THE BIRD PUZZLE
On Tuesday, I felt flat because of an AGM that had gone on until late Monday night, and spent some time just chilling and reading a book. It's an excellent book - The Cuckoo's Calling
, a detective novel by JK Rowling under pseudonym - it's written with delicious use of language and sharp social observation, and the detective and his clever secretary are completely endearing, plus the puzzle too is excellent, so I'm trying to write this post and get back to it to find out whodunnit...
Anyway, I was engrossed in this thing when suddenly I became conscious that the birds in our garden were making a loud and riotous cacophony, and that these were dozens and dozens of tiny little birds - mostly silvereyes (the size of a mouse) and a few willy wagtails - sitting in the one bush, about four metres from me, with their chatter growing increasingly frantic. So, I opened the French door and stood on the paving, watching intently. The first thing that struck me is that none of the birds were flying away on my account - they were tightly bunched in the bush, twittering incessantly, even as I moved closer. I was standing really still trying to see what sorts of birds they were, as they were much hidden by foliage and it was difficult to see an entire one - when I saw a long, narrow movement going through the bush. Next thing, a little reptilian face turned, with golden colouring under its neck and a little tongue flicking in and out. A tiger snake, actually climbing around in the bush! And the little birds, ganging up, collecting around it in tight chattering groups, just out of striking range. Wow! This isn't something I've seen before!
We live with a few hundred acres of bushland at the back of us, including a swampy valley floor teeming with frogs. Dugites and tiger snakes are very common on our block - we must have hundreds around, but they are mostly shy - you don't see them out in the open that often, even though they are there. Both types are highly venomous, and grow around 2m or more in length. The main problem is dogs, if they search for and attack them, but our kelpie really has snake sense, probably from her dingo ancestors in the hereditary mix of the breed. Snakes are put off by vibrations in the ground, and try therefore to keep away from large animals, and from humans if they can hear them. So, if you're in dugite or tiger snake territory and can't see your footing, stomp a lot (preferably not on a snake though!). I occasionally see one riding, but always on the retreat.
You have to be careful to wear adequate footwear when bush-bashing - walking in concealed footing - and also in your vegetable garden, with where you put your hands and feet. It's just commonsense really. We have a big frog pond in the middle of our vegetable garden, and occasionally I see a snake in it. Basically, don't step on them, don't get your hands near them, always assume there is one where you can't see the ground, and you'll behave safely. If you do have an accident, the hospitals have good antivenenes, and the majority of people survive bites - it's infants and the elderly that are at particular risk, plus people bitten in unfortunate places or too far from hospital. In Australia, more people die falling out of bed each year than from snakebite. Really! In 2007-2016 in Australia, there were 25 deaths from venomous snakes and lizards, and 523 deaths from falling out of bed! See this article on the actual statistics: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-...eality/9277098
By the time I had the camera the other day, the snake had disappeared. But, I found this clip of a tiger snake climbing a tree on YouTube - isn't it clever how they can do that despite not having any appendages?
I mentioned the little incident to my husband when he got home, and he said, "Wow, we've not seen one in the upper garden for years!" And then, "Of course! It's because Romeo isn't running around the garden anymore. He was always going ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump
all around the house, vibrating the ground, and it kept the snakes away, especially as he was spending more than 12 hours a day in the garden each day, in the last few years of his life!"
So, I'll have to be a little more alert now around the garden.