Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Black Rat Snake in our side yard...

Saturday afternoon Matty and I were walking in the side yard when we both saw a Black Rat snake alongside the rock path. He froze as soon as he saw us, and we watched him for a while. When I realized he was in frozen mode, I ran in to get the camera, hoping he would stay put for a few more minutes. He was in the same place when I returned, so I took a few photos. Eventually he figured out we weren't going to try to eat him or pick him up, so he slowly slithered away under a large bush...

Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)
A Black Rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta) in our side yard. I'm glad this fellow is living here. I hope he comes out and says hi more often.

...as you can tell, our Black Rat snake isn't all that black! He has a beautiful pattern with copper, brown and yellow showing through. Unfortunately, this pattern sometimes gets him killed when uninformed homeowners confuse him with a venomous snake. The round pupil on the Black Rat snake lets you know he is nonvenomous. Venomous snakes have elliptical pupils. Having a Black Rat snake living close by is beneficial...

...someone is full and happy. I wonder what he ate...mouse, vole, chipmunk? If you look at the left, you can see the scales are close together, but in the middle prey has stretched out the skin, which separates the scales. 

...freezing in place is a good defense when you are camouflaged as well as our snake is. He blended in so perfectly, it would have been easy to walk right past him. Black Rat snakes are the largest snakes found in Ohio, and they are often found in suburban neighborhoods. You might have one in your yard and not even know it.

...with his head tipped up a little, you can see the rostral groove in his upper lip, which is the small hole the tongue protrudes through. In the next photo...you can see the tongue!
Snakes flick their tongues in and out of their mouths through the rostral groove without every having to open their mouths.
To learn more about the rostral groove and how snakes use their tongues and the Jacobson's Organ to smell, click here.

The pattern on a Black Rat snake, when visible, is distinct. The dark spots on the dorsal side lay across his back like saddles. 

This video shows how beautiful and graceful a Black Rat snake is when it moves.

I wonder if this is the baby Black Rat snake we found in our basement last autumn and released into our back yard? He's not fully grown, so he might be...

p.s. This post is for my niece, Maria, my son, Matty, and my neighbor, Chet...all of whom love snakes. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Northern Leopard Frog at the Spring Valley Freshwater Fen

It's easy to see where this Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) got its name. It's covered in spots just like a leopard. I photographed the cute little frog two weeks ago at the Spring Valley Wildlife Area when Paul Krusling and I were there searching for Spotted Turtles. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had no luck finding the Spotted Turtles, but spotted frogs were a whole other story...

A Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)
Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens) at Spring Valley Wildlife Area. This frog and several others were at the freshwater fen. 
I had never seen the small freshwater fen at Spring Valley. It's beautiful...hidden and off the beaten path, it was a haven for these little Northern Leopard Frogs.

Northern Leopard Frog hiding in the leaf litter in the freshwater fen at Spring Valley Wildlife Area.

Close up of a A Northern Leopard Frog's face...
...closeup of a Northern Leopard Frog's face.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Yellow-throated Vireo at Spring Valley Wildlife Area...

Last Tuesday I spent the day at Spring Valley Wildlife Area. It was beautiful and warm, and newly arrived spring migrants were singing in the bright sunshine. We were looking for Spotted Turtles, hoping one would pop its head out of the water and swim around, but unfortunately, none obliged. This sunny yellow Yellow-throated Vireo, however, put on a nice show...

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons) singing along the Little Miami River at Spring Valley Wildlife Area.

Yellow-throated Vireo during Spring Migration along the Little Miami River river corridor
Yellow-spectacled Vireo would have been a good name for this guy too...