Monday, September 26, 2011

Shield-Tailed Snake

Yes, it's another snake. But this time, a live one! My dad brought home this weird-looking snake in a bottle from the same plot of land where we spotted the caecilians. As always, everyone thought it was a highly venomous species. But the problem was, I couldn't tell if it was venomous or not, for I was seeing a snake like this for the first time!

You might probably be thinking that the raised end of the snake is its head. That's what I thought as well. But I was wrong! After having touched the snake with a twig, it started slithering 'backwards'. That was when I noticed a tiny white tongue appear from its 'tail'. At that moment I knew this was a form of defense- the blunt tail appeared to be the head and the narrow head appeared as a tail! Here's a video of the snake. We might have frightened the snake, but don't worry, it was not harmed!

After doing some research, I figured it out that this was a species of Shield-Tailed Snake, a nocturnal, burrowing snake rarely encountered as it spends most of its life underground. They are non-venomous, so I went up close and took some shots, as I didn't have to fear about dying if I get bitten. A shot of the snake slithering out of the bottle.

The blunt tail. These tails are strong and built as a 'shield' to absorb attacks from predators, as they usually mistake the tail for the head. That's how they get their name- Shield-Tailed Snakes.

Close-up of the narrow head. It seemed like it was about time for the snake to shed its skin.

I had a hard time photographing this snake as it wouldn't always stay still. The flash always got reflected by the shiny skin as well. Hence I couldn't manage any shots I was completely satisfied with.

I got the snake into my aquarium and let it dig into the moist soil. As evening drew near, I got snake out and released it into ditch a few hundred metres away from my house. I was glad I got to see a snake I hadn't seen before, and not dead!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Kill a Harmless Flying Snake?

I had gone out of town for a while and when I returned, I was greeted with probably the worst thing I wanted to see- A DEAD SNAKE!!!! I looked into the bucket in which a neighbour placed the snake after killing it. Upon seeing it, I got into a fit of fury. I was mad angry at the neighbour, for what he killed was a HARMLESS and BEAUTIFUL FLYING TREE SNAKE!!!

It was such a gorgeous snake, with an incredible ability of gliding from tree to tree, hence called 'flying snake'. I had spotted and photographed a similar species in Singapore. But why the hell did it have to be killed? I questioned my neighbour sternly and he said that he had no idea what snake it was as he had never seen one like that before, and that the red spots that occurred along its body gave him the idea that it was venomous. He admitted trying to catch the snake into a tube, but failed, and therefore killed the snake, not wanting it to escape and possibly hurt anyone. Well, that's what everyone says here: 'I thought it was venomous so I killed it.' A perfect excuse, except that it brings no cure to the dead snakes.

I returned to the snake and took several photographs. It seemed more beautiful and elegant than the previous sub-species I spotted in Singapore. I think I'm right in identifying it as an Ornate Flying Tree Snake, as this species is known to be common in India. However, I never knew the species existed here. The first time it showed up proved to be its last.

Here's a shot of the flattened body, which I gently pressed down to observe and take a photograph. These snakes 'fly' be flattening their body, similar to the shape of a Frisbee, allowing them to glide through the air.

I took the poor snake and buried it in my backyard. I can't even recall how many dead snakes I've already buried in these yards.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I set off to the same plot of land the very next day in a desperate attempt to spot and photograph a live caecilian. Since the workers managed to find 3 of them the previous day, then there should be more. I convinced the workers that they were non-venomous and harmless to humans. So as they did their work of digging and moving large rocks, I stood beside, looking out for any slithering creatures. And then, a caecilian appeared.

I quickly a snapped a few photographs, and with the help of a stick, caught it into a bottle. It was rather difficult to capture it as it easily slithered into the undergrowth. But once I got it in, I took it to an open area and opened the cap. The caecilian, having found an exit, slowly slithered out of the bottle, while I took some shots of the creature.

Very soon, it was out and trying to slither away from the open space.

As you can see from the photographs, these caecilians have a tiny eye on each side, although these are only able to differentiate between day and night, just as in the case of blind snakes. They also have a backbone, and jaws full of tiny sharp teeth. Unlike other amphibians, these rarely associate themselves with water. They spend almost their entire life underground.

Here's a video I took of the caecilian as it slithered in front of me.

I took this fella to the other side of the plot and released him into a pile of soil and stones. I was glad I finally managed to photograph a live caecilian, an amphibian that is little known of.

Tiny Dead Snakes

My dad called me over to one of our plots of land, as there was some work going on and the workers had apparently spotted tiny snakes. And more. The word 'snake' got me excited and in a hurry I left to the spot. There were, these three tiny snakes (killed by the nasty workers, obviously), each of about 5mm in width and 10-12cm in length. I could not identify them as they were really small, probably hatchlings!

I noticed they had a tiny orange spot on their necks. What could they indicate? Baby cobras? That is one possibility, as the neighbouring villagers recently informed that mating cobras were sometimes seen in the plot of land. Whatever it was, I was pretty sad I couldn't photograph any live snakes.

But wait. There was more. Apart from these tiny snakes, the workers had also spotted and killed three long, slimy, 'worm-like' creatures, about 15mm in width and 30+cm in length. I didn't know what they were, so I took them home, investigated their body structure and facial organs, and came to a conclusion that they were caecilians - a group of legless amphibians, widely spread around the world but rarely encountered or studied due to their burrowing nature. However, I am not gonna post any pictures of the dead caecilians as the images look rather.... ugly. Yes. Apparently the workers (who have got ZERO contextual knowledge and believe ANYTHING they hear in their childhood) instantly and brutally killed them as they were sure that these caecilians were highly venomous snakes that could kill a person within minutes. Well, I had a good laugh at their story.

P.S. Don't worry, a live caecilian is coming right up!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Freaky Insects You Don't Want at Home

Over a few days I spotted and photographed a number of insects in my house, none of which looked very friendly. They either had biting teeth, sharp stings or simply looked scary. I may be an animal lover alright, but these insects just made me want to think about whether I should let them stay home or not. Here's a group of wasps on their tiny 'hive'.

A really big Long-Horn Beetle. This beetle's horns (feelers) were almost twice its body length! Its sharp jaws can be seen in the second shot as well.

And here's a giant fly that none of us had ever seen before. It was huge, with a body that measured around 10cm! I had no idea what it was, perhaps some sort of mutated or evolved species of fly? I let it out as soon as I took my shot.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Flyaway Bluebottle

I've spotted a couple of Bluebottle butterflies but have never been able to photograph one well because of their restlessness in flight. Here I shot one in mid-air as it was fluttering over the ground close to me. Not a good shot, anyway!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dog Portraits

My dogs are undoubtedly my best friends here. Here are some portraits of them I took over a few months. Titu, my white male dog, snoring away...

A black-and-white shot of Tiky, my black female dog, after a bath.

Here's one shot I took of Titu where I asked him to sit on the mat and stay while I took a shot. I was trying something artistic (?), and this was what I got.


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