A touch of light: surviving summer, seeking shade



Photo © Mike Gillam

The geckos are active all night snapping at moths on the flyscreens, dodging owls and high-jumping feral cats until dawn. Diurnal lizards take advantage of high overnight temperatures, emerging early to join the insectivorous birds hunting grasshoppers and cicadas.

I encountered this sand goanna on a summer’s day a few years back resting in a stripe of Acacia shade and panting to lose heat. After fifteen minutes or so the goanna shuffled off, moving from shade to shade, very likely en route to a deep, dark, cool burrow for a siesta. They seek shade frequently throughout the day and return to the safety of burrows, hollows or crevices at night.

Sand goannas obtain much of their live food by digging up invertebrates such as scorpions, crickets and spiders that burrow to escape summer heat – burrows rarely deep enough to defeat this goanna with powerful forelimbs and claws.

Alewatyerre is a prized food for Aboriginal people who use their expert knowledge of the goannas’ burrows to dig them up with great efficiency and speed.

It was the middle of the day and the mercury that week ranged between 39 and 43 degrees C. There was no humidity and little hope of rain back then. As I write this post, the late afternoon build-up of clouds from the north release their rolling thunder. The squall comes quickly, the ricochet of wind-driven Eucalypt seeds ping across the iron roof. Then the cooling curtains of rain. Tragically too late for the young traveller found dead near Boggy Hole last weekend – a timely reminder of summer’s dangers.


Recently in this series:

A touch of light: the magic of feathers and pigments in the sun

A touch of light: saluting the rain




  1. Ahhh Mike,
    Yes, an unnecessary tragedy.
    Ill equipped.
    Inappropriate vehicle.
    Difficult track.
    Suicidal temperatures.
    No communication equipment.
    People seemed to know what his plans were.
    Perhaps they tried to tell him.
    Why didn’t someone legrope him to the nearest lamppost?


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