Snakes alive

A trip to Mai Po Nature Reserve with bird photographer chum, Martin Hale, produced some nice sightings. Besra, Baer’s pochard and the Glaucous gull. However I am developing (no pun intended) a habit of blending my penchant for monochrome in street photography with my natural history shots. And so today we go from macro to moody to…….. mangrove snake, Enhydris bennetti.  And sadly, it wasn’t a good day to be a mangrove snake.

Snakes alive?

This seems to be a case of Murder on the Mai Po Mangrove Express. I did not see the heron actually swallow the snake. E. Bennetti did not seem keen to give up without a fight. Indeed, there was endless wriggling and complaining evident even from a considerable distance. As may be observed, there were plenty of witnesses to this heinous crime, mainly cormorants. I confess (unlike the heron) that I became bored with the sorry saga and diverted my attention back to the gulls. Who was it who warbled, gulls just want to have fun?

The cormorants in fact decided to leave the scene of the incident.

Cormorant chaos

I don’t recall the cause – maybe a passing harrier or possibly the water was lapping a little to high – anyway they all went up together. I am always amazed that there are no collisions when thousands of birds take off together. They seem to be perfectly coordinated, even though the cormorants need a decent runway to get airborne. There is a lot of flapping and slapping, turning and churning and then the chaotic becomes choreographed and synchronized. (I feel an olympic sport coming on as I regard the current ‘sport’ of synchronized swimming’ as marginally less exciting than watching paint dry or England play rugby. The image above was my favourite frame from a sequence of about 15 I shot (roughly 2 seconds of shutter action).

With no witnesses left I suspect the heron got away with it. Self-defence, extreme provocation……….. I’m not so sure. In the upper image he looks pretty calm. Premeditated I’d say. A clinical hatchet job. Another mangrove snake cut down in its prime. Hong Kong Animals says they are ‘mildly venomous, not harmful to man.’ But does add that they are ‘aggressive and bite readily if cornered or handled’. So maybe I missed the twist at the end and the heron bit off more than it could chew.

Snake’s alive? I hope so.