Yesterday I met my first Portuguese snake. Nearly tripped over it as I walked past the tent. It was just sitting there (if snakes can be said to sit), I guess investigating this strange new thing in its territory. When I appeared it lifted its head and tasted the air and I circled around it to get a good look. Plainly it seemed to feel that moving away wasn’t its best strategy for that moment because it wasn’t showing any signs of heading off anywhere. So we had a stalemate because I wasn’t going to move either until I made sure it had cleared off without going into the tent.
By the time this had lasted a good five minutes, I was beginning to think of going back to the car for the camera, but didn’t quite trust it not to move into the tent in the meantime. Rattling the car keys got its attention but it didn’t like them too much — hissed and raised its head ready to strike — but I found after a while that walking off while rattling the car keys would induce it to follow so off we went, me rattling car keys, snake following, until it got suddenly bored with the whole game and took a detour into a ditch.
It was only afterwards as I continued walking back up to the house that I realised I’d had my mobile phone + camera in my pocket the whole time. D’oh …
Here’s what it was — a Ladder snake, Elaphe (Rhinechis) scalaris. According to this site, they average about 4 feet long. This one was only half of that.