Wednesday, May 04, 2011

I had almost forgotten what it was like to see a timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus). I stepped slowly and very carefully through the trees and briars to the first talus slope, hoping I could tell snake from stone and shadow, that my eyes would pick out a snake before I spooked it. If I spooked it I hoped I could hear it sliding before it got away completely.

A lot of stone and shadow into my hike I finally heard the first snake, the slow rustling slide of a heavy timber rattler making its way over the rocks. I stared towards where I thought the sound was coming from, but it took me a moment to pick the snake out, just about as it gave me a quick warning rattle.

I backed off and the snake, stretched out as though crawling right to left, paused another moment and continued picking its way rock to rock as I took some photos.

A few hundred yards away I scrambled up another talus slope, hopping from boulder to boulder. I wanted to see if anyone was hanging out around a couple rocks that are popular with the gravid females in the summer - we call them rookery sites.

See the rattler? I didn't either. She was rattling something fierce, though, and after a bit of staring I made out some black scales amid the shadows inside this little thicket.

I left her alone and spied out this other rattler basking more openly.

I was on my way to a meeting that afternoon, and with sun peaking in the sky I needed to head back. A black rattler greeted me near where I had seen the first one crawling (looked a lot like the first one, but the blotch pattern is a little different)...

... and as I made my way off that slope and neared another patch of rocks I don't think of as being quite so snakey, I saw this beauty hanging out.

Here are a few non-snakes. First, this pool lower on the hillside hosted a bunch of amphibian egg masses, I think mostly spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and wood frog (Rana sylvatica), but maybe some Jefferson's salamander eggs (Ambystoma jeffersonianum). This was a couple weeks ago, but still several weeks behind our early amphibians.

Here's something else that lives around the rocks (moss and lichen):

Last up, this one is for Ted MacRea of Beetles in the Bush, a six-spotted tiger beetle basking on a boulder. These are usually more skittish than basking map turtles - five steps ahead any time I want a shot of that crazily bright green bug on the trail - so I took advantage of the beetle calmly taking some sun.


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna try again for timber rattlers on Friday - last week's trip was fruitless, as flooding prevented access to the talus slopes where I saw a juvenile last spring.

Love the tiger beetle!

Anonymous said...

Terrific posts --- I'm learning a lot.

Recently I've been charmed by the six-spotted tiger beetle (here in southeastern PA) but didn't know its ID. Thanks!