Earlier this year we made two short trips to the Mallee region of SW NSW, in and around Round Hill National Park.
Trip 1: June
On a relatively warm winter weekend we headed out to Round Hill, near Lake Cargelligo in central southwest NSW. Despite the winter temperatures, we found quite a pretty reasonable selection of wildlife.
The first night was pretty quiet, and we found only a few common birds, and a pretty neat little Dor Beetle (below).
The second day was filled with birdwatching around round hill itself, including the infamous “Wheat Paddock”, were we found Southern Scrub Robin (alas no photo) amidst a diversity of other western NSW regulars, including this Splendid Fairywren.
That night was a bit warmer, and we found the first few cool herps of the trip, before being absolutely drenched by storms. In all we had Litoria rubella, a couple of Gehyra, and this fantastic little Strophurus (S. intermedius, I think).
We then moved on to Yathong NR, walking up an escarpment in search of some good rocky habitat. We failed to find the larger herps we were optimistically hoping for, but found plenty of small lizards of various forms, including more Gehyra, several Heteronotia, a family of Egernia, and a few smaller skinks, and a few interesting inverts, including a pretty cute little jumping spider in a forest of lichen.
We continued on to Nombinnie NR, finding perhaps the coolest bird of the trip, a Shy Heathwren (again no decent photo, bloody crepuscular scrub dwelling birds), and returned to Lake Cargelligo. We spent the last morning of the trip at the Lake Cargelligo sewerage farm, finding all the typical species, including a few rather photogenic Pied Stilts.
All in all not a bad haul for a short weekend trip in the depths of winter!
Trip 2: October
A few months later, we revisited the area. After an incredibly wet autumn and winter, life abounded. We lucked out completely weather-wise too, and ended up being there on several very warm nights.
Straight out of the gate there were plenty of herps around. As we arrived at Round Hill, we came across this little eastern beaked gecko (Rhynchoedura ormsbyii).
Only a few minutes later we came across this Underwoodisaurus millii lumbering across the track.
After a few more hours of lumbering around Round Hill itself, we found this lovely little Heteronotia. They’re super common, but I still love them.
Next morning we awoke to a cacophony of Yellow-throated Miners, the better looking version of our Noisy Miner, and so I took a few photos while waiting for the caffeine to kick in.
We then headed to the Wheat Paddock for some birding, stopping along the way at “Chat Alley”, which was replete with wildflowers (and waaay too much Patterson’s Curse).
The wheat paddock was surprisingly unproductive, so we moved on to other bits of the Round Hill park. Along one track we came across this incredibly cute Little Buttonquail, sitting very still and pretending not to exist.
The following night was absolutely fantastic, probably the best night’s herping I’ve ever had. After a very hot afternoon, some light cloud rolled in, keeping the temperature around 30 until after midnight. In about three hours we managed to cruise only a couple of Ks back towards Lake Cargelligo, the herp life was that dense. We started the night at a dam/frog pond near round hill, finding quite a few Giant Banjo Frogs, along with many of these Desert Tree Frogs.
Walking back to the car, we found this fantastic little Strophurus intermedius (Spiny-tailed Gecko), the first of over 20 we saw that night, most of which were crossing the road.
Continuing the theme of “Geckos Galore”, as we were eating dinner near the car we saw this little Diplodactylus wandering around at the side of the track.
We finally got onto the road, but didn’t get very far – I think we had 5 Strophurus and a Heteronotia in the first 200m! And not long after that, we stopped to check out what the weird eyeshine in the middle of the road was. A wolf spider on tippie-toes as it turns out!
A little further along we stopped to let a snake get off the road, and then realised it was a Blind Snake (Anilios bituberculatus). Whoop, lifer! Such cool little creatures.
Walking back to the car after taking photos of the blind snake, we nearly trod on this Gehyra, posing majestically on a little rock.
And last but not least, near the end of the night, we stopped for another “snake”, only for this one to turn into a Burton’s (Lialis burtonis). Technically a gecko!
Add to that a few more Heteronotia, several more Gehyra, far too many Strophurus, a few small elapids, a couple of Spotted Nightjar, and plenty of frogs. All in all that was one hell of a night of herping, and a fantastic weekend trip.