Only eventually did we notice a small, juvenile Natal Green Snake apparently trying to climb the smooth surface of a high window pane, when we were having coffee out on our back deck. The small creature seemed more than a little agitated as it struggled to climb to the top of the window.
I went and got my camera in time to see the snake changing its technique from reaching up in long vertical stretches against the smooth surfaces of the window pane and the painted metal frames to using more of a grasping technique
Desperate to reach the top and despite its new technique, the snake started flailing its tail while losing its grip completely before falling and quite literally hitting the deck below
It lay on the deck for some time before moving off away from where we were sitting. Thinking that discretion is the better part of valour, we expected it to disappear between the floor boards of the deck, and so we were surprised to see it turn and start climbing again back up towards the window.
The small Natal Green Snake climbed up the plant stand, pausing only now and again as it ascended to climb across the base of a pot plant and the remains of a burnt-out candle
It emerged in amongst the leaves of a small potted Begonia, looking like some fantastically rich ornament before continuing its climb onto some potted ferns on wooden shelves in front of the window
Here is the little snake, now on the top shelf climbing through the dainty foliage of a Maidenhair Fern. That the delicate stems support the weight of the snake show how small this little snake is
Next, the snake transferred from the fern to start climbing a vertical wooden plank that supports the shelves in front of the window
The snake had been making slow progress and I was the only one with the patience to stay to watch its endeavours, standing mostly motionless with my camera in my hand. Every now and then I would slowly look around behind me to see if any birds were visiting the birdbath in the garden below the deck. I was amused to find that in turn, I was being observed by a motionless African Olive-Pigeon, watching me from an appropriately named Pigeonwood tree above the bird bath.
An inquisitive African Olive-Pigeon (formerly known as Rameron Pigeon) intently watching me watching the Natal Green Snake
I hope that this photo conveys something of the gracefulness of this snake as it climbs the vertical surfaces of a wooden plank
The grasping technique using opposing forces to grip either side of the plank seemed to serve the snake well as it made its way back up to the top of the window
There are five species of Green Snake in South Africa, and all are known to be good climbers. Green snakes do not have fangs but are often killed by people when mistaken for venomous snakes. As the large eye indicates, they have excellent eyesight and they hunt during the day for small prey animals.
This snake was active on a very hot spring day last week, ahead of an approaching cold front that moved in rapidly in the late afternoon. Perhaps the snake was seeking a high protected spot to shelter in during the cold night ahead?
As dusk approached the snake settled down on top of the window frame, using a hinge in the window frame for additional support
Adult Natal Green Snakes are slender but can be about 1 metre long, as this one photographed in a tree near our back deck shows. An adult Natal Green Snake is far too large to find support in the fronds of a Maidenhair fern
This is the same adult snake after it had descended into a shrub where some small birds (Mannikins) were feeding. It appeared to be vigilant as if on the hunt, but the birds moved on before the snake had a realistic chance of hunting them
The Natal Green Snake is handsome and harmless – unless one is a frog or a gecko or other small prey animal. We are happy to leave such visiting snakes to their own devices
Source: Alexander, Graham & Marais, Johan. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.
Posted by Carol