Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reptilian Discoveries and the Saga of the Earless Kitten

How those Danner's treating ya?

Although we anticipated boars, bears, deer, werewolves, and other mammals to appear over the course of our trip, we didn't arrive with much in mind when it came to the less conspicuous creatures of the European continent. However, that didn't stop us from seeking them out, and it wasn't long before we were turning up all sorts of interesting finds under various objects in the garden at Nový Mlýn. The first among them was something entirely unlike anything we'd expect to find back home - a legless lizard commonly referred to as the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis).

We quickly found that each piece of debris in the garden and surrounding barns was likely to have a resident Slow Worm beneath it, and despite their unsavory name we think they're pretty lovely little lizards with beautiful coloration and patterning, and also rather agreeable dispositions. They never bite when picked up, and seemingly all they care to do is eat insects and avoid being eaten by the chickens (Roy was forced to rescue one from the marauding, pecking horde once already).

The next reptile to turn up was a baby European Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) - perhaps the most classic of all European reptiles (apart from the infamous adder) due to its presence across nearly the entire continent, and its appearance in countless European artist's renderings. Roy recognized it immediately as the snake in his sister, Rachel's, Bruno Héroux lithograph back in California.

(Image credit goes to Rachel Blodgett)

We found several more Natrix natrix after the first, all of them babies (likely clutchmates). None of them attempted to bite us, but all of hissed, and one even feigned death - going so far as to bite itself, reminding Catherine of the fabled Ouroboros. Unfortunately, we didn't manage that photograph in time. We got some okay shots, nonetheless:

There was also this sweet little Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), found under a piece of linoleum.

It's not dead!

Not all of the neighbors in the Czech Republic are reptiles though, and while we were lifting up every board and rock in search of reptiles, Rosie, Nicola and Tom, had been spending a lot of time and effort trying to catch a seemingly injured kitten that lived in a nearby woodpile. Each evening, they would take the cat a bit of food to try and coax it within it reach, only to have it take the food and bolt before they could grasp it. Of course, Catherine couldn't resist the challenge to try and catch it herself - spurred on by her compassion for the kitten's injuries (but probably, mostly just because she wanted to hold it). It only took a few tries, and she brought the kitten back to the house relieved to see that it's injuries were not as horrific as thought. It seemed that something, or someone, had cut the poor cat's ears off at the same point on each side, but luckily enough, the ears were healing nicely and not infected. After a few hours of petting and attention, we decided to leave the kitten back in its woodpile as nightfall was approaching, and Nový Mlýn's resident housecats were not likely to welcome it indoors.

No comments:

Post a Comment