In assessments of mine site restoration success, animals are often overlooked and assumed to return following the return of vegetation. This is commonly known as the Field of Dreams hypothesis, as in practice, recovering biodiversity to a level representative of the pre-disturbance system can be a very challenging task. Among existing studies, there is a focus towards assessing species diversity or abundance in restored habitats; however, this may be limited in its ability to show whether restoration is supporting animal populations long term, or if these areas are only in opportunistic use.
So, how can we assess behaviour of animals in restored mine sites, and how can this be used to help understand the longer term success of restoration efforts? I recently presented on my research at the 2019 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Cape Town, South Africa. You can view the talk here:
Very excited to find my first thorny devil (Moloch horridus)- these little dragons are incredible, they are they covered in spikes and exceptionally good at camouflaging into the bush, and also have a “false head” on their neck, which when they dip their head helps to hide their real head from predators! They also use capillary action to transport water to their mouths from their skin! How amazing are these guys! Found near Natures Window in Kalbarri, Mid West Western Australia.
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Head to page 38/39 to see our research featured in the Australian Research Council’s 2019 ‘Making a Difference‘ publication
Head over to Australian Geographic’s Reader photo archives to see our sites resident yellow spotted monitor!
Growing up to 2.5m in length, Perentie’s (Varanus giganteus) are Australia’s largest lizard species, and one of my absolute favourite species of varanid. They have incredibly distinctive markings on their throats, which they like to puff out (along with the occasional hiss) to let you know you’re an unwelcome visitor. These perenties were found in the Mid West region of Western Australia. One was approaching full size, and the other was a juvenile (but already over a metre long!).
An adult perentie showing a typical threat response- puffing out its throat and hissing
A juvenile perentie eyeing me off
A juvenile perentie taking refuge under the trees on a hot day
Spring is kicking in, and the reptiles have started to emerge again! One of my favourites to see around is the resident yellow spotted monitor (Varanus panoptes) that lives in a disused area of our site. This monitor is exceptionally wary, and disappears down its burrow when approached, or if it sees human movement, and can be tricky to photograph. Monitors have fascinating behaviour and movement, and capturing a shot of this one took a whole load of patience. Typically, after being spooked it wouldn’t come back out for 10-15 minutes, and then it was a patient waiting game of usually 20 minutes just with its head poked out the burrow, to anywhere up to an hour to being fully out of the burrow. Using the remote shooting setting, I set my camera opposite its burrow. These are a couple of the shots:
Gecko’s are some of my favourite reptiles to find while out herping, partly because every species seem to have their own beautiful and unique eye colouration. Here’s a couple of the incredible species we have out in the Mid West of Western Australia.
Lozenge marked dragons (Ctenophorus scutulatus) are a common species in Mid West Western Australia. This Juvenile was found making the most of the last few days of summer earlier this year. Juveniles often have very vibrant and distinctive patterning.
Grey headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
Crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans)