resident reptiles

Summer is snake season here in Tasmania and although there have been some years I haven’t seen any, I know they are always there. This season, we have seen a lot, probably making the most of the warmth after a prolonged winter. Recently, I saw the familiar black tail disappearing under the Golden Diosma as I approached. Curious to know the whereabouts of the refuge, I (very warily) followed the curve of the bush and saw the same tail retreat down a hole in front of the rainwater tank. We knew of the existence of the hole, a home to previous residents, but we had filled it in. I returned half an hour later to find, to my surprise, a very cosy couple sunning themselves.

1.sunny snakes2.sunny snakes

The larger of the two, presumably the male, withdrew to safety when he sensed my presence. The second one was obviously far too comfortable.

3.looking dull

I tried to find information regarding breeding pairs of Tiger snakes but have had no luck. There is no mention of snakes staying together once mating has taken place. I wanted to learn more and was concerned about the dull appearance of the smaller snake. Emails and phone calls to Parks & Wildlife weren’t particularly helpful, they suggested I contact Reptile Rescue Inc. for information. Finally getting through on the third call to them, I was promised a return call to enlighten me re breeding pairs. The call never came. I eventually received an email from Parks & Wildlife that explained a snake can look dull just before shedding its skin. Two days later, Michael presented me with this.

4.snake skin

Found in the garden under one of our tree ferns, we don’t know what happened to the back half. I wish I had been witness to the transformation. Even the eye holes are perfectly formed.

5.snake eyes

We saw her again a couple of days later as she joined her mate by the pond.

6.new coat

She looked stunning.

7.renewed

Two days of heavy rain followed and we haven’t seen them since. Apparently, it is usual for snakes to move on once they have shed their skin, I wonder if they are still together?

snooping snake

After a long cold winter, our resident reptiles have been enjoying the summer sunshine. Once the weather warms up, we become more vigilant around the garden and when walking Poppy in the forest. We recently had a visitor waiting at the door when I returned from work. She moved off as I approached and I encouraged her direction of retreat to the other side of the house. We met again about an hour later on my way back from the veggie patch, she promptly sought sanctuary under the box hedge by the front door. Poppy and I went inside but I kept an eye out at to see where our guest would go next. Expecting to see her at ground level as she emerged from the hedge, I was surprised to see something atop a bush four metres away.

1.snake atop bush

Once my heart restarted, I snapped a couple of pics with my phone. Usually, the small birds alert us to the presence of a snake, staying well out of the way and making lots of noise. The blue wren next to the bush didn’t seem to be aware at all.

2.waiting for the birds

I raced inside to grab the camera and when I returned, the snake was no longer on the bush. Scanning the garden, a blasphemous expletive escaped my lips as I saw her on the box hedge right outside the window.

3.on box hedge

I don’t know if she was admiring our new renovations but she obviously wanted a closer look because she crossed open space, mid-air, to a pot plant nearer the window.

4.on box hedge5.crossing to pot plant6.crossing to pot plant

At this point, the camera peeked outside – I didn’t.

7.in pot plant

She then dropped to the ground and headed toward the pond, possibly in search of a tasty frog or two.

8.still searching

I don’t think she found any, she came back to the window.

9.coming back10.coming back

She may have seen her reflection as a mate or rival,

11.up close

or maybe she could see me and the glint off the camera.

12.can she see me?

I’m referring to her as a female because she wasn’t as big as some and her head isn’t that distinctive diamond shape of the males with the wide jaw.

13.can she see her reflection?

I could be wrong. It’s easy to see from the markings why they are called tiger snakes.

14.fabulous markings

Is that a smile?

15.is that a smile?

She finally got bored and moved off, hopefully to find what she was looking for.

If you would like to watch the video of this encounter, here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9PSWwWqijw&feature=youtu.be

By the way, in our experience, this is not the usual behaviour of tiger snakes. They are timid creatures and will retreat very quickly in human presence. Yes, they are deadly but only if they bite. People get bitten when they are trying to kill, catch or corner them. We prefer to live and let live and anyway,  they are protected in Tasmania.

Taronga Zoo

On a warm December day in Sydney, we caught the ferry from Circular Quay to spend the day at Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, the zoo was based on the bar-less exhibits seen at Hamburg Zoo on a visit to Germany by the Secretary of the zoo in 1908. The 69 acre site is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species and is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely day. The first animal we encountered was the gorgeous red panda. The deep rust-red colour contrasts beautifully with cream facial markings, the large claws a bonus when it comes to tree climbing.

These two were enjoying a nap in the humid heat, dreaming of their ancestors in south-east Asia. Binturongs have been described as a bear-cat and as tree dwellers with long bushy tails, it’s hard to believe they are distantly related to meerkats. Apparently, they have a strong odour of a cross between burnt popcorn and corn chips. We didn’t get close enough to find out.

The Java Finch seemed to be enjoying the steamy atmosphere in the waterbird exhibit.

