← Blog

Spinifex Pigeons, Wolf Spiders, Rodents, Dasyurids, Macropods; a smorgasbord for wildlife lovers during annual biodiversity surveys

— by Chris Watson

Poorly named? Caper Whites Belenois java, emerging from their chrysalis

Jesse and Chris have been conducting the annual biodiversity surveys lately on properties along Roe Creek. There is some stunning habitat through this area, and we have had a few interesting encounters.

Stripe-faced Dunnart Sminthopsis macroura. Cute and placid, but to the untrained eye, difficult to separate from some other small mammals. One of the most reliable techniques is to inspect the arrangement of pads on the soles of the feet…see below.

Stripe-faced Dunnarts Sminthopsis macroura, have been the most common mammals trapped but we have also had Long-haired Rats Rattus villosissimus, and the odd feral House Mouse Mus musculus. Apart from the small mammals, all of the properties also have healthy populations of Euro Macropus robustus, and at least two of the four properties surveyed also have colonies of the Black-footed Rock Wallaby Petrogale lateralis lateralis.

The sole of the hind foot of the Stripe-faced Dunnart. Markings and body measurements may change from individual to individual but the arrangement of the pads on the soles of the feet is consistent across the species.

Invertebrate life was booming across all the surveys sites, no doubt helped along by the onset of the warmer weather and a few light showers. We were lucky enough to witness a mass hatching of Caper Whites Belenois java. This is one of the more common butterflies in central Australia but it was exciting to see them all lining the stems and emerging to dry their wings at the same time. We found a few different species of wolf spider (family Lycosidae) in our pit traps but these are yet to be identified to species level. Several live specimens and a few empty shells of local land snail species were found. These are most likely all from the genus Sinumelon but may belong to two different species. Either way, it is always exciting to find land snails as so many of the species in central Australia are poorly known or undescribed.

A Centralian Land Snail – Sinumelon sp. Possibly bednalli or expositum.

The most unusual catch of the week was a lone Spinifex Pigeon Geophaps plumifera, that wandered in to make itself at home in one of our Elliott traps. This my not be a first for this largely terrestrial species but it was certainly a surprise for Jesse and Chris as they inspected the traps on the last morning.

A beautiful wolf spider of the family Lycosidae.

The skies were teeming with birdlife. Highlights included Wedge-tailed Eagles, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos, Sacred Kingfishers, Spinifex Pigeons, Dusky Grasswrens, and a Collared Sparrowhawk.

Spinifex Pigeon Geophaps plumifera. A surprising find in an Elliott trap.

These pictures are just a taster, but Jesse and Chris will complete the full report for these surveys over the next few weeks as they pick through all the results.