Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thanks, But No Thanks!

Every morning the cats accompany me down to the pond for a little "exercise" on their part while I examine the condition of the water and see if anything new is lurking down there.  Well, this morning something new WAS lurking down there.  He was very quiet and I could tell immediately that he (or she) wasn't the beautiful midland water snake I had seen a few weeks ago.  This is what we found:


Can we say water moccasin?  Cottonmouth?  Venomous?
If you'd like to see what they look like close-up, click the pic.  It has pretty good details.

Six or seven cats had come with me this morning, so the first order of business was to get them out of there.  I took my camera down to see if I could get a few good shots of it, download and study them, and make sure I wasn't about to react out of ignorance and kill a harmless little creature doing his job.  Although I was pretty sure of what I was looking at, I had to verify and sure enough, the identifiers were there.

 It took me about 10 minutes to try to think of something I could use to eliminate it and ended up returning to the pond with a long handled flat shovel and a .22 pistol that hadn't been fired since 1985.  Wasn't sure which one I was going to use. 

Since it had been about 20 minutes since I discovered this guy and he'd been flash-popped several times with the camera, I guess he figured it was time to move on.  By the time I got back down to the pond, he had begun gliding gracefully over to the far side  where there's plenty of brush, turtles, fish, and frogs.  For the sake of safety for my cats, I fired at him-not knowing a thing about how accurate the little .22 might be or if it would even shoot.  It did, but I missed him by about a foot.  It was close enough for him to thrash in the water a minute, but apparently he was ok and continued on his journey.  It was about a 30 ft shot with an untried weapon, so to come as close as a foot wasn't bad.  I tried him again at about 50 ft but could barely make him out against the opposite bank.  Missed again, so it was his lucky day.

It's been on my mind all day about his fluid gracefulness as he was swimming through the water and I'm not sure if I see him again, I'll be able to kill him.  Hopefully, he'll move on so I don't have to be confronted with having to choose.  I guess I would for the sake of our cats, but would probably be very sad to have taken the life of an innocent just because he was doing what he is here to do.

In the meantime, I'm watching very carefully where I step!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Wild Life

Given that this place is rural and there is water and grown up areas, I'm always on the lookout for things that I need to be aware exist.  We suspected there would probably be snakes, but all anyone has reported seeing are of the non poisonous type-thankfully.  We hadn't seen any snakes while we had been working, but one day Donnie announced that there were snakes and pointed to one about 5 ft from where he was standing.  I had to investigate-and of course take pictures so I could get an ID on it.  After a quick study, it was easily determined that it wasn't poisonous, so I left it alone-well other than blinding it with several flash-pops, of course.  It was just a garter snake-good for controlling pests.

Is he-or she-adorable or what???  Look at that little face.  What an expression!



A few weeks ago, the cats and I discovered the prettiest snake I've ever seen hanging out at the edge of the pond.  I didn't recognize it at all and by the time I went back to the house for the camera, he/she was gone, but I took careful note of what it looked like so I could try to identify it.  Like the garter snake, this one didn't have the characteristics of a venomous snake.  After surfing snake pictures for days, I eventually discovered what it was; a midland water snake.  Never heard of it, but it was beautiful.  There are several different kinds and colors of these guys, but this is the best pic I could find on Google of the one I saw.

(image from http://www.cochranmillnaturecenter.org/i/400s/Midland_Water_Snake_400.jpg)

One of the cats tipped me off to this little guy as well.  It appears to be a rat snake, but I'm not positive.  I've seen plenty of them before and they're harmless.  I took him across the road and let him go in a field of tall grass.  Hopefully, he enjoys it there since the cats would probably have a little fun with him before dropping him off at the door to the house.  He was about as big around as an ink pen.



Our wanderings at the pond at night is a good time to visit the frogs since they seem to be comatose after dark.  This is one of the many that live along the edge near the same willow tree where we discovered the water snake.  I did a little poking around and the best conclusion that I could come up with is that he's a bullfrog.  Duh!


There are also several turtles that live here.  If you move quietly, you can see them hanging about during the day.  There are turtles of every size.  This one likes to sun himself on the bank across the pond.  They must have excellent hearing though, because every time I approach the pond, he knows it and goes in for a swim.  He must have been feeling lazy this day as I was able to get a shot or two of him, or maybe her.  I zoomed in from about 75 ft, so the quality isn't very good.  I met him or one of his pals the other evening when he was out of the water and blazing down the tractor trail that goes into the neighbor's field.  We had a nice chat and he stayed outside his shell while we checked each other out.  That one looked like a snapping turtle, but I can't tell about the one basking on the side of the pond.  I thought there were 3 or 4 turtles living in there, but that day I counted at least 11 heads of various sizes sticking up out of the water. 


Yesterday morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted either a huge white heron or maybe an egret.  Are they the same?  I'll have to investigate that further.  I was in the middle of something and couldn't go get a better look and he flew away before I had the chance.  I've seen him around before, but can't quite pin down his markings to figure out what he is.  A couple of bluish water fowl flew through here this morning as well, but didn't stop. They were probably headed toward the small river nearby where I think they hang out.

The cats caught a giant rat somewhere the other day and dragged it into the carport which I found totally disgusting.  Between the mob of cats, I guess they ate the whole thing.  I won't go into the creepy details. Eeewww.

So, the wild life around here is pretty much the local wildlife.  I've been learning to better identify our 3 venomous snakes and their behavior.  I'll share what I learned sometime as it's good to know.  Did you know it is illegal to kill a snake in this state?  That was a new one on me.  I generally let them live since they eat nuisance pests, so I guess I won't be going to jail anytime soon...for snake-killing anyway. :)