a fully orange/yellow throat.

The throat was blotchy yellow
I only saw the one dragon and it was very approachable. A sign that it was still early Spring and the group that usually frequent the pool where this one was basking next to had yet to get going for the season.

The dragon was lying flat and tight against the rock it was lying on, making maximum use of the warmth of the rock by contact as well as catching as much direct sunshine/heat as possible. The hind legs are turned out wide and it was orientated along the line of the sun, with its shadow falling off under its chin. A well-adapted piece of animal behaviour.
These dragons are found in and near water around the Canberra area, and throughout south-eastern New South Wales and Victoria. There is a colony of them living in the Gardens, around the ornamental pools. They are much more approachable than those in wild settings, where on approach, they will run and dive straight into the water and remain submerged until any threat of danger has passed. Some of their dives can be rather dramatic as they will also climb trees and will dive into the water from the branches if disturbed.

A true dragon - with a magnificent line of nuchal spines running down the back of its neck.
So I took my chance and grabbed some nice close up shots of the dragon features: the scaly lips, the nuchal spines (elongated and enlarged scales on the neck) and that magnificent dragon's eye.

A dragon's eye

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