Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tiger Snake near Robertson

This story inevitably involves photos of road-killed animals. However, sometimes this is necessary for educational purposes. And so it is today.

Firstly, let me comment that this year, there is a lot of moisture about in the surrounding countryside, after a relatively wet spring. The amount of growth of plants is pretty remarkable. That also means that especially on flat plateau country, there is a great likelihood of ponds and small "runnels" holding water. That means frogs; and frogs mean snakes - especially in warm weather such as we have had in the last few days.

I have heard various stories of "Brown Snakes" in Robertson since my arrival here. I have never seen such a snake here. I did once see a small, pale (almost sandy-coloured) snake in the Banksia scrub at Carrington Falls, but whatever species it was, it was certainly not a "Brown Snake" (Pseudonaja textilis).

Yesterday, I saw the first "Tiger Snake" (Notechis scutatus) which I have seen in Robertson. It was dead on the road, at Lees Road, off Jamberoo Road. This location is above the top of the Illawarra Escarpment. But it is not as high as Robertson, which sits on a basalt ridge above the sandstone plateau. This snake was in a farming area, open grazing pasture land. There are numerous dams on the farms along this section of road. Snake heaven. I would never stop a Tiger Snake and ask it to pose for a photo. So that necessitates me photographing a dead specimen - when I find one (which is unusual).

This Tiger Snake was a little over a metre long.
Quite substantial, with a noticeably dark head.
In order to complete the set of common local snakes, I am going to show the most common snake of the sandstone plateau below Robertson. This Red-bellied Black Snake was freshly killed when I found it, adjacent to Butler's Swamp on Tourist Road, Kangaloon.

This snake was more than a metre long, and relatively slender.
I have seen much heavier Red-bellies than this one.
The largest Red-belly I have seen was outside the Tourist Road Oval.
It was as thick as my arm. Huge.Its head and throat were in good condition, so I took the opportunity to record the details of the scales and the colour underneath.

Red-bellied Black Snakes are always shiny.
There is just a glint of red visible
as the snake is lying on the ground.
But the shiny black scales are a give-away.
The large scale in the centre of the head is probably diagnostic.
But the rest of the snake is sufficiently diagnostic of itself.
The famous red-belly is seldom visible,
except on a dead specimen.
But this shot shows how beautifully the scales are laid out.
In Robertson itself, this is the most common snake:
the Highlands Copperhead.
This one was very much alive.
I used a long lens to catch this image.
It was more than a metre long.
This species is very variable in the Highlands.
Most that I have seen are a dull slaty grey.
But the face is diagnostic.
The light scales above its lips often give a striped appearance.
Check this previous post of mine about Copperhead Snakes.

As far as the local Copperheads are concerned, the name appears to be a bit of a misnomer. But across its range, this species is very variable.


Flabmeister said...

Assuming that two fine, fit chaps such as us have similar dimensions to our arms your biggest Red-bellied Black snake pretty much matches mine. As explained towards the end of this post from 2 years ago I estimated its length at about 2m. Quite big enough thank you.


Denis Wilson said...

Thank you Martin for confirming, rather than ridiculing my snake size guesstimate.
I recommend everybody follow Martin's link, to see the fattest, longest Red-belly anyone would ever wish to see.
And the moral of the story is that Fox Terriers are not always faster than snakes. But strangely, the story ended well - with everyone keeping to their separate quarters, eventually.
Oh, I guess the Vet won. Martin did not say how much the antivenine cost, but obviously he does not grudge it.

Greg C said...

Yeah they are out there. Had a close encounter with a red-belly black snake, on one of my walks. I just about walked on the bugger !! :O

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Greg
Yeah, its the weather for them, that's for sure. keep an eye on your dog, too.