Birding Pals…. In case you are not familiar with Birding Pals, this is a site where birders from around the world participate in. These are just local yocals who are willing to take a foreign birder out around their neck of the woods and usually the foreign birder will pay for gas/food etc. So prior to coming down to Australia I went on the Birding Pal sight and contacted a nice lady named Linda who escorted me out to the bush country. She and I spent the next few days out of various wet and dry areas, bush and forest country. A splendid country….
On this one occasion we headed off to Werribbee. This is a dry/ marshy area, if that makes sense. But there is tall grass, lots of water for waterfoul etc. Hey, do you remember that Whiskered Tern we all went down to Cape May to find? Well, turns out there are several thousand whiskered terns down here and to top it off, there were just two of us observing them do their insect catching dives on to the water. How many times have I birded a local patch in the states when a rare bird drives by, and we all stomp on down to find the poor bird. Cameras and digiscoping equipment within and an endless line of gawkers. But if given the chance, I would much prefer to see the bird in more of it’s natural environment and while in Werribbee, I saw them. They were doing their ‘bat like flight’ in between the black swans and pacific ducks.
But one moment stands out during this adventure into the bush. We were driving in the bush upon a dusty road and while momentarily Linda was occupied with staring out her right window trying to find cranes, I by-hap-chance was staring out the front window. We were meandering along at a constant 5 KPH while there in front of us was this beautiful colored and streaked 3-4 foot snake crossing the road. Now, running over a snake in Australia is against the law (no road kills here) so I tried to warn Linda of her upcoming illegal activity. But it was to little avail as the car kept speeding forward and promptly ran over the little fellow. Once past I poked my head out of the window and there was nothing, no dead snake…no snake alive, ..nothing. At that point of wonderment there are just a few options left as the most obvious one was that the snake was on the wheel well of the car. This isn;t far fetched as Linda was a nurse and told me that a lady came into the hospital the other day as she ran over a snake and while unloading groceries, she was bit. Sadly she died....but this 'wheel well' thing does occur.
Now….this is normally not that much of an issue but giving the fact that every snake down here can kill a person, this was a bit un-nerving knowing that eventually we would have to get out of the car, nicely present our legs to the snake and hope for the best. So Linda pulled out her reptile guide and asked me to do a ‘police line-up’ which I did. Even without putting on my glasses. I managed to selected the Eastern Tiger Snake, which is a very common but very nasty snake. So, this Tiger Snake is in the wheel well (on my side of the car) and it is highly venomous. We sat in the car for awhile hoping the thing would just fall out, but it never did as we kept looking out the window on either side as we proceeded forward.
Well eventually nature calls and we needed to use the bathroom so pulling up to a local hide, I opened my door and gingerly peered around. I didn’t see anything but that is tough to do when I can’t rubber stretch my neck to the wheel well. So with a giant leap meant for mankind in another world, I leapt from my side of the car to about as far as I could leap and skirted a bit aways. Still nothing….no snake. Hmmm…. But I manage to answer nature.
As of this writing….I have no idea where the snake is. Linda in all of her wisdom decided to park the car that night down the street from her house. I don’t blame her.
….at this point, I had seen 93 new birds within a day and a half of birding with Linda. Not bad….