Thursday, October 15, 2009

A few weeks ago we took some friends looking for rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). The "we" included Jen, and although she's my life and herping partner, she hasn't yet come along on any big mountain trips, for the simple reason that we usually leave too early in the morning.

This time the weather called for clouds in the morning and sun in the afternoon. After a couple seasons of waiting for this kind of day to bring Jen along to look for my beloved rattlers, I had our day - we'd actually benefit from sleeping in.

So, after picking up Ruth and Patrick and stopping for donuts and coffee we were on our way. We got to the trail head and were on our way, with me promising that the cool, low blanket of clouds (enforcing temperatures in the mid 50s) would pass as we walked out to the spot.

The redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) under every rock were interesting to everyone but me, and this nice slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinosis) was a huge hit.

I was wrong, so we killed time eating lunch, hiking around doing hiking things. Eventually, after a spell of sitting around talking on a scenic outcropping, Jen hopped up and nearly stepped over this beauty:
Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) have perhaps the best camouflage on the planet. Put a copperhead on dry leaves on the forest floor and good luck finding it again. On a gray rock, however, they don't blend in so well. Don't tell the snake; it froze like its instincts told it to, even though that just made it an easy photo subject.

That copperhead was about all for the day. The sky never really cleared like I had hoped, but I'll take the pretty little pit viper. I've seen dozens of rattlers in PA, but I have a much, much harder time finding copperheads. I should bring Jen more often.

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