Tuesday, 13 March 2007

#12 A Dragon in my Pond

Having the opportunity to closely observe a Water Dragon in my garden has been a rewarding experience. It is the most entertaining lizard I have encountered, and I delight in watching the antics of his everyday life.

Meet my resident Eastern Water Dragon

I presume he came from the Hunter River which is about 100 metres from my home, and I also assume he will head back there as he matures. But for now, I consider myself fortunate to have this juvenile reptile utilise my fern garden and small pond for his home.

Making good use of my garden pond

Physignathus lesueurii, Eastern Water Dragon, is a common lizard around waterways in eastern Queensland and New South Wales.

Habits and habitat

Water Dragons are often heard but not seen as they drop from overhanging branches, and land with a 'plop' in calm or slow-flowing streams pursuing insects. My garden pond is small, but has two levels, and I often hear my lizard belly-flop into the lower pond, presumably pouncing on a meal.

Striking pose, the Water Dragon snaps up ants

I've noticed two feeding poses: in the image above, the lizard lays low snapping up small black ants that trail by him, whereas in the picture below the dragon assumes a position of height and makes a dash or pounce at the target when an invertebrate is spotted within striking range. He scurries around the garden amongst the native violets and ferns seeking prey. These terrestrial and semi-arboreal lizards are omnivores.

The Dragon assumes a position of height from which to strike at or pounce upon passing invertebrates

The Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) is active from first light, unlike the Eastern Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) which basks for long periods before becoming active. Throughout the day, the Water Dragon will lay in the sun for short periods.

According to one of my reference books 'Australia's Reptiles - A photographic Reference to the Terrestrial Reptiles of Australia' by SK Wilson and DG Knowles, Eastern Water Dragons are able to remain submerged for over an hour.

Notice the pink tongue and mouth interior

These lizards appear comfortable in a variety of habitats, and along with their obvious liking for freshwater waterways, are found in rocky areas adjacent to beaches as well as mangrove environments.


Adult males are known to be territorial, controlling a harem of females, often fighting with other males during breeding season. Clutches of 6 to 18 eggs are laid in summer in a burrow or concealed location and hatch about 80 days later.

Notice the prominent dark band behind the eye, and vertebral ridge of spines

Elaborate displays of social interactions occur between both sexes and all ages. These include head bobbing and licking of substrate. They are extremely agile and swift. I have observed my juvenile Water Dragon leaping from rock to rock and from the ground to vertical brick walls.

Adult males develop bright brick-red bellies and yellow facial markings. I am presuming my resident Dragon to be a male as it has the beginnings of the red under surface.

Framed! Portrait of an Eastern Water Dragon

As its natural habitat is destroyed or degraded by urban and industrial sprawl and pollution, this adaptable lizard will seek a livelihood amongst human habitation and weed infested areas. If you are lucky enough to find one in your garden, ensure its safety by controlling pets, because after all, it is humans that are displacing them from their natural environment.

More observations and photos of my resident Water Dragon, including teeth, prey, hearing, and shedding of skin, can be viewed at my blog entry #34.


Anonymous said...

This is deffinately my favourite of all your blogs so far. All information is very informative but the photos are amazing. I especially love the framed one at the end. YOu have really caught the beauty of this very cute little creature.
Hunter Valley NSW

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi there Maria, he certainly is a cute little creature. I'm glad you enjoyed my observations, and thank you for your comments.


Bill L said...

Pretty cute for a sort of midget dinosaur.

Where can I buy one?


Seriously, a nice photo-essay on your part, hunter!

Esperance Blog said...

As the other posters have said, absolutely delightful. Your fern garden must be a little oasis.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Bill, the midget dinosaur reference made me smile - thanks.


Gaye from the Hunter said...

hello Jack, it will be interesting to see how long the garden and pond can sustain the cheeky little dragon.


Anonymous said...

Amazing photos Gaye - your photos have made this wonderful creature endearing and beautiful.

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Ms Ocean and Forest, thank you. It gives a person a satisfied feeling knowing that you have provided a little bit of habitat for creatures, safe from pesticides and domestic animals.


Anonymous said...

hello gaye the pictures were great maby you could find out abit about gisppland water dragons

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hello Anonymous,

thank you for leaving a comment.

Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to observe the Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii howittii) as I am a long way north of its range.

Here is a little information from my book "Australian Reptiles" by Stephen K Wilson and David G Knowles:

The natural range of the Gippsland Water Dragon extends from Kangaroo Valley south east into Victoria.

It differs from the Eastern Water Dragon in appearance by bearing olive-green to bluish green colouration. The major colour differences are the absence or reduction of dark streak behind eye, and the throats of mature males are blackish and blotched and streaked with a combination of yellow, orange and occasionally blue (whereas the throat of a mature male Eastern Water Dragon is pale with some of the bright brick-red of the belly extending upwards, as illustrated by the 6th picture in my blog entry #34.)

Here is a picture of a male Gippsland Water Dragon from the Victorian Museum.

I hope this helps.