Thursday, May 04, 2006

Eastern Coachwhip

I was up at our camp in Warren, TX today to work on our water pump, and as I was lifting the wooden housing that protects it there lay two eastern coachwhip snakes (Masticophis flagellum). One was about 3 foot long while the other was around 4 foot. The smaller of the two scrambled immediately to some nearby thick brush, while the larger one froze on the spot.
There's a good possibility that I had just invaded their "love" nest.
Now these snakes are pretty quick and I figured the remaining snake would bolt at any second before I could get my hands on it. Coachwhips tend to be very aggressive when handled meaning they bite.....repeatedly. And when they bite they chew. They also have been know to thrash about and this thrashing is what lead to the age old tale that this particular snake, when accosted, would wrap itself around an individual and bestow a whipping with its tail. This is totally untrue of course even though the very end of its tail is braided like that of a whip, which I'm sure added validity to this fallacy.

Luckily as always when I'm up here in the woods I keep my snake hook nearby. As I pinned its head it came alive, thrashing every which way. I grabbed it behind its head and then it did what most snakes do when they're picked shot excrement everywhere, but I hung on. No sense in letting a little crap ruin the rewarding experience of holding a live snake. Coachwhips are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They can reach lengths of 6-7 feet, are fast on the ground and can climb trees. They feed on rodents, lizards, snakes, birds and their eggs. They will cruise along the forest floor and fields, stop and then raise their heads above the high grasses in cobra fashion to look for unwary prey. Unlike rat and king snakes, coachwhips are not constrictors, but instead pursue their prey, pin it down with a part of their body, and then swallow it alive.

I was able to get a few good photos of its head and wanted to get some of its entire body so I took it out to an open area away from the thick brush and set it down. As I let it loose it tried escaping to the brush, and each time it did this I would step in front of it. A couple of times it got around me so I reacted by grabbing its tail and dragging it back out into the open. Several times it struck at me as I did this.

After a few minutes of this it decided to remain still, which I took advantage of and photographed it. It finally grew weary of this and instead of trying to go around me it decided to come straight for me. I walked towards it thinking it would stop, but instead it reared up and struck. This went on for several minutes while I continued photographing it and then finally allowed it to crawl away into the high grass figuring I had disturbed it long enough.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Spring Migration

For the last week I've been trying to spend what days I can at several migrant hotspots along the coast in order to catch what's left of spring migration. Soon things will begin to dry up until the fall. I spent two days at Sabine Woods and one day at Smith Woods in High Island, TX and an afternoon at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Rather than list what I saw at each I will combine all sightings. If anyone wants specifics you can email me. The one sighting that really excited me was the Black-whiskered vireo (Vireo altiloquus) at Smith Woods. This particular vireo is a rarity here. It winters in South America and its bredding range is mostly restricted to the Florida coasts.


Yellow-throated (1)
American Redstart (4)
Common yellowthroat (5)
Black-throated green (4)
Yellow warbler (6)
Black & White warbler (11)
Golden-winged (1)
Chestnut-sided (6)
Blackburnian (2)
Magnolia (8)
Hooded (2)
Canada (1)
Blackpoll (3)
Worm-eating (1)


Black-whiskered- (1)
Red-eyed (2)
White-eyed (1)
Yellow-throated (1)
Solitary (1)
Philadelphia (3)
Warbling (1)


Yellow-billed cuckoo (5)
Indigo bunting (3)
Painted bunting (1)
Orchard oriole (18)
Gray catbird (27)
Baltimore oriole (6)
Rose-breasted grosbeak (16)
Scarlet tanager (3)
Summer tanager (1)

Labels: ,

Web Counter
Online Schools