Getting to know the neighbours

November has arrived. This is the month that traditionally heralds the start-up of two different trends: firstly there’s the annual shutdown (a.k.a. holiday season) that with the exception of the spike in expenditure on coloured paper, twinkling lights and obscenely expensive imported foodstuff, actually paralyses the South African economy for at least two months, and secondly, there’s a notable increase in snake activity.

September is the start of spring, but this year, the ground and ambient temperatures didn’t reach the desired levels that would trigger increased activity amongst the cold-blooded fraternity, thus causing a late start. The prolonged cold spells through October also contributed to a rather tardy start to the rainy season, however, recent snake and frog activity would indicate that the season has finally kicked off. With regard to the economy, in a country that’s rapidly turning into a 365 day holiday camp, little has changed.

In my slice of paradise here in Camperdown, it’s suddenly started buzzing (hissing?). In the past 3 weeks, I’ve caught, within about 100 metres of my home, boomslang, variegated bush snake, short snouted grass snake, heralds and night adders – surely can’t be long before we get the first visits from the puffies and Mozambique spitters. I live on what’s disparagingly known as a ‘gated estate’ – due to celebrate its 8th birthday this December – which was carved out of a piece of land that was once acacia wooded grassland. The activities and disruptions that took place during the prolonged development process chased all the local residents deeper into the bush below, but now that homeowners have replicated (to their taste) the bush feel, the previously dispossessed are returning. We’ve talked about this before, but it’s a given that if we provide the right environment, we’ll attract the like-minded creatures – Charles and Julia Botha have written a series of books on bringing nature back to your gardens and in their writings, they tell of what will happen when we provide the desired habitat. Just in case you might think that I should get out of here before I get bitten or attacked, I’d like to offer that perhaps my interest in snakes has led to my having a keener eye when it comes to such things – much like the bargain hunter at a sale – and I probably see creatures that would otherwise pass unnoticed. I’m often told by people that they’ve seen a such-and-such in their garden, something they’ve never seen in the 30 years they’ve lived there, but this is most likely because such things as Nat Geo or outdoor magazine articles have heightened their awareness of what actually lives around them. Whilst on this subject, I’m running a 2-hour Snake Awareness session at the Springside Reserve in Hillcrest on the 22nd November, aimed at those who want to learn more about our snakes. Give me a ring for details.

© pat mckrill. 2014