The warmer months are a busy time for the lizards of the Loddon region as they need to mate and eat a lot to build up their body weight after their long winter of inactivity and little food. At the December meeting of Wedderburn Conservation Management Network we shared stories of recent local sightings of reptiles. Three people had seen tree goannas, or lace monitors (Varanus varius). Like other reptiles, goannas are attracted to the warmth of a bitumen road surface or gravel roadsides, and Kate has had two encounters with pairs of goannas on roadsides near Mt Korong, and tried to photograph them at close range before they scuttled up the nearest large gum, as did the one pictured. The largest Victorian lizards, tree goannas are carnivorous, eating small mammals, birds and reptiles. Annette saw three tree goannas together at her house, perhaps two males fighting over a female.
Tree goannas live in tree hollows, but often lay their eggs (between 4 and 14) in active termite mounds, which are just the right temperature and humidity. They are very timid, but a Mt Korong local says that a goanna once mistook him for a tree and climbed up to his head, holding tightly with very strong sharp claws!
Sheilah had a recent visit to her yard of the pair of shingle-backs pictured (Tiliqua rugosa), which drank water she offered them and ate banana. The dry weather has not left much in the way of moist green feed for them, although they will eat a wide variety of animal and plant matter. Unlike egg-laying goannas, female shingle-backs give birth to two or three live babies each year, which are completely independent from birth. If you were to move shingleback to another location, they would miss their mate whom they stay with for years. Their blue tongues help to frighten predators away, and their fat tails make it hard for a kookaburra or falcon to tell from a distance which end of them is which. Sheilah suggests that readers leave water out for lizards when it’s dry, (but only if you don’t have a dog or cat!).
You can download a great free field guide to lizards of the Mallee region at: http://www.malleecma.vic.gov.au/resources/miscellaneous/mallee-lizard-field-guide