Our Bushland Diary

Sunday, November 1, 2009

world's biggest dugite and the Japanese hen

Ellenbrook is having a spell of cooler weather (11 to 24 degrees Celsius) and it’s a perfect time to go bushwalking.  So yesterday I headed off for a long stroll amongst the banksias and paperbarks.

At about 4pm I was carefully picking my way through an ephemeral wetland.  These kinds of wetlands have huge paperbark trees (typically Melaleuca preissiana) and a thick patchy understorey of shrubs and sedges.  Ephemeral wetlands in this part of Australia have water lying on the surface after rain in winter, and are dry most of the remainder of the year.  But the shrubs and trees are great places to see animals.  It’s slow going through this kind of country. 

I noticed a big shiny long dark animal lying on top of some low shrubs, sunning itself.  I was about to put my foot down about 1m in front of its head.  Then I found myself retracing a few slow steps.  I’d taken it all in, processed, reacted, and finally my brain said, “Stop, look at the snake!”  It was beautiful; glossy and in good health.  The head was slightly larger than my thumb, raised off the ground and turned slightly to look at this large beast blundering through its home territory (me).  The body was about 2cm thick in the middle.  The colouring was a uniform dark brown to black on the top and graduated to a lighter reddish orange-brown on the sides, with no markings.  The head was a lighter reddish brown with a distinct “venomous snake” shape.  I couldn’t see the whole length because the rear end was hooked in through the understorey, but what I could see was about 1.5m of Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis).  I walked quietly past without the snake even flicking its tongue.  When I was safely past, I had an urgent need to have another look at it, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming!  This was the FIRST time I’ve seen a snake during my bushwalks around Ellenbrook (in hundreds of hours over three years of exploring).  So I crept back, and the snake just lay there placidly, unperturbed.  What a beauty!  I continued on my walk.

After a few hours of wandering, the sun was setting and it was time to go home.  As I walked back through banksia woodland on ancient dunes, I saw a tiny cartoon-ish face peering at me out of the sand.  I stooped to look closer.  Children’s plastic toy?  Piece of rubbish?  I took hold of it, and it was firmly embedded, so I dug it out.  It was a little pottery chicken, intact except for a couple of chips; white with black scallops and orange wattles.  A faded label said “Handcrafted Otagiri JAPAN”.  Possibly a salt shaker, judging by the two small holes.  How did this thing come to be in bushland?  It’s probably the weirdest “lost” item I’ve found yet.

1 comment:

  1. When I used to walk in Koondoola bushland (which in an Endangered Bush Forever preserve), before moving to Ellenbrook, we saw snakes frequently, though I never saw adults. It must have been a fluke as I went very often and yet my friend, who only went a handful of times a year, has had her path blocked three times by a dugite.

    However, I did see western brush wallabies frequently in the Koondoola bushland, in the late afternoon. Sometimes up to three or four at once. I always felt very humbled to see them.