25 April, 2012

slitherin'

Just when you thought it was safe...
Last week, before the weather turned into its current unpleasant approximation of winter, we were enjoying some very mild late Autumn sun. As mentioned previously, I took the opportunity to go for a ride to see if I could chase down some of those elusive goshawks. Tuesday and Friday's expeditions were to some extent successful, but Thursday failed to turn up any of my feathered quarry.
I was however provided with a moment of pure adrenaline as I rounded the final bend before the Queen's Park Bridge and was confronted by a large tiger snake stretched across most of the path.
I was not riding particularly quickly, however I had no chance of stopping without landing right on top of it. Fortunately I was able to squeeze past and as it was headed to the river, the bitey end was facing away from my Lycra-clad leg. Nor was it any too pleased with my presence as it raised its head and the forepart of its body into what I gather is a "pre-strike stance". Great!
Tiger snake at Queen's Park
Needless to say, I removed myself to a reasonable distance and leaped off to take some photos, doing a few quick calculations relating to speed, distance and my ability to get my backpack on and my bike moving at a suitable speed should the need arise.
Fortunately it didn't and we both calmed down enough for me to get some reasonable shots. The snake with its head now back on the ground, hung around briefly before disappearing off into the grass towards the river. I hung around too, to inform a pair of pedestrians I'd recently overtaken, that they might want to walk to the far left of the path.
Tiger snake heading to the River at Queen's Park
They did this and then expressed what is probably a common misconception, commenting that they thought all the snakes would have gone by this time of year. On the contrary. Of the half a dozen or so occasions on which I've seen snakes around the river, three of them have been around this time of year. They enjoy the last of the warm weather as as much as the rest of us.
This was only the second time I'd seen a tiger snake, the other occasion being earlier this year at Jerringot Wetlands. That snake was smaller and a much brighter colour - what little I saw of it. It was deep brown with honey-coloured stripes. This variability is I discover, a feature of the breed. The stripes as I remember were quite distinct, more so than those of the above specimen - another peculiarity of the tiger snake. Some show barely any stripes at all and colouring can change from season to season.
Departing the scene
Tiger snakes are generally coastal creatures, living around wetlands and along creeks and rivers - well, that figures - and they are quite tolerant to cooler temperatures - also no surprise. They average about 90cm in length. I'd say Thursday's specimen was at least that, quite possibly longer.
It was certainly significantly larger than any other snake I have seen along the river (all of them brown), with the exception of the monster I saw at Breakwater and which was the topic of one of my earliest posts.
So, far from seeing snakes around the river only during summer, I can vouch for their presence anywhere from September through to May - and those are only the ones I have seen!

6 comments:

  1. Yamdaisy of Geelong West30 April, 2012 19:53

    Sunday 29th April I saw a 20-25cm long Little Whip Snake, not far from the upper car park where you overlook Buckley Falls. Below, nearer Bunyip Pool, friends saw a Copperhead late last week, and a fortnight ago I saw what I believe to be a red bellied black snake (shiny black on top, bright red underneath) .. on a small hardly used track going from the base of the wooden staircase towards Bunyip Pool.

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  2. Hmmm...was on the staircase and at Bunyip Pool then round to Baum's Weir on Thursday and Friday last week...didn't see any slippery customers this time. Am really interested to hear you describe so many different species. I don't know much about snakes and have only been able to positively identify the tigers. Thanks for your comments!

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  3. Hi Jo,

    I stumbled across your blog and see you have an excellent collection of photos and memories of critters from around Geelong and further afield. I am UK-based but have spent a lot of time in Australia. I am due back there for 3 weeks at christmas this year and will be based in Tullamarine. I just wanted to ask your advice on places to go to see reptiles and photogenic birds? I used to be a herpetologist so I am mostly interested in all things snakey (tigers, copperheads in particular) but I also love charismatic avifauna (fairy wrens, parrots, bee-eaters etc etc). If you could point me in the right direction for places to visit it would be much appreciated.

    Cheers, Kris

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  4. Hi Kris,
    Glad you like the blog! I really only know the Barwon and surrounds, but have been to a few places here and there. Wrens, parrots, lorikeets cockatoos etc can usually be seen at various points along the Barwon through Geelong. Ballyang Sanctuary in Newtown has quite a high density of birds, quite a few of them water birds, but the lorikeets are always there and often the others too. All the birds on the bird page I found along the river somewhere but not all of them all at once. You might want to have a look at Ian Smissen's "A passion for birds" blog: http://smissen.blogspot.com.au/
    as he has extensive experience in that area. As for all things snakey, they are much more hit and miss. In 3 years of taking photos I've seen precicely 6 snakes along the Geelong part of the river. Two of them were tigers, the others looked brown and otherwise non-descript so I don't know what they were. I haven't seen any in the Buckley Falls area as per the above comments, but I'm sure they are there somewhere. I've also seen a handful of bluetongues and skinks as far as lizards go, but again, it's hit and miss.
    Let me know how you get on if you do come down this way!

    Cheers,

    Jo

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  5. Hi Jo,

    I just stumbled across this by chance and thought I would fill you in with how I got on...In the 6 days I spent in and around Melbourne looking for critters I saw 12 tiger snakes, 10 bluetongues, 3 copperheads and 1 eastern brown snake. Buckley Falls produced 2 tigers, 3 copperheads and 2 bluetongues so they are there in very good numbers if you look in the right places at the right times. Many thanks for all your help.

    Kris

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    Replies
    1. Hi Kris,

      Glad you found me again! Feel free to follow or bookmark the blog! (I'm always looking for publicity :) ) I'm glad you had some success (I think!). Pretty sure I don't want to know where to look, but would love to be able to identify the snakes I do see. The tigers are easy but all the others I've seen have just been "brown" so could really have been anything.
      I did add to my tally of close encounters over summer this year whilst I was kayaking outside of Geelong as featured in this post: http://barwonblogger.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/over-it-under-it-round-it-through-it.html
      I couldn't see until I got home and checked the photos that it was watching us over the rock.
      Let me know if you come back to check out our wildlife again!

      Cheers,

      Jo

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