Sometimes when I look at an extremely hot, arid environment I often wonder how anything can survive the heat, including me! I’m talking 46 degrees in the shade and 49+ out in the sun; not something this redhead adapts to easily, but for some reason I'm drawn to this environment.
Birds flock to the elevated water trough throughout the day, but that’s about it for wildlife and I don’t blame the reptiles and mammals for having a different plan.
Most people love the beach or the mountains when it’s hot, but my bliss is found wandering the desert dunes after dark. It's then that the night-shift critters take over the land; when the always remarkable sun sets over Bon Bon Station and the warm night air is calling.
I volunteered at Bon Bon over Christmas and after my jobs were done around the homestead, my husband and I would take off with our head torch, camera, water and GPS and we wandered along the sandy tracks, in search of one of my favourite reptiles – geckos. We always stayed within eye shot of our vehicle or the homestead and just walked, without a plan, just to see what we could find.
There are over 150 gecko species in Australia and many of them are found in arid or semi-arid areas. They range in size from 6cm to 27cm and their patterns can vary depending on the location they're found, so sometimes identification can be a little hard.
There are at least 14 species of gecko at Bon Bon Station and our wanderings saw us cover just a few metres of this magnificent 216,500 hectare property – we can’t even imagine what we didn’t see.
Although we were out to look for geckos we saw something darting across the sand. With a quick eye and silent approach, we were lucky enough to view a Kultarr – a small mouse-like marsupial that feasts on insects and other tiny invertebrates. These bushy tailed darters are rarely seen in the wild, due to their size and shy behaviour, so this was an extremely exciting sighting for us.
We saw four species of gecko and many other reptiles over four nights of wandering at Bon Bon Station and we managed to take a few photos. We don’t handle the animals, so if we can’t photograph them, we don’t bother them. We missed the Kultarr, as we were in sheer awe and forgot about our camera!
I think that seeing so many reptiles (and a kultarr) happily wandering at night is an excellent indication of the health of the landscape. There was lots of food (spiders, centipedes and insects), ample shelter and a distinct lack of introduced predator tracks and traces – the perfect combination for a thriving ecosystem.