Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jewel in the Iron Range Crown

There's a well-known element of Iron Range that I haven't yet mentioned and I'm not talking about the birds. Those herpetologically inclined will have noticed its absence. I'm alluding to what is surely one of the most beautiful snakes in Australia, if not the most. May I present the Green Python, Morelia viridis.

I spent a lot of time searching for these snakes and was duly rewarded. I'm sure the mini-wet I had helped, as I'm told they aren't nearly as active or visible in the dry season. I don't want to write too much about how I had success finding several individuals because as I understand it there's a significant problem with the poaching of these animals for the illegal pet market. What I will do is put an unreasonably large number of photos here because... really they are spectacular, incredible animals and I couldn't get tired of photographing them or even just going out and finding them to gaze at.

They have a distinctive way of resting in coils on branches and books will tell you they eat largely birds and are largely arboreal however I found most individuals either on the ground or just above it, in poses that suggested they were after terrestrial prey, perhaps the numerous rats that scurried around on the leaf litter. Interestingly, although I found individuals that were predictably in the same place on a few subsequent nights, I couldn't find them in the day time. I suspect that they either hide in dense undergrowth or go high up trees to 'hang out' in the day time.

It's an incredible green colour. Just stupidly bright green. At night they're visible from a long way away simply because they're the brightest things around. The ordinary rainforest greens dull into greys in comparison with this snake.

One remarkable aspect of the Green Python's biology is that for the first three years of its life, the young snake is not green with a white stripe, but yellow with pale, maroon-edged blotches. After seeing a few adults, I was really keen to see one of these juveniles, but when night followed night with no success, I became resigned to the fact that I could only be so lucky. I contemplated the fact that my standards were now stupidly high as I drove back towards my bed, after midnight. I saw a snake on the road ahead of me and thought I must be dreaming. There was the most beautiful, utterly perfect snake making its way across the mud.

Like the adult, the colour is just ridiculously bright. I took a lot of photos of this snake. When I awoke the next morning I went out to where I'd seen it and managed to locate it again, resting in that distinctive pose in the undergrowth. I proceeded to take a lot more photos. Over the next couple of days it only moved a couple of metres.


When I told people I would be heading to Iron Range I joked that I was going there to see a green python and a cuscus. Little did I know how fortunate I'd be and that I would actually see these things and many more. The park has a lot to offer the naturalist and to be honest I personally would be happy spending more time there.


MObugs said...

What absolutely gorgeous snakes. I envy your time there, and to be able to see such a spectacular animal up close.

jodi said...

damn..... JEALOUS!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

What an amazing experience that would have been. Such beautiful snakes arent they! I really do envy you. Stunning photographs also.

Deffinatley a place I hope to explore myself in the future!