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Posts Tagged ‘snake’

With a mixture of horror and fascination, I watched as a large black snake slowly ingested a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) that it had caught on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. The frog was struggling and crying out loudly and then suddenly it was free. The lucky frog hopped away and the snake could only tell its friends about the one that got away.

When I first spotted the snake, it was holding the frog in the air. It appeared to have grabbed the frog by one of its back legs and was trying to adjust the frog so that it could swallow it. Unlike a Great Blue Heron that swallows its prey in a single gulp, the snake has to pull its prey in slowly. Little by little the snake seemed to get more of the frog’s leg in its mouth.

The frog continued to struggle, seeking to get some leverage so that it could pull its way out of the snake’s death grip. I didn’t see exactly how it happened, but all of the sudden the frog was free. It almost looked like that snake had released the frog, though that just seems so unlikely to have happened. Whatever the case, the frog was extremely fortunate—all of the previous encounters that I have observed between snakes and frogs have ended with the frog inside of the snake.

I was shooting with my macro lens, so I couldn’t zoom in closer, but I did manage to capture a sequence of shots that show some of the action.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A snake struggled mightily when snagged by a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). The heron looked a little confused by the actions of its prey and seemed to be having trouble figuring out how to grip the snake. I was a bit far away when I took these shots so I couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked to me that the heron eventually dropped the snake and the snake escaped into the thick vegetation.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I reached the boardwalk, I glanced to my right and realized that I was eye-to-eye with a snake that was loosely coiled on top of a bush. This Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) seemed to have appointed himself as the official greeter of the day at the marsh, though I suspect that not all visitors welcomed his presence so close to them as they walked by.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s your first reaction when you see a snake? I was walking through the woods at my local marsh this past weekend when I spotted a snake curled up on the leaves. My first reaction was to move closer to get a shot of the snake.

The area was relatively open, but there were lots of leaves and sticks on the forest floor, so it was not really possible to get an unobstructed shot of the snake. I took a shot anyways, fearing the snake would leave, and include it as a second image here so you can see how the snake was positioned. I noticed that the snake’s head was in an uncluttered area and a clear shot seemed possible. I changed lenses from my telephoto zoom to my macro lens, set up my tripod as low as it would go, and moved really close, until the snake’s head almost filled the frame of my viewfinder. I took some shots in natural light and some with my popup flash. The snake seemed unbothered by my actions until I inadvertently moved a small branch when adjusting my position on ground and he slithered away.

When I looked at the images on my computer, I was struck by the degree to which my reflection is visible in the snake’s eye. If you click on the first photo, you’ll get a higher resolution view that shows me taking the shot (with flash this time).

I am not sure what kind of snake this is, but it looks a bit like a Northern Black Racer snake (Coluber constrictor constrictor) as described on the webpage of the Virginia Herpetological Society. I’d welcome a confirmation or correction of my identification from anyone with more experience with snakes.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sometimes a coiled snake is prepared to strike, but this Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) was definitely not ready for action. The snake seemed total relaxed as it basked in the sun, curled up above the surface of the water on some dried up vegetation.

I really like the texture of the snake’s skin, but there was no way that I was going to reach out and touch it. Telephoto lenses are a good thing in situations like this.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Can snakes whistle? It sure looks like this Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus) is trying hard to whistle as he purses his lips and seems to be blowing air in this series of shots. Who knew that snakes had lips? This snake has lips that rival those of Mick Jagger and look a bit like they were enhanced with collagen.

When you shoot subjects, how close do you get to them? My general rule for wildlife subjects is to shoot them from a distance (so I can be sure of getting a shot) and then move slowly closer and closer. I was amazed at how close this snake let me approach—this first shot was not cropped very much at all.

I like the head-and-shoulders look of the first image (taking into account the fact that snakes don’t really have shoulders), which draws attention to the snake’s eye. At times, though, I prefer the shots that show more of the snake’s body and my favorite of this group is probably the third shot. I really like the curve of the snake’s body and the tilt of its head. It’s hard to see in this reduced-size image, but two little tips of the snake’s forked tongue are visible in its partially open mouth.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Now that it is spring, I have started carrying around my macro lens, which I was able to use to get this really close-up shot today of an Eastern Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite local spot for nature photography. The snake was curled up in a mossy area and seemed to be a little sluggish. Consequently, he did not slither away when I got down low and moved in close to take this photo.

CORRECTION: Fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford, who is much more of an expert in snakes than I am, has identified this snake as a Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus), not an Eastern Garter snake.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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