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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Black Racer’

It was relatively warm on Monday and there was occasional sunshine, so I ventured out to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find any late season dragonflies. I came up empty-handed when it came to dragonflies, but was quite surprised when I spotted this snake sunning itself along one of the trails at the refuge. I figured that all of the snakes in the area would have already begun their long winter naps.

Several years ago I learned that snakes do not actually hibernate, but enter into a similar state known as brumation where they become less active and their metabolism slows down tremendously and they sleep for long periods of time. They will, however, wake up to forage for food and water and if a sudden warm snap occurs and temperatures rise for a few days at a time. When the weather cools back down, they will go back into their brumation state once again.

I have never been very good in identifying dark-colored snakes in my area. I think that this might be a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), but there is also a chance that it might be a Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor) or an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). Whatever the case, I like the way that I was able to capture the different textures of the environment and the snake in this mini-portrait.

The weather has turned cold again, with the possibility of snow showers today. I am pretty sure that this snake has gone back to sleep by now, waiting for the next warm spell to reappear.

 

snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I got a definite “Don’t mess with me” vibe when I encountered this Northern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor constrictor) last week at Occoquan Regional Park and moved on quickly after capturing these images. Most snakes slither away when they first detect my presence, but this one reared up a bit and started to feverish flick its forked tongue at me.

Black Racers are somewhat similar in appearance to the Eastern Rat Snake that I featured last week (See the posting Ready to shed?), but are a bit smaller in size and have shinier, smoother skins. Several of my Facebook friends noted that Black Racers also tend to be more aggressive and reported having been chased by one.


Black Racer

Black Racer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Our recent warm weather has caused all kinds of creatures to reappear, like this Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) that I spotted on Wednesday while hiking in Prince William Forest Park. I kept my distance and relied on a telephoto lens to zoom closer even though I knew that this snake was not poisonous. I am not sure how long the snake was, but as you can see in the second photo it looked to be quite long. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society website, the Eastern Ratsnake is the only snake in Virginia that can grow to be more than six feet (183 cm) in length.

UPDATE: A snake expert weighed in on my Facebook posting about this snake and noted that, “This is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor). It’s harder to tell with the mud, but the dorsal scales are unkeeled, the skull shape too round, scale shape more rhombus-like, and eyes too big.” This just reinforces the notion that the more that I learn, the more I realize how little I know—that is why it is great to have experts around to help us identify what we see and photograph. The average size of a Northern Black Racer is “only” 36-60 inches (90-152 cm).

 

Eastern Ratsnake

Eastern Ratsnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The forest floor is carpeted with tiny wildflowers at this time of the year and even this large black snake seemed to be taking time to appreciate their beauty.

The little flowers are Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) and I think the snake may be a Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor), though I must confess that I grow a bit confused when reading the descriptions about how to distinguish Black Racers from Eastern Ratsnakes.

Unlike an earlier shot this spring of another black snake, which I photographed with my telephoto zoom lens, I took this shot with my 180mm macro lens, getting as low as I could and as close as I dared.

Northern Black Racer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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