Dear JE Missy/Kalli,
There are three of your “I wonder…” sticks that I will try to answer together in this blog post.
First, Cailin’s: “I wonder if… you will see a tiger.”
I wish I could see the Tasmanian tiger! If I did, it would mean that an animal that most people consider extinct is actually still alive. The Tasmanian tiger was not in the cat family like other tigers; it was a marsupial (raised its babies in a pouch) and a cousin of the Tasmanian devil, but it did have stripes on its back. There are people who think they have seen the Tasmanian tiger still roaming in wild places.
Maybe this is one? No, sorry, that’s Mala – a friend’s dog. Like a Tasmanian tiger, she also loves chasing wallabies.
Though Tasmanian tigers are now probably imaginary, I am quite sure that fairies and dragons do exist here. In fact, I see them almost every day, but they still seem magical.
Here is the fairy – the superb fairy-wren, the very first bird that I saw in Tasmania.
They are tiny little birds in constant motion as they forage for bugs and other food. The female is brown, and the male is bright blue and black, and they both hold their tails straight up in the air like little flags. Their name fits them perfectly, because they are truly superb, and they really do flit around like fairies.
And this is one of the local dragons: a mountain dragon. It is a cousin of bearded dragons, but much smaller.
It is a quick little lizard that likes to sun itself on sandy paths and scurries under bushes when something big like a human comes along. This particular dragon was braver and let me get close enough to photograph it for awhile. It stared at me, then at some nearby ants, then back at me, then at the ants, as if telling me politely that I was interrupting its dinner. Just because you’re a dragon, that doesn’t mean you are safe from predators. Large birds would love to have you for dinner if they could catch you.
But, back to tigers, and on to Jack’s stick, which wondered, “Will you get hurt?” Humans used to hunt and kill as many Tasmanian tigers as they could, because tigers are predators, and predators could be dangerous, to humans themselves or to things they value, like sheep and cattle. When I came to Tasmania, I knew that there were no more large wild predators left, but there were other things that could potentially hurt me if I were not careful. This spider, by the way, is not one of them.
It is called a huntsman spider, has legs as long as a tarantula’s, and its only disturbing habit is hanging out over your bed at night while it hunts bugs. A blue bottle jellyfish, on the other hand, could sting you if you swam into its tentacles.
One day while I was out walking, a neighbor saw me and warned me that I should be wearing socks with my sandals. Why? Moving on to Andrew’s stick: “I wonder if… you will see a new snake.” There are three species of snake in Tasmania, and all three are quite venomous. I was being extremely careful when I took walks to watch where I stepped. But why would wearing socks keep me safe from a snake bite? Wouldn’t they just bite through the cloth? I found out that the smaller snakes have very short fangs, so socks could offer some protection from getting a dangerous bite.
And yes, I did see some new snakes. All three species are very fast and tend to move away quickly when they see you, so I only got a not-so-great photograph of one crossing a path. The smallest snake in Tasmania is called a white-lipped snake, and another one is the copperhead (it has a different shaped head and pattern than Maryland’s copperhead).
Back to Cailin, I am pretty sure the one I photographed was the third species: the tiger snake. Does that count as seeing a tiger?