Saturday, 7 April 2018

Campsite Reptiles

Last week I was out at Bowra Sanctuary, west of Cunnamulla, Queensland. This is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and I was one of a volunteer team mist-netting birds as part of a long-term project studying the birds in the reserve. More on the birds in a later post. For now here are a few photographs of the gorgeous reptiles we found in the campsite. This first one is an Inland Velvet Gecko Oedura cincta, about 12 cm long and with big black eyes.

This gecko was found by Shoshano Rapley, who was handy to have in the team as she is a specialist in reptiles. She found this one when spotting with a torch around the campsite.

I was sitting watching the various insects scurrying about on the ground one night when I noticed a sigmoid line tracing below the dirt. It was moving, then I saw a glimpse of scales and I thought it might be a snake or a legless lizard, so I called over our expert. And sure enough when I touched the dirt with a stick a blind snake popped out and wriggled across the leaf litter. It was a Prong-snouted Blind Snake Anilior bituberculatus.

These reptiles are very difficult to identify, this one was recognisable by the pattern of the scales on its face. It was incredibly wriggly, so difficult to photograph with flash, but the fineness of its scales can be seen here. It looked and almost felt like a giant earthworm, and it emitted a defensive odour which scented my hands for a while afterwards.

Blind snakes are incredibly difficult to find due to their underground lifestyle. This one was about 30 cm long. They feed on termites and ants, their eggs and pupae.

Our other special visitor, or rather we were their visitors, was a 2 m long Inland Carpet Python Morelia spilota metcalfei. This was spotted crossing the ground between the tents, so we picked it up and placed it a tree, where it soon worked itself into ambush posture and lay there quietly for hours. Well past my bedtime at least. I like the violet forked tongue.

Peter Davidson takes a photograph of the python on the branch.

These snakes are difficult to spot in daytime, and once this one was settled into the branches in the dark, it was very difficult to see at all.

One thing the flash did was highlight the pattern of the snake's scales. I was using a remote flash in coordination with the camera flash. This not only brought out the colour and pattern but added shadows to the layering of the scales. All so soft and warm to touch. The snake was not aggressive at all.

I particularly liked the way the snake twisted back on itself and kinked its neck, all set for ambushing any small rodent that happened to wander too near in the dark.

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