Today’s exploration will always stay in our mind as the day of the “snake in the grass“, but I can’t get tell you about that straight away. First I have to build up the story 🙂
Our visit to Rosebud is purely social. No research, no museums, no keeping an ear open to the historical stories of the region. But that is no reason to stay indoors, particularly when there is a silver convertible in the driveway just hanging out to be driven. With Bill in the backseat, and my girlfriend at the wheel, we set off to explore the area.
Rosebud is a seaside town on the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria. At one time I might have said it was a couple of hours drive south of Melbourne, but with freeway extensions now in place, you can reach Melbourne’s southern suburbs within an hour.
The area behind Rosebud is called Arthur’s Seat. It is hilly, natural bushland with many marked and unmarked walking tracks and an impressive view from the summit. Since the 1960s there has been a chairlift which was a popular tourist destination until several accidents saw its closure. On this day of our visit, it had just re-opened with a brand new system, which includes enclosed gondolas, and it is now called The Arthurs Seat Eagle. The ride takes 15 minutes each way, reaching a summit of 314 metres (more than 1000 feet). We drove up to take a look at it – and the view of course – but didn’t choose to ride on this occasion.
Next we took a drive to the other side of the peninsula where we strolled the Flinders Pier. This map below will help with the geography. As you can see, across the water is Phillip Island, famous for its penguins.
By Nick Carson at English Wikipedia, Creative Commons, Created: 1 October 2008
The waters of Flinders Pier are incredibly clear. This jetty is very popular with fishermen. We had a quick chat with some men who were catching squid. You can easily see the fish, but we weren’t expecting to see a ray! This magnificent creature was close in to the beach and just skimming along under the water. Unfortunately, all you can see in our photo is its dark shadow in the water.
As you can see from the other photos, sailing is also popular here, although we didn’t know why the pilot boat had pulled in. As I mentioned yesterday, all cargo shipping needs to pass through the nearby heads to get up to Melbourne port, so perhaps he had just puttered around to pick up some fish and chips for lunch 🙂 Certainly the cormorants are on the lookout for theirs.
After our own lunch, we headed into the Mornington Peninsula National Park for a wander along the Baldry Crossing Circuit Walk. It’s an easy-moderate grade on a well-marked but narrow track and takes around a hour or so to complete. We set off in single file, Bill at the head, and me at the rear. The walk starts alongside a creek and meanders through various fern gullies. At one point there is a little wooden bridge, which was blocked by a large tree having fallen across it, so we had to clamber around it. No big deal.
My girlfriend is really good at detecting wildlife. Really good. First we came across an echidna. This is the little guy who is on our five cent coin, sometimes referred to as a spiny anteater. He was busy digging for his lunch, and when we approached he stopped and checked us out for a bit. We were too busy fawning over him to take a photo of his cute little face with the long snout and startled eyes. After a while he/she just went back to the job at hand, that is, digging with their super strong claws, and that’s when we remembered to take a shot. If you take a very close look at the photo on the left (click once to enlarge), you can see the pile of dirt it has pushed behind it.
In the early part of the walk we heard lots of bird calls. One we took to be a whipbird, whose sound you can hear here: http://www.birdlife.org.au/images/uploads/audio/whipbird.mp3
I already knew that it is the male who makes the whip sound, and the female answers with a choom-choom sound. They are frequently heard in the bush, but rarely seen, and the only one I had spotted before was rather dull. I realise now it may have been an immature male.
We were able to track this bird down. The problem was, it looked nothing like my memory of a whipbird. This one is gorgeous, don’t you think? He let us get very close, and the sound we were hearing was definitely his song.
We had to wait until we got home to check my friend’s bird book. It turns out that it was a Golden Whistler. I haven’t been able to find a copyright-free recording that demonstrates how much like a whipbird he sounded (and it is a he), but by listening to several examples I have learned of their great range.
As we went deeper into the bush we heard less bird life. We paused now and then to take photos of the greenery around us.
Then we paused on a handy bench to take photos of each other.
We were nearing the end of the trail, and the track had widened considerably, when my girlfriend heard a tell-tale rustle and caught a glimpse of movement. Bill was still out in front, wearing enclosed shoes, but only shorts.
“Snake, snake, snake,” my girlfriend said calmly. We all froze. The snake emerged from the undergrowth on the right before spotting us. It flattened its body. It was a light tawny colour with stripes on it and a beige underbelly. In its flattened state, it almost looked see through. Then it lifted its head to the strike position, and with its body still flattened, almost had the appearance of a cobra.
“A tiger snake. Back up slowly,” she said. And we did. Actually, she had a laugh afterwards, saying I was the fastest to back up, even though I was in the rear. “I was just making room for you two,” I countered.
When it was satisfied we posed no threat, it dropped down and slithered across the path, entering the bush on the left. That is when Bill took a photo.
Can you see it in this photo?
If you answered “no”, then you can understand how we nearly missed it.
Here is a zoomed-in crop:
Safely back home, relaxing in their tranquil outdoor area, glass of wine in hand, my girlfriend checked the internet and found this useful information from Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service:
“A slow, careful hunter which may stand its ground if surprised, relying on its impressive threat display for defence. Like most snakes, tiger snakes are first cowards, then bluffers, and only become warriors as a last resort. If threatened a tiger snake will flatten out its neck, raising its head to make itself appear as frightening as possible. If the threat persists, the snake will often feign a strike, producing an explosive hiss or ‘bark’ at the same time. Like most snakes, tiger snakes will not bite unless provoked.”
Right, so it was a coward. Well it had me bluffed 🙂
Monday, 12th December 2016