Trying to Find a Snake in an Ephemeral Pond

Ephemeral ponds are temporary ecosystems. They provide water, the plants that grow around them provide food and shelter, and the animals that spring up or disperse to these ponds complete the small, makeshift ecosystem. This ecosystem will last for as long as the pond does but—by the very nature of them being ephemeral—it will always be on a truncated timeline, sometimes mere months, as the water runs out without some form of replenishment. These ponds can form in any manner of ways; for example, from water overrunning from an adjacent river, or a depression filling up with water over a long wet period and creating a wetland. In the case of this particular pond, it is merely the tiny remnant of abandoned construction, essentially a hole in the ground that people walk past every day with the primary thought that they don't slip and fall into the muddy water. I did the same, until I stopped and saw fish on the surface, and below them, a slender shadow. A snake!

I returned to the pond later, this time with camera in hand, and decided to try to find this potential snake. Through all of an SD card and battery, I sat in a corner of the pond and watched the water. First, I spotted the tail of a snake, and then caught whole glimpses of it as it swam past, each time too slow to get the lens on it at the same time (or so I thought, at least). Other times, I'd try to predict where it would appear, and find myself ultimately filming minutes of nothing. Finally, with the battery at 1% and my having made peace with the fact that I'd never get a good shot of it, there it swam, right in view of the frame. I got my shot. And then, seconds later, the camera died.

The species is not a rare or "special" one. It's a Javan keelback water snake (Fowlea melanzostus), which is commonly found in Javanese waterways and rice fields. But it was certainly special for me to be able to watch it in its own habitat, happily swimming around the pond, and at one point bumping into a very annoyed crab.

Eventually, this pond will dry out, or be filled in with dirt, or the snake even discovered by fearful people. That's just the nature of life in the patches of wild land between settlements. But I hope that day doesn't come soon, and that the snake(s), fish, crabs, insects, and riparian vegetation continue to live their lives as oblivious of us as we are them.

Timestamps of sightings

08:17 - A glimpse of a tail and body under the water, which I didn't see until watching the final render.
09:31 - Snake passes by the camera, which I also didn't see until editing.
12:28 - I finally see the snake on-camera, just before it runs out of battery.

Are there any sightings I missed? If so, let me know!

Species found

Javan keelback water snake (Fowlea melanzostus)

Silver halfbeak (Dermogenys pusilla)

Freshwater crab (Parathelphusa convexa)


Joaquim Baeta

Lelly Marliana

Recorded with Canon 60D, RØDE NTG4+
Edited with Kdenlive
Sound mastered with Reaper


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License & Attribution

By Joaquim Baeta and Lelly Marliana. This video and the files associated with it are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. You are free to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon them in any medium or format, provided you give appropriate credit to Joaquim Baeta and Lelly Marliana, indicate any changes, and redistribute any derivative work under the same (or equivalent) license.

Example attribution: "Trying to Find a Snake in an Ephemeral Pond" by Joaquim Baeta and Lelly Marliana,, CC BY-SA.