(Subject to be revealed)

 

I'd like to share a recent experience with you. [September, 1994]

A series of chance events delayed my midday walk today. My grand-daughter, Claire, was sick at school and needed to be fetched. I stopped en route back to buy some stirfry meat, and then felt obliged to return home to deposit the meat in the fridge on this warm day - I'm a great stirfry convert as of two weeks ago. So, instead of leaving the house for a walk at 12.15, I finally left at 1 p.m.

I crossed the threshold grille (whose raison d'être is to prevent the rain from pouring down the sloping driveway and deluging my office and probably drowning me from behind). I heard a strange bird noise from the callistemon in front of the kitchen window (bottle brush to the less bucolic). I think it was a sort of ``squeak-hiss-click'' but my memory may be incorrect. I looked up to the left hoping to glimpse some new species of bird in my bush environment and then I saw, between the roof and the top of the bottle brush, the fatter part of the body of my resident blue-tongue lizard (Billy-Linda). Just as I was thinking AWhat's (s)he doing up there, for goodness sake?@ I realised that a couple of feet further down the slim tree was a thin snaky head and neck AND that it was somehow attached to my blue tongue lizard=s body. My brain snapped into overdrive, ``It's NOT Billy-Linda,'' I thought, and stopped to make out the now unmistakable four or five feet of SNAKE.

This was my second snake sighting in a few days (the last being the rubber one I left on the top of the peach tree last summer to scare off the parrots; it didn't work on the parrots, of course, but it DID scare me the other day, briefly). This monster was real and long and had little yellow spots all over. Now that it had heard me and audibly warned me to back off, it had `frozen' (as reptiles are taught to do at reptile-kindy). It was then that I suddenly remembered the street Christmas party last December and a neighbour nonchalantly telling me that there was a `resident python in the street' (as well as assorted dangerous snakes) and that it wandered around the area, including their roof. Since this memory had diminished my apprehension, I went closer and had a good look. I then backed off out of earshot and observed the snake from the top of the drive through the native shrubbery.

After a prudent few minutes of playing ``statues'', the python (let's NOT call him/her Monty, but Peter/Petronella) began, ever so gingerly, to negotiate its way down the two metres of slender tree, pausing to survey the scene every now and then, very curious about my kitchen on the other side of the window. It took its time, probably because it knew that if it fell, there are at present no snake doctors in Narooma. When it eventually reached the patio floor, I rushed the long way round, unlocked the front door, dashed to the bedroom to grab my camera (luckily with a film in it) and ran back outside in time to get a couple of shots of the animal stretched out fully over the patio as it slid for the shelter of the shrubbery. It reared nine inches of head and neck to survey its planned siesta place (reminding me of a cobra about to strike) and then slid slowly and with dignity out of sight.

Well! What drama! What a serendipity! I shall be very careful where I put my hands to do the weeding in future. And I think we had better be especially careful about leaving doors or windows open in summer. It is also a reminder that with the coming of spring, we must take care on walks not to stumble over our newly awoken reptile cousins.

Follow-up to yesterday's scoop.

There were no books in the Narooma Library to guide me but the local office of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (to whom I reported a possibly sick seal the other day - pause to polish my halo) were very helpful, especially as the counter lady lives at the end of this street! She looked up the python in the large Aust Bk of Reptiles and gave me a photocopy of the relevant page.

Apparently, we are dealing with Australia's most common python, the Diamond Python, also the Carpet Python, in other colours : Morelia spilota spilota. It is dark with cream (I would have said yellow) spots. It shelters in rock caves and beneath boulders - like my front garden. Often encountered on rafters and in ceilings of buildings (I'm so glad I'm not a handyman, or I might have disturbed its slumbers last winter!). Now that would probably explain why I have almost NO spiders in the house, and few snails in the garden! Unknowingly, since my return from overseas, I have had a somnolent winter guest. Length: to 2.5 metres. Largely nocturnal but often found basking or foraging [no TRACE of it today!]. Arboreal, terrestrial (aren't we all!), rock-inhabiting. Feeds largely on mammals (not including humans, I hope) and birds, though lizards are occasionally taken (as a delicacy? Watch out Billy-Linda!) Clutches of 9 to 52 eggs have been reported. Ye gods, 52! How many may be lurking down there underneath the house, or up in the rafters? Some hiss loudly [was that what I heard?] and strike with mouth agape [Good heavens!] while others readily allow themselves to be handled. [Yes. OK, but although it would make a great picture and bring flocks of tourists I'm not in a great hurry to test this.]

A lot of food for thought. Meanwhile, python precautions are being taken here in Woodbury Road. I will stick it out here and see if peaceful coexistence is possible. Also, in place of Neighbourhood Watch, I am putting up a sign saying

These Premises are Patrolled by Pythons

P.S. Ten days later, while taking three grandchildren for a walk in the Mimosa Rocks National Park, we sat down on some rocks by the sea and the youngest of the children pointed out that 5 metres away, in a rocky crevice, a FAMILY of diamond pythons was basking. We munched our sandwiches, and observed them - prudently, through binoculars, for an hour.

 

Brian Steel  

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