Saturday, July 17, 2010

Snakes alive!

Our last day at the Mountain Nature Camp the Master Naturalist went off to explore and the teachers stayed to work on lesson plans and go to Cathedral State Park. We headed toward the Maryland side of Cranesville Swamp with a few stops along the way. At the first stop I took a moment to photograph this Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor), one among many that were common that day.

My photo taking was interrupted when I heard someone calling, "Snake, snake, we found a snake!" so of course I high-tailed it up to where the rest of the gang were turning over rocks, expecting to see a giant snake. But alas, it was a tiny Northern Ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii). They rarely get any longer than 20 inches in length and are very easy to pick up with out fear.

Doesn't it have a beautiful orange belly to match it's neck ring.

The Greg who was leading the trip gathered it up in his hands, then set it down on the slab of rock that we were standing on. He held his hands over it until the snake was calm, thinking it was hidden from view, then he lifted his hands to reveal a perfect photo opportunity. It was a nice nature interpretation trade trick.

Practically in the same area someone else turned over a rock and there was a small Northern Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi). This one also doesn't get much larger than 20 inches in length. This one was a female and very pregnant. You can see how her she is swollen just above her vent and then the remainder of the tail tapers very quickly.  They have live births and I read that up to 14 young approximately four inches in length may be produced.

Closer view of the Northern Brownsnake.

As the snake slithered away we left to go to another location higher up to look for birds.

We didn't find the birds we were looking for but someone else in the group found a very large Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis). Greg our group leader said it was one of the largest he had ever seen. It was just sunning beside the trail and looked like it had just eaten lunch. You can see how fat it is. They can get up to 4 feet long.

And to think I started the day out looking at butterflies! We hopped back into the van and headed for the Maryland side of Cranesville Swamp.  Greg took us to a area that is part of the swamp but it was next to the boardwalk and we could just bush whack our way through the woods.  It reminded me of Cathedral State Park because of the very large hemlocks, moss and ferns.  Just as we were crossing the road from the parking lot to the trail the graduate student turned over another large rock and there was a Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis). He really has good snake karma.

These snakes are a little more active so we didn't detain it for long except to feel the smoothness. It used it tongue to sense what was going on a lot more than the other three snakes we had seen. This species gets to be 12 to 36 inches long.

I had no idea when the day started that I would see so many different species of snakes. It really pays to go on field trips with people in the know.

Vist Camera Critters for more interesting wild and domestic animals.


Woodswalker said...

Oh, so many beautiful snakes! I consider it grand good luck to see even one on any outing, but look how many -- and how many kinds -- you found.

Willard said...

A very interesting post with excellent photogaphy. I have seen the ring-necked snake and the garter, but not the others. It is amazing to have seen that many species.

I like the photograph of the skipper, too. I never tire of seeing butterflies.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

I love hiking with knowledgeable people. Well, I love hiking with anybody, but it is really nice to go with someone who knows what to look for and where. I really like the close-up of the green snake. That's one I could look at for a long time--such a pretty shade of green!

The skipper photo is nice too. It reminds me that I need to make room for a patch of milkweed.

Have a great weekend!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Spiffy snakes! Isn't it interesting how similar ring-necks and red-bellies can look?

A smooth green is still on my must-see list. They are supposedly quite common up here, but because they are secretive, they are hard to find.

Greyscale Territory said...

I'm feeling quite proud of myself! I managed to read a whole post about snakes! But I coped in spite of my shivers! Very interesting!

ksdoolittle said...

WOW! Snakes galore! How wonderful. These are some great shots. ~karen

Rambling Woods said...

What a great view of the snakes and thank you for holding them up especially the pregnant one so that we could see it better...