It’s the winter solstice in my half of the world. The shortest day of the year, and the official start of winter. Just to make sure I know this, the weather is cold, wet and windy. A day to stay inside with a blazing fire. Now I’m starting to miss summer.
Up until a few weeks ago there were still a few lizards plodding around, but now they’ve all settled down for the big sleep till the temperatures rise to a more agreeable number. They may be on to something, right now I feel like crawling into bed and staying there for a few months.
Some people think Australia is overrun with poisonous snakes and lizards but the truth is, even out here where they live, we hardly see them.
I do have a large lizard that lives in my garden. He’s what we call a stumpy-tailed lizard, or a shingle-back. These guys start to turn up everywhere in October when it’s mating season. You see the males following the females around, a bit like people really. Once a pair gets together they usually mate for life, unlike some people, and they find each other every spring. Once they’ve done the deed they go their separate ways until the next year. I’ve heard of people doing that.
My stumpy lizard, Clawde, is no exception. I don’t know where he spends his winter, but he spends most of his summer in my garden, eating my flowers, tomatoes, and anything tasty the dogs leave out on the lawn. He's been known to venture inside the house if the door is left open and he’s passing by. Perhaps he’s even in the house now, sleeping it off till spring. Who knows? He likes to keep to himself.
I’ve seen a few snakes in the ten years I’ve lived here. All of them brown snakes, the most common, and the ones most likely to bite you.
A few years ago, I had one of these second-most-venomous-snakes-in-the-world stretched across my bathroom floor. This is the same bathroom that’s built under the veranda and fills with thousands of moths in summer. This brown snake wasn’t after moths, he was trying to get cool under my washing machine. There’s nothing quite like seeing a snake in your bathroom to get the adrenaline flowing and to get you rounding up the fur-kids and locking them in the house.
Armed with a long-handled rake, I threw things at him (but not before I got a picture) and he came out of the bathroom, reared up at me and took off into the outback. In case you’re thinking I must be really brave, I’m not. I was terrified and had the shakes afterwards, but I had to reclaim my bathroom.
I also saw a large brown snake — a deceptively mild-sounding name — in the grass a few weeks ago. Now, this snake-in-the-grass was on his own turf, and sluggish because it was so cold, although he was a big one. Once again, I gathered up any curious fur-kids and locked them inside. Then I threw things at him until he went on his way. He was probably just looking to stock up on food before the big sleep but I’d rather he did it elsewhere.
Considering the number of snakes that must be out here, I’ve seen very few of them around the house. And I’ve never lost a dog or cat to snakebite, although I know people who have. And I’m sure my cats, at least, must have come across snakes when I wasn’t there to protect them. In fact, I often find smaller snakes chewed up near the back door.
My cats are very generous with their little gifts
I think my geese have a lot to do with our good luck regarding snakes. I’ve heard they keep them away; maybe it’s the noise, but aren’t snakes deaf? Whatever they do, it works. I keep a shovel near the house, and one out by the cars, but I haven’t had to use it to kill any snakes yet, and I’d prefer not to. There’s enough room out here for everyone, it’s just that some of them need a reminder to stay in their own area, and away from us. I’m happy to co-exist with the snakes as long as they abide by the rules.
Right now, I only have to deal with the lounge lizards in my house. Every night, and some particularly cold days, there they are lying around on the chairs doing their best lounge lizard impressions.
They should be good at it, they’ve had a lot of practice.
Until next time, keep the faith ...