In the darkness, I heard the dog barking and scuffling with something in the gravel driveway. I assumed it was a beetle. Obviously something small. But when I went over to look I could see it was a snake.
Calypso was dodging in and out enthusiastically. So much for the snake-avoidance training. I shouted at her, though, and she backed off.
“Is it a baby brown?” I wondered. It was too light-coloured for a red-bellied black snake.
But our biological dinner guests started shouting “Typhlops! Typhlops!”
Whatever that meant.
Craig caught it cautiously by the tail, but had already recognized it was harmless. “Blind snake,” he told me.
Then it was passed around in the light of the cluttered garage so everyone could have a good look and feel the smoothness of the shiny skin.
“I love the way they slurp up ants and termites like a little vacuum cleaner” said Eric.
I’m always happy to hear about things that eat termites, especially ones that are non-venomous. I once suggested we should keep an echidna to protect the house, but Craig looked at me as if I was crazy. ” You do know echidnas get at the termites by tearing up the timber?” he asked me. Oh. Right.
The blind snake’s mouth was invisible, the tiny eyes the only way you could tell the head from the tail. That and the fact that it was moving constantly in one direction, trying to get away from us. The warm night made it very lively and hard to photograph.
Martha Munoz was ecstatic, after the disappointment of missing out on a platypus down at the river before dinner. We can sometimes sneak up quite close to them under the cover of the waterfall’s roar, but not this time. As this had been her goodbye to Australia dinner, she was very pleased to see a new reptile instead.
Eric had seen a ramphotyphlops before. He thought it was quite big compared to those he’d seen, but Craig was pretty certain that at 25 cm (about ten inches) it was only half-sized. Looking it up later, it seems that both likely identifications (ramphotyphlops nigrescens and proximus) can get up to 70cm long.
We didn’t count the scales to confirm exactly which species it was. I let it go near the woodpile to slurp up the termites eating the wooden wall and it vanished within seconds. Good luck to it, in its secret underground life.