Usually a white bird, the Cattle Egret is seen on the backs of cattle making a meal of ticks and flies. The orange brown breeding plumage becomes bright red at the height of the season. Interestingly, a group of egrets is known as a “skewer”.

9.cattle egret

The smallest known ibis in Australia, the Glossy Ibis was showing the magnificent colours of breeding plumage.

10.glossy ibis

The Asian elephant breeding program has been very successful at Taronga. The keepers led them out for their daily exercise, giving them wooden “toys” to play with.

11.Asian elephants

15.Asian elephants

The Sumatran Tiger and Snow Leopard were on alert

16.Sumatran Tiger17.Snow Leopard

but there were others who had given in to the somnolent, steamy atmosphere.

18.lioness19.bear20.tapir

I have always had a soft spot for hippos and the baby pygmy hippo stole my heart.

The meerkats were entertaining, as usual, I could watch them for hours. The dark patches around their eyes act as sunglasses to lessen the glare of the desert.

Mum and baby gorilla were enjoying a nap, dad doesn’t look too impressed at being left out.

We passed the colourful cassowary and opulent ostrich

on the way to the giraffes. The meal didn’t look very appetizing but he was tall enough to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge.

The world’s largest lizard at 3 metres long, the Komoda Dragon was magnificent.

38.Komodo Dragon

Unfortunately, Tuka, as he was named, died two years ago at the age of 33.

There were many fascinating lizards and snakes, I won’t even attempt to identify them.

The Indian Star tortoise was heading for lunch

50.Indian star tortoise

while the eastern snake-necked turtle cooled off in the pool.

51.Eastern snake-necked turtle

The handsome countenance of the Rhinoceros Iguana reveals the sheer pleasure of basking in the sunshine.

There was a fabulous view from the Sky Safari cable car. The lush verdancy  below

contrasted perfectly with the harbour and city beyond.

58.gondola view

Watching the chimpanzees brought us back to earth. It’s not hard to believe they are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.

Nearing the end of our visit, we stopped by the farmyard where children can get close to the animals. The piglets were adorable

and the acrobatic goat had us wondering how she would get down from there.

68.goat

We enjoyed every minute of our day at Taronga, and with a final hint from the crocodile on how to stay cool,

69.crocodile

we returned to our apartment to do just that.

70.cooling off

Desert Park

The last day of our Northern Territory holiday had arrived and we made the most of it at Alice Springs Desert Park. The ridge of Alhekulyele (Mt. Gillen) is a stunning backdrop to the 3,000 acre park.

We arrived in time for the Nature Theatre show to be entertained with demonstrations of free-flying birds of prey.

4-wedge-tailed-eagle

8-whistling-kite

10-barn-owl

The bush stone-curlew stole my heart again.

The park has three re-created desert habitats to explore: Sand Country, Woodland and Desert Rivers. The Woodland habitat includes enclosures for dingoes

and kangaroos.

It was a bit early for the wildflowers but they were lending some bursts of colour.

The Desert Rivers habitat was full of life, from the magnificent perenties enjoying the sun,

39-perentie40-perentie

to the black cockatoos posing majestically in the trees.

41-black-cockatoo

The waterholes were popular

while some preferred dry land.

We had the opportunity to learn more about the wedge-tailed eagle

50-wedge-tailed-eagle

and he very kindly posed for a photo.

51-wedge-tailed-eagle

The reptile house was home to some cute lizards

and snakes.

58-snake

The tawny frogmouth looked very regal.

59-tawny-frogmouth

Our day at the Desert Park was amazing

60-path

and we left with some very special memories.

languorous lizards

A couple of years ago we adopted a pair of blotched bluetongue lizards. They had belonged to a friend who could no longer keep them and they had lived for the past four years in a glass vivarium. Their names were Fraggles and Spindleshanks and they were best friends.

1.Fraggles & Spindleshanks

We couldn’t bear to see them so confined so Michael constructed a lizard paradise. With plenty of leaf litter, rocks, plants and a hollow log for wintering in.

2.Fraggles & Spindleshanks

They would often lie together in the sunny spots.

3.Fraggles & Spindleshanks

Sadly, Fraggles passed away a few months later but Spindleshanks soldiered on without her companion.

4.Spindleshanks

I say ‘her’ because we had been told they were both female.

5.Spindleshanks

Not long after Fraggles’ passing, another blotched bluetongue appeared on our back verandah, looking very sorry for itself and covered in ticks. Michael removed the ticks and it seemed to be used to being handled. We kept it safe in the enclosure with Spindleshanks until it recovered.

6.Leonard

They bonded straight away. He was very inquisitive and certainly not afraid of the human presence.

7.Leonard

The longer, sunny days aided his recovery and all was happy in lizard land.

We didn’t realize quite how happy until five months later.

13.baby

Blotched bluetongues can have up to fifteen young.

14.baby

We were somewhat relieved to find just two.

We couldn’t bear to release them to become a meal for a kookaburra or tiger snake, they now reside at Wing’s Wildlife Park. http://wingswildlifepark.com.au