|Short-toed Eagle with snake (John Hawkins)|
It was evening and the Ladder Snake, one of the most common species here, was setting off to search for prey having spent the day sheltering from the summer heat. Mobbing responses of birds towards snakes are often seen here, indeed most episodes like this that I encounter have been triggered by snakes, rather than say owls or mammalian predators. On several occasions along dirt tracks on the plains I have seen what at first seem to be dancing larks, but on closer inspection have been anxious birds jigging with tails and wings spread, seemingly attempting in a form of distraction display, feigning helplessness, to draw an intruding Montpellier Snake away from vulnerable chicks. What made this event particularly interesting was the protagonism of the juvenile Blackbird, not that long ago fledged from the nest and possibly encountering a snake for the first time in its life. It presumably was displaying a deep-rooted instinctive response, set off by something about the form and motion of a snake, evoking both intrigue and fear, that does not happen when, for example, a bird might see a basking lizard. The bird's response in turn set off a reaction amongst other birds, of different species, in the vicinity, combining curiosity and reciprocity to result in a collective action to force the snake onward.
|Ladder Snake (Martin Kelsey)|