Today the temperature rose dramatically but the humidity remained low, a breeze was blowing and it would have been enjoyable weather if it hadn’t been for the smoke haze from the extensive fires on the Atherton Tablelands. As an ex-resident of country Victoria I particularly dislike smoky, hot, dry days.
After spending a beautiful (and productive) morning in the garden I went looking for the Barred Cuckoo-shrikes I could hear – they were feeding out-of-sight in a large fig tree but I had a happy time observing the Double-eyed Fig-parrots that were much lower down in the same tree, along with Fig Birds and Yellow Orioles. The melodic calls of the Yellow Orioles seem to increase in frequency as the weather warms until they become a background to our summer days.
The last few months of dry, windy weather has been quite a contrast to last year’s seemingly endless ‘wet’. The windy periods usually ease off later in the afternoon – a delightful time to be enjoying the outside.
Some of our shallow ponds are mere puddles and there are lots of exposed bank which can make for some interesting sightings – many not captured on camera owing to hands being full with other equipment!
This Keelback or Freshwater Snake (Tropidonophis mairii), one of many that we have recently sighted, is of the typical colouration that we see in our area. Continue reading
…skin and although I sometimes fantasize about a total skin renewal, this post is about snakes. I’ve written about Carpet Pythons in a previous post ‘Keeping Warm’ but this particular Carpet Python (Morelia spilota), resting on some mown grass near one of our ponds, was just starting to slough its old skin. Continue reading
Although we’ve been home for more than a week it has taken a little while to settle down to writing and we have had the distraction of family visiting as well – that’s enough excuses! We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and have many treasured memories, not always accompanied by a photo! The following are a few of my favourites.
As I was showing my brother David the growth in the vegetation in our newest wetland system he pointed to some ripples coming across the water and we wondered if it might be a snake. The source of the ripples was just out of sight so we both stood quietly watching the movement coming closer Continue reading
This handsome Mertens’ Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi) frequently appeared sun-bathing on rocks or hunting in the water near our campsite on Five Mile Creek in Lakefield National Park. Continue reading
The continuing dry weather this year is allowing some much needed work around the wetlands. Allen has used the blade on the tractor to pull Para grass (Brachiaria mutica) away from the edge of the water. He then went on to form a better drain into Graham’s Pond but work is slow as he has to keep a watch out for Macleay’s Water Snakes (Enhydris polylepis)…….yesterday afternoon he unearthed ten of them. When I walked down with the camera I could only find a couple of very small eels but as I started to walk back a pair of Pacific Baza flew low over my head and landed in some nearby trees.
Even from a distance their profile is unmistakable – I imagine they had come in to see what delicacies the tractor may have been revealing as did a Whistling Kite later on. As I moved around trying to get a better angle of the Baza I heard a ‘cooee’ and there was Allen walking towards me holding a little Macleays. As the poor thing was rather stressed for an immediate portrait I returned to the house with it held lightly in one hand and it gradually started to relax. I took some photos but it was difficult to get the right angle with camera in one hand and snake in the other.
So the snake went into a clean bucket with a little water, some leaves and a rock to hide under. This morning Allen took some better photos of a much cleaner snake, in fact it was glistening in the morning sun!
This is the only species of Enhydris that occurs in Qld and is described as a subaquatic species. It has dorsally placed valvular nostrils – they are just visible in the last photo.
When finally, and I must admit somewhat reluctantly, I returned this lovely creature to the swamp I put it down on the edge of the shallow water. It immediately submerged into the muddy bottom layer and was gone from sight.
I have learnt to admire snakes since living here and have handled pythons on numerous occasions when needing to remove them from chook pens or the proximity of orphaned fruit bats in care. However, this is the first occasion on which I have enjoyed handling a snake and it has been a wonderful experience although there is no doubt that the snake’s small size combined with the knowledge that Macleay’s Water Snakes are not considered dangerous gave me confidence.
Morelia spilota (Carpet Python)
I can’t take credit for these photos or for finding the snake but I can tell a story to go with them.
This lovely Carpet Python was keeping warm in a sunny patch well hidden in long grass along the edge of our newest wetland system. Although we have a lot of natural regeneration of trees and smaller herbaceous plants around the edges of the wetlands it is necessary for us to control the weeds which take every opportunity to multiply. Allen was using a cane knife to cut down some clumps of Guinea Grass (Panicum maximum) – the species name gives you a clue about its potential size – and luckily he works carefully keeping an eye out for sheltering creatures so he saw the snake before it was in any danger.
If you look carefully in the last photo you can see the bulge – of what we are not sure – which we presume was the snake’s most recent meal. After taking the photo Allen pulled some dead vegetation over the snake in the hope that the Whistling Kite wouldn’t spot it as it made one of its regular sweeps over the property. The snake was in the same place later in the day so it doesn’t seem to have been too put out by the camera’s brief intrusion into its post prandial basking in the warmth.
So how many turtles can sit on one log? Again I can’t claim accolades for the photograph but it goes with the ‘warmth’ theme. The photo of these Saw-shelled Freshwater turtles was taken from some distance away in order to capture the group before they spotted the photographer and plopped into the water.
Saw-shelled Turtles (Elseya latisternum)
Ulysses (Papilo ulysses) on Callistemon flower
Towards the end of the ‘wet’ we often experience extended periods of drizzly rain but now we are happily enjoying some clear, starry nights and beautiful sunny days. Although cool, the evenings are quite pleasant as long as we remember to put on some extra clothes and to close all the doors to keep in some of the day’s warmth.
Butterflies have been busy feeding on flowering Callistemon – a good height for some photos unlike the Melaleucas which are also very popular with the nectar lovers but too high for me to get a good photo. Both Melaleuca and Callistemon flowers are constantly visited by birds and butterflies during the day and Spectacled Fruit Bats feast on the Melaleucas at night. Even though this photo could have been sharper I can’t resist including it because I was so pleased to have two Ulysses in the one shot! The host plant for Ulysses is Corkwood (Melicope elleryana) a fast growing Rainforest tree which we often include in our revegetation work.
Union Jack Butterfly (Delias mysis mysis)
The larvae of Union Jack butterflies (Delias mysis mysis) feed on the broad leaves of a red-flowering Mistletoe according to Common & Waterhouse. Although Mistletoe is a parasitic plant it provides a good source of nectar and so we don’t make much of an effort to discourage it especially as it often flowers when there is little else available.
Now that the days are cooler the cold-blooded creatures are being seen a little more frequently as they make the most of any patches of sunlight. I disturbed this young Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) which was lying quietly on some dead grass until I walked down the hill concentrating on the water ahead of me and not watching where I was going. When I heard a movement on the grass I saw that I had disturbed this poor fellow but managed to get a quick photo before he slid off into another pile of mulch. Although they are a venomous snake we don’t consider Red-bellied Blacks a threat to our safety. Like most snakes they would prefer to keep out of our way whenever possible. It appears that this snake has attempted to make itself look bigger by flattening out but I think it looks like it needs a good feed!
Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus)
Scattered showers and thunderstorms are frequently forecast at this time of the year and although it is often too wet to work outside sometimes the showers are scattering in other areas of the tropical north so we have enough fine weather to do a few outside jobs.
A nocturnal hunter
Our main focus at this time of the year is on planting and we are nearly at 1,000 trees for this season – this includes a special planting in December to celebrate our family gathering.
This python has been enjoying some of the many frogs that inhabit our wetlands as well as helping itself to the eggs laid by the Bush Stone-curlew.