First warm day

Nature Girl took me for a walk through the swamp on Sunday afternoon.   It was the first warm day of the year; after a really cold week the temperature zoomed up into the 60s Fahrenheit.   It was a nice day for a walk.   We started in midafternoon, and it was nearing sunset as we returned.   She stopped to look at something to the side of the trail.

She stepped off the trail to get a closer look.

I zoomed in on the cottonmouth.

The sun had just dropped down and put that little warm spot into the evening shade.   Around the bend, the sun was still shining on the trail.   She spotted something on the trail.

It was a pretty little yellow rat snake.   A much more welcome denizen of the swamp.

A few moments before we encountered those critters, I took a couple of pictures from the access road that traverses the swamp.

We have only lived here for less than a year.   We enjoy living next to the Conservancy woods.   There are many trails that we were unwilling to walk on until after we had a hard freeze just before Thanksgiving.   After the sedges grow up so that you cannot see where you are putting your foot, we will stop walking those trails again.

I bought snakeboots and snake gaiters for her birthday last year.   I try to get her to wear her thornproof gloves when gardening.   After she saw a copperhead in a flower bed, she started to wear those gloves.   But Nature Girl is irrepressible.   It makes me nervous when she walks through the woods by herself, but she is having fun exploring our new surrounds.

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33 thoughts on “First warm day”

  1. Oh boy, @MJBubba, that is living on the edge!  This morning, after multiple ridiculously cold days and nights up here in AdirondackLand, the mercury zoomed up and the results were merely as follows:

    1. I stood at the kitchen sink window, transfixed to hear an actual living bird making actual birdsong outdoors;

    2. Snow and ice melted so that the garage pooled with backed-up snowmelt; but then again, it became possible to clear the front stoop, where the new dishwasher will be carted into the abode in 3 days’ time.

    I am so glad that your eyesight is good and/or you have a competent optometrist, so that you recognized that cottonmouth.  In your interesting photo, one can see a white chin, or just the edge of it, on the creature.  Is that what you noticed?

    Had you or you good lady had experience with cottonmouths before now?

    My own Spouse grew up in St. Louis; his youthful canoe trips were on rivers where cottonmouths would swim up to the gunwales and open their mouths, showing lots of white.  Your critter today had infinitely more sneakitude.

    Your vigilance is correct. Keep on with it!

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  2. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    It was a pretty little yellow rat snake.

    NO SUCH THING says the world’s greatest herpetophobe. 🙂

    Indeed.  It is a constrictor.

    And there’s a photo on Wikipedia of rat snakes mating whilst climbing a tree, right out there in broad daylight as if they owned the place and paid the taxes.  Can I accede to “pretty little?”  Never in this life.

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  3. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    It was a pretty little yellow rat snake.

    NO SUCH THING says the world’s greatest herpetophobe. 🙂

    You told us you are moving to a similar situation; your new home will be adjacent to a wilderness park.   You will want to learn how to spot the poisonous snakes so you can spare/ encourage/ promote the nonpoisonous snakes.   The more rat snakes, black snakes, pine snakes, corn snakes and water snakes the better.   They will compete with the cottonmouths, copperheads, rattlesnakes and coral snakes for the same prey.

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  4. John Walker:
    Anybody recognise this critter?

    Slither

    I spotted him (it’s probably a him, as I explain in the link) on the trail behind the Lignières rifle range.  Hint: everything is not as it may appear.

    The tail is blunt, and  – does it have scales or not?  I mean, if so they are very flat.

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  5. jzdro:
    Oh boy, @MJBubba, that is living on the edge!  This morning, after multiple ridiculously cold days and nights up here in AdirondackLand, the mercury zoomed up and the results were merely as follows:

    1. I stood at the kitchen sink window, transfixed to hear an actual living bird making actual birdsong outdoors;

    2. Snow and ice melted so that the garage pooled with backed-up snowmelt; but then again, it became possible to clear the front stoop, where the new dishwasher will be carted into the abode in 3 days’ time.

    Congratulations on the new dishwasher.   In our old house I had hired a guy to help install pocket doors for our kitchen because the dishwasher was so noisy.   Then the dishwasher died.   The new dishwasher was so quiet that I was kicking myself for the expense of the pocket doors.

    But then the pocket doors turned out to be a nice selling feature when we went to sell that house.

    I am so glad that your eyesight is good and/or you have a competent optometrist, so that you recognized that cottonmouth.  In your interesting photo, one can see a white chin, or just the edge of it, on the creature.  Is that what you noticed?

    Had you or you good lady had experience with cottonmouths before now?

    We have lots of experience with cottonmouths.   They are the dominant species of snake in our area.   We have seen them a number of times while hiking in the Lucius Burch Natural Area.   We found a large snakeskin near the pond at our new house.   The internet is awesome; we looked at tips for identifying snakes from their skins.   The skin was either a cottonmouth or a copperhead, and, since it was in shaggy grass on the edge of the pond, we figure cottonmouth.

    My own Spouse grew up in St. Louis; his youthful canoe trips were on rivers where cottonmouths would swim up to the gunwales and open their mouths, showing lots of white.  Your critter today had infinitely more sneakitude.

    I sort of wish Nature Girl would not venture so close to the cottonmouth, but, she is wise to the ways of snakes.   Snakes are fairly primitive, so they are sort of predictable, in the way that insects are predictable.   Snakes only do things that snakes do, and snakes don’t do things that snakes don’t do, so, if you live near lots of snakes, learn the ways of the snakes.

    Your vigilance is correct. Keep on with it!

     

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  6. jzdro:
    The tail is blunt, and  – does it have scales or not?

    The tail is original factory equipment (not a regrown one) and, yes, it has scales, which are very flat.

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  7. John Walker:

    The tail is original factory equipment (not a regrown one) and, yes, it has scales, which are very flat.

     

    This is a challenge.  Best I can do is squamate-not-snake.  Blunt snout, as well.

    Okay, thanks for the link to Anguis fragilis!  Great name, too.  Did you grab ahold of it and examine its eyes?

    The squamate that I’d half-remembered from school days was the amphisbaenid: long, floppy, wet-looking, weirdly-colored, very reclusive.

    This Anguis is better.  And they say it eats garden pests.

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  8. MJBubba:
    Congratulations on the new dishwasher.   In our old house I had hired a guy to help install pocket doors for our kitchen because the dishwasher was so noisy.   Then the dishwasher died.   The new dishwasher was so quiet that I was kicking myself for the expense of the pocket doors.

    But then the pocket doors turned out to be a nice selling feature when we went to sell that house.

    44 decibels is the pledge!

    I did not contract to buy the thing until I’d phoned the manufacturer and extracted the secret code for silencing the end-of-cycle chime.

    You did all right on the pocket doors anyway.  Their charm is worth a great deal.

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  9. As to how Nature Girl made the positive identification of the cottonmouth, she was looking at the shape of its head.   A cottonmouth has a distinctive rattlesnake-looking pattern, but this one was so dull that the pattern was hard to see.   After the next cold spell is over this snake will probably shed that old dull winter skin.   Pardon me for not getting a better picture of its head.

     

    I have a friend from Mississippi who calls them “Water Mexicans.”

    I know; that is racist, but it sounds funny when he says it.

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  10. MJBubba:
    You told us you are moving to a similar situation; your new home will be adjacent to a wilderness park.

    My new house is not adjacent, it is in a wilderness preserve. I’ve been assured there are no bears or cotton mouths but I’m skeptical. I do know there are plenty of deer so I will have to squelch my compulsion for exotic and expensive landscaping.

    Going up next month to check out phase two of the building process and will bring boots for a trek on my two acres. Pray.

    Regardless, at least I have a screened lanai and no neighbors. 🙂

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  11. jzdro:
    Did you grab ahold of it and examine its eyes?

    I crouched down and looked at the eyes close-up and noticed the key distinction but did not touch it.  One always fears a tail-shedding event with these critters.  It was completely motionless, just soaking up the sun in May after a long winter.

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  12. jzdro:

    John Walker:

    The tail is original factory equipment (not a regrown one) and, yes, it has scales, which are very flat.

     

    This is a challenge.  Best I can do is squamate-not-snake.  Blunt snout, as well.

    Okay, thanks for the link to Anguis fragilis!  Great name, too.  Did you grab ahold of it and examine its eyes?

    The squamate that I’d half-remembered from school days was the amphisbaenid: long, floppy, wet-looking, weirdly-colored, very reclusive.

    This Anguis is better.  And they say it eats garden pests.

    That sounds better than the worm snake.   It eats more worms than grubs, so it works out to be a net negative, I suppose, except we will be glad to have them the next time there is a big beetle infestation.

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  13. MJBubba:

                           Pardon me for not getting a better picture of its head.

    Nay, that is a good drawing.  It makes clear what to look for.

    And thanks for the reminder about water moccasins.  Not to worry; water moccasins is probably racist also.  Everything is.

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  14. EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    You told us you are moving to a similar situation; your new home will be adjacent to a wilderness park.

    My new house is not adjacent, it is in a wilderness preserve. I’ve been assured there are no bears or cotton mouths but I’m skeptical. I do know there are plenty of deer so I will have to squelch my compulsion for exotic and expensive landscaping.

    Going up next month to check out phase two of the building process and will bring boots for a trek on my two acres.

    Regardless, at least I have a screened lanai and no neighbors. 🙂

    OK, I believe the part about no bears, but I don’t believe the part about no cottonmouths.   Also, you are going to have alligators.   Be careful.   Learn, and practice, best practices for alligator country.

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  15. MJBubba:
    We have lots of experience with cottonmouths.   They are the dominant species of snake in our area.

    Oh Lord help me. Where do you live?

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  16. MJBubba:
    As to how Nature Girl made the positive identification of the cottonmouth, she was looking at the shape of its head.   A cottonmouth has a distinctive rattlesnake-looking pattern, but this one was so dull that the pattern was hard to see.   After the next cold spell is over this snake will probably shed that old dull winter skin.   Pardon me for not getting a better picture of its head.

     

    I have a friend from Mississippi who calls them “Water Mexicans.”

    I know; that is racist, but it sounds funny when he says it.

    Did you really need to post this? In such detail? Give a nervous girl a break.

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  17. Another thing about cottonmouths (aka water moccasins).   They are near kin to their rattlesnake cousins.   You can tell by the pattern, but, as in the case of Sunday afternoon’s cottonmouth, when the skin ages it is really hard to see the pattern.

    But they have a “tell.”   A behavioral quirk that gives away their relationship.   When you approach one too close, and it knows you are looking at it and approaching anyway, it gets anxious.   They usually don’t want to tangle with some opponent as big as a person, so it is reluctant to strike, but its nerves give it away.   Its little tail will start to vibrate.   It will get to wagging back and forth really fast.   It is the same tail wag that a rattlesnake does, only without the rattles.   When you see the tail wagging like that, you know you are in the personal space of that cottonmouth, and it is clinching up ready to strike if it feels any more threatened than it already feels.

    If you back off a few feet, you can resume picture taking, and watch as it relaxes and drops its tail.   It will keep an eye on you.   If you look away, it will slither off real quick when it thinks you aren’t going to see which way it went.

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  18. MJBubba:

    EThompson:

    MJBubba:
    We have lots of experience with cottonmouths.   They are the dominant species of snake in our area.

    Oh Lord help me. Where do you live?

    East of Memphis, about a half mile from the Wolf River.

    Great. I will be living 50 miles south of Savannah so similar country…

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  19. 10 Cents:
    I thought Ratz hated snakes.

    They do! My second choice for residency would have been Scottsdale, AZ (Phoenix) but rattlesnakes are as plentiful as cacti in them there parts.

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