Nature in the Backyard: King Snake

Kingsnake_1 This king snake showed up on Sunday near Scooter’s grave. It stayed in the sunny spots under the dogwood trees and didn’t seem to be bothered by our walking nearby and my photo-taking.

I hope this handsome reptile sticks around. The black rat snake that came for lunch a week ago seems to be gone, and we like having wildlife around, even the ones that slither.

Nature in the Backyard: Black Rat Snake

On Sunday I was in our side yard when I heard birds screaming in our back yard. The bluejays were the loudest, but all the birds were shrieking. When about a dozen bluejays were started screaming Blackratsnake1ain unison, I decided to investigate.

When I stepped into the back yard, I expected to see a Coopers hawk. I didn’t see a hawk, but I did see several cardinals diving into the climbing roses on a trellis against the back of our home. As I walked towards the roses, something appeared out of place.

I saw what appeared to be a black tail hanging down at the bottom of the trellis. (Look at the red outline in the first photo – double-click for a closer view.) As I got closer, I saw a large black snake curled around a bird’s nest in the roses.

Blackratsnake2a_1 I called Ann and we looked closer. A black rat snake, about five feet long, had climbed up the trellis and feasted on the baby cardinals in the nest. Not only was it long, but it was thick – about 3 – 4 inches in diameter. A big snake! (You can see it’s head in the red circle in the second photo – double-click for a closer view.)

I wanted to get more photos when it came down, so I checked on it often. I expected it to move away from our house, across the yard, and into the woods. Wrong!

I spotted the big snake coming around the corner of the garage, towards the the front of the house. I walked over to get a closer look and a photo. It paused for a moment, and then started coming right towards me! Instead of moving onto the driveway where we were standing, however, it went into a hole under the driveway.

I was so caught up in the excitement I had forgotten to turn my digital camera on! When it was finally ready, I got a photo of it’s tail as it disappeared in the hole (highlighted in red in the third photo).

The next morning I went out and looked at the hole. The snake was about a foot out of the hole. It immediately withdrew into it’s sanctuary.

This large snake shows up four days after Scooter is gone. Can predators detect an opening in the ecosystem, an opportunity for upward mobility?

Blackratsnake3

Nature in the Backyard: Coopers Hawk

Hawk2 I walked into the bathroom after our Siamese alarm clock woke me up. Suddenly a number of blue jays in the back yard started screaming – not their usual yelling and whining, but full-blown war screams. I looked out of the window and saw a Coopers hawk crouching in the yard while the blue jays dived bombed it and shrieked. I ran downstairs, grabbed the camera, and ran to the bay window overlooking the back yard. I snapped several photos, which didn’t turn out as well as I hoped because I was shooting through a window and the light at 7:15am was not sufficient. The first photo shows the Coopers hawk trying to avoid the diving blue jays. You can see the a bit of the prey under the hawk. Hawk3 The hawk has changed position in the second photo. When it flew away, I could see why it changed position: it had killed a Brown Thