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More than just bird chatter!
OK, it definitely wasn’t a typical dawn chorus. Dawn here is about 05:30, and this occurred in the early afternoon. I am used to a lot of bird chatter in the garden; it happens every day from the dozen of so species that visit us… Oh, and by the way, our dawn chorus is usually sung by cockerels. Or, at least, they make so much noise that I can’t hear the smaller birds. I don’t know the names of all our visiting species in English, or in Thai for that matter, but they include: the common pigeon (yes, as seen on the town square) and the common sparrow (the one you see in your garden). You probably found that disappointing, but now it gets more exotic.
Our Exotic Visiting Birds
There is one that looks like a Pied Wagtail, but it’s a bit bigger. Thais call it ‘Show Us Your Bum’, because it is constantly hopping about and lifting up its tail. They are always in pairs, very noisy and into everything. There’s a very uncommon bird with a crest. They too are almost always in pairs (the female doesn’t have crest feathers. One such female has taken to visiting me three or four times a day. She sits on the window cill and stares in at e through the fly screen. I think she is deranged.
These birds are prized for their singing and beauty, and perfect specimens sell for many thousands of pounds sterling… Perhaps the mad one’s husband has been captured? There’s a pair of tiny fluorescent green Wren-like birds, that are the noisiest of all the visitors. I think they are Tailor Birds, or is it Weavers?
There are also two blue doves, that walk around the garden unafraid of people. I have never heard them coo, but it worries me that next door’s cats will get them. Then there’s a brightly-coloured blue and yellow ‘mock’ hummingbird, that I think is a Sunshine Bird. We also have five pairs of nesting Ashy Woodswallows, and two types Mynah Bird.
One is green, black and white, and the other, slightly larger one, all black. I love these noisy Mynahs! A pair nests under the eaves of the roof next door. They too are very bold and noisy. I once saw one walk into a shop not a metre from me, take a packet of crisps off the shelf and walk out without paying for it! If you talk to one, it will stop and listen, cocking its head from side to side, occasionally squawking back in reply. They really do remind me of dinosaurs strutting around the garden.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon, it seemed as if all these birds visited us at once and set up an terrible din. It could not be likened favourably to a dawn chorus. It was like an orchestra of people who had never played an instrument before. My wife and I both rushed to the window, expecting to see a cat, or even a snake. I was glad that there was no cat, they are unwelcome in our garden, but the birds don’t make that much noise for a cat anyway. It had to be a snake, although we often get snakes visiting. I once watched a gang of Mynahs harassing a big brown snake until it made it across open land to the bushes. I felt sorry for it. There was nothing it could do but run, or slither, away at top speed.
So, all these birds, a dozen or more, were making an awful racket, and more birds were arriving to join in. My wife went outside for a closer look. Suddenly she called me. I went out to see her shaking, catapult drawn. This is important, because it is one’s duty to kill venomous snakes that stray into the village in case they bite children and kill them. My wife takes this responsibility very seriously. I have very reluctantly witnessed her killing snakes before, but always with a long stick. Neem normally uses the catapult on stray cats an dogs because they use her garden as a public toilet.
Ready for Action!
“Over there!” she said, although I could see where she was aiming – up into our overhead grape vine. I couldn’t see it at first, and Neem was shouting at me not to get any closer. I took three random photographs, but I still couldn’t see it. Then it moved its head and I saw it! What camouflage, but obvious when you see it. I was about a metre from it, and it was about 600mm long. Most snakes, I think, can strike for a third of their body length, so I felt quite safe, but Neem was standing five metres back, catapult drawn and very worried. The moment I left the scene to consult my book on Thai snakes, she fired, and then two or three times more. It’s funny, but the birds went quiet once Neem had taken control.
Big-eyed Pit Viper
Unusual for her, she missed and the snake got away, but that means that we have to be ultra-careful in the garden now for a few days, and not leave any external house doors open. As far as I can tell, the snake was a Big-eyed Pit Viper (Trimeresurus macrops). The book says that it is common, but it is my first sighting. It is particularly scary for farmers because it sits in trees waiting for birds, but will bite a hand if it gets too close (presumably that of an unobservant fruit picker). My book calls it venomous and dangerous. Neem adds painful and deadly to that description. The photographs in the book make it look fatter than it is. You wouldn’t think that such a small, skinny snake could be so lethal, but the birds agreed with Neem and that’s good enough for me.
The photograph of the Big-eyed Pit Viper is one of the three I took. You should be able to enlarge it.