Monday, 1 January 2018

Wet Scales

First day of the year and a grand day.

I went to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve outside Canberra to wander around the wetlands. Well, specifically to see platypus as they are such gorgeous animals. That was as good as ever, so then on for a general look around and experience the wildlife.

While scanning the water surface of the ponds, I noticed a little ripple crossing from bank to bank. It was far too small for a platypus wake. It was a little lizard, about 15 cm long, a species of skink I have yet to identify - anyone know?

The lizard swam with a serpentine motion, waving from side to side with its legs tucked into its flanks, not used to paddle.

Farther on I saw another scaly creature in the water, a Red-bellied Black Snake. A beautiful snake and a marvelously adapted predator. This one was creeping up on another small lizard which was basking on the bank. It never got near enough to strike, or perhaps it did not really want to catch the lizard. That snake carried on slowly patrolling along the edge of the water. Then I noticed two more snakes within ten metres of the first. So I moved slowly and grabbed some shots.

Red-bellies are elapid snakes so are venomous, but they not aggressive and I only watched them, not approached them. They approached me while I kept still.

The red scales on their underside are a rich, yet delicate fiery colour. Their scales are always clean and they shone in the sunshine as the snakes slipped through the grass.

The detailed pattern of how the snakes' scales fit with one another is fascinating, exquisite and no more so than around the head.

They constantly flicked their forked tongues out when hunting, scanning the air for chemical clues of where prey might be lurking.

When seen head on, a victim's last view, they always impress me with their focused attention.

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