Mellissa Moore was sitting on her porch in Gladesville on Sunday afternoon, taking in some of the rare sunshine when she felt a creature slither over her toes.
“I thought, ‘Oh, it’s just a blue tongue’,” Ms Moore said, before she glanced down. “Hang on – this one doesn’t have any legs!”
The snake was perhaps 30 centimetres long, and likely to be the venomous red-bellied black snake. “I could clearly see the red stripe,” she said, before it slid away.
Ms Moore’s concern was that there would more in the grass around the house where her two young children have – until now – been free to play.
“They are forever outside without shoes,” she says. “Now they don’t go outside without gumboots.”
Sydney’s long wet patch may have buried a few memories of what was the city’s hottest summer in 158 years of records.
But it also appears to have nudged a few critters, such as snakes and spiders, inside homes and garages in search of drier conditions. ‘Inundated’
For professional snake handlers such as Harley Jones of Snakes in the City, it’s been a bumper season of call-outs, with up to four a day for red bellied black snakes alone.
“At the moment, we’ve been inundated,” Mr Jones says, just after bagging another juvenile red-belly that had found its way into an office complex at Lane Cove. The wet weather “tends to put them inside houses,” he adds.
March, though, also tends to be the peak season for breeding, with red-bellies typically spawning about 14 offspring at this time of year. While most will be taken by kookaburras, foxes and other predators, juveniles are still capable of inflicting a very nasty bite.
In terms of injecting highly potent venom, “they are just as capable as a parent. The last thing you do is pick them up,” Mr Jones said.
Red-bellied black snakes “are found all over Sydney,” he adds. “They’re absolutely everywhere … You find them in the middle of the CBD, all over the north shore, all over the south and all over the east.”
Most of those he captures are released back into the wild, such as in the Lane Cove National Park.
Other snakes turning up include golden-crowned snakes, particularly in the north shore, and green or brown tree snakes – with the latter able to climb through open windows.
Stephen Mahony, a herpetologist at the Australian Museum, said people are more likely to come across snakes such as red-bellied black snakes and browns once the sun comes out after a wet spell.
“They are generally less active in overcast, rainy and colder conditions,” Mr Mahony said. “Red-bellies do hunt a lot of frogs, so may be seen hunting somewhat more after rain periods once it warms somewhat.”
“Some snakes, for example pythons – such as the diamond python – and some tree snakes such as the brown tree snake do seem to increase in activity when it is wet,” he said. “Though the reason is not clear.” More rain to come
Those hoping for a break in the snake-friendly weather will have to wait a few days yet.
“There’s a high chance for showers each day” up until about the weekend, said Graeme Brittain, a Weatherzone meteorologist.
Storms are possible in Sydney both on Tuesday and especially Wednesday afternoon. (See the Bureau of Meteorology chart below showing predicted rainfall totals over the next four days.)
“We’ve had these moist on-shore flows, and above-average sea surface temperatures off the NSW coast,” Mr Brittain said. The additional moisture that’s available has combined with upper-level pools of cool air to create ongoing instability and rain.
While nights have been exceptionally warm, the clouds are keeping a lid on temperatures – although most days are above the March average.
“There’s no real sign of any real heat making it towards the coast over the next week or so,” Mr Brittain said.
Still, there’s a chance for some reasonable sunshine on Sunday and early next week, as temperatures in the city climb back towards 30 degrees. Snakes won’t be the only ones happy with that outlook.
So far in March, Sydney has had 17 days with at least 0.2 millimetres of rain, or well above the average of 13.6 rainy days for March, according to Agata Imielska, senior climatologist with the bureau in Sydney.
The record of 26 rainy days, set in 1870, is perhaps out of reach but the 22 wet days in March 2014 is within reach.
In terms of rain totals, the 223 millimetres is already well above the average of 129.6 millimetres for March at Observatory Hill.
“The record March total is 521.4 millimetres in 1942, so we’ve got a way to go to reach that record as well,” Ms Imielska said.
Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.