One of my favourite places for a wander along a waterway is the Lane Cove National Park. On a number of visits, I’ve been surprised and rather entertained by eastern water dragons. These are found along the eastern coast of Australia, from Queensland through to Victoria, and are usually spotted along waterways or wetlands.
At home on land or in water, eastern water dragons can sometimes be seen enjoying the sunshine on logs or boulders. If they sense danger, or spot prey, they will dive into the water. They can remain underwater for over half an hour, and when very young, small lizards can literally run on the water surface before sinking due to their speed. The photo above shows a dragon with an Australian brush turkey. You can read more about turkeys here.
Adult male lizards can grow up to a metre in length, with females about two-thirds the size. Males have a prominent crest along the nape of the neck and their backbone, and can have a reddish colour to their chests. Their long tail, as seen above, helps with their swimming.
Though striking to look at close up, the eastern water dragon camouflages well into bush settings. In some ways, it’s like ‘where’s Wally’ to find them, and once you identify them, they are all over the place!
Dragons are omnivores and have sharp teeth and claws. Males defend their territory, using head bobs and arm waving to deter intruding males. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a swipe of one of those claws.
If you sit still, you can observe eastern water dragons going about their day. I was fascinated to watch them creep closer to where I was sitting at a picnic table: they moved in stealthy increments and if I moved or made any noise they would freeze, striking a pose until it was safe to move again.
There is a short clip available here showing a pair of dragons at home in a backyard pond in Sydney, and there is a good summary of the Eastern Water Dragons available here.
Have you encountered an Eastern Water Dragon?
Photo: Eastern Water Dragon (Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii).