Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Second Chance

Now that spring is here in southeast Texas the foremost thought on my mind while I’m in the field are snakes. Scaly, slithering snakes. Most people I know loathe snakes, but they fascinate me. Always have. Always will. I’ve waited all winter for this moment. The moment when they begin crawling from their hidden lairs to greet the oncoming warmth. I was walking along an acre of woods that flood each time we have a torrential rain storm. If I didn’t know any better I’d think I was in a Louisiana swamp. A perfect locale for you know what. I have found from past experience that it’s better to sit and allow the wildlife to come to you rather than walking in circles and seeing nothing. So I sat…….listening to the distant calls of crows and the sound of the nearby clicking of cricket frogs. Waiting for opportunity to knock….and then it did.

Along the bank I see the head of a snake just breaking the surface of the water. The glare of the day prevents me from seeing beneath the water for markings. It must’ve spotted me because it sprang from its relaxed position towards the center of the “swamp”. I watched as it swam rapidly and as it got further away it began to circle back along the water’s edge bringing it back in my direction. Closer and closer it came finally swimming within ten foot from where I stood. The urge in me was strong to rush into the water and grab it, but I wasn’t yet certain of the type of snake it was. The last thing I wanted to be doing was snatching a cottonmouth by the tail. It then spotted me again and veered away as I glassed it to see that it was a no more than a harmless broad-banded watersnake. I missed my chance.

I continued my stroll for a ways further and then decided to turn back…..the thought of that snake consumed my thoughts. If I only had known it was nonpoisonous I could’ve grabbed it and photographed it. I eventually arrived at the spot where I had seen it and decided to sit for awhile hoping for a second chance. I glassed the area over and over hoping to spot it and then……..I got my wish. It was swimming in the same pattern it had earlier, again in my direction. My heart immediately began to race. As it swam along the bank it veered to its left and began inspecting a tree limb that had fallen into the water. Slowly it began to slither up the limb to an area that was exposed to the warm sunlight. Looks like opportunity had knocked twice.

I began to slowly skulk through the knee-deep muck keeping a small tree between us eventually coming within several feet of it. Instead of trying to capture it and possibly ruining my second chance, I decided to photograph it as it basked.

It took its time as if it knew I was watching, allowing me to capture it on my camera. It began to deliberately crawl towards a log pausing for a second as if to pose and then dropped into the water. It creeped over the log re-entered the water and disappeared below the surface. I live for moments for such as this………

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Bluebirds Hatching

I checked my bluebird housing this weekend and found that two of the eggs had hatched. Well actually when I first checked it the adult female was sitting on the nest to keep them warm. We had a cool front come through which dropped the temps down into the forties. During days like these- breezy and cool- the female will spend her day warming the chicks while the dutiful male will hunt and feed her and what she doesn't eat she feeds to the nestlings.
I watched him land atop a 10 foot pine snag out front and from there he would inspect the ground below for insects.
Their eyesight is amazing....he would leave his perch and drop into the hay 50 yards away and then return with his catch where he would then pummel it against the top of the snag, killing the insect.
From there he would deliver it to the house. Later in the day the female decided to stretch her wings which allowed me to have a look at the nest. Inserting the mirror I see two nestlings and three unhatched eggs. I hope to return in a few days to find the entire clutch hatched. I also checked my neighbor's box and found he had 5 eggs.

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