Birding can be rewarding even if the target birds do not show. Last Sunday evening 12 August, I went down to look for the Barred Eagle Owl that was seen by the road leading to the Singapore Quarry. Most fortunate to bump into Geri Lim who was looking for Wagler’s Pit Viper further up the road.
It turned out to be a male, about a foot long, curled up among the leaves of the “toilet paper tree”. The green color blends in well with the tree making it hard to find. According to Serin Subaraj this is an adult which is much smaller than the females. They are nocturnal, arboreal, venomous and can stay in the same place for days waiting for its prey.
Coincidently, there was another Wagler’s Pit Viper further down the other end of the road. This was a much longer and larger black and yellow female, It has been here for days, resting on a thin branch about 2 meters up. It may have eaten a rat or some small prey from the look of its bulging belly. Mostly found in matured forest in the confines of CCNR, with frequent sightings at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
Walking back with Lim Kim Keang and Veronica Foo, we were taken back a bit when a 2 meter greyish brown snake slide across the road right in front of us. It has a cobra like head but a pretty net-patterned tail. Serin Subaraj identified it as a Keeled Rat Snake, a uncommon non-venomous, diurnal and terrestrial forest inhabitant.
By now, we were feeling rather chaffed, seeing two great snakes within minutes. I told them that that the chances of seeing a third snake this evening will be like striking 4D. As we walked further down, we heard a ruckus coming from one side of the road. Then we saw two very agitated squirrels and an Olive-winged Bulbul scrambling around and calling frantically. We knew that this unusual behavior meant that another snake was around.
Sure enough a snake slide out of the grasses on to the road. It is about 2 meter long, all green except for a reddish-brown tail. Kim Keang identified it as a Red-tailed Racer, an arboreal non venomous snake that can be found in our central forest. It hunts in the day and takes birds and small mammals.
This is the first time I came across three snakes within minutes of each other and outside of the central forest as well. Could the current hot weather be driving them out into the open urban surrounding? This may also explain why the Barred Eagle Owls breed here where their prey are plentiful.
Reference: Nick Baker & Kevin Lim. Wild Animals of Singapore 2008. Many thanks to Geri Lim for showing us the Pit Viper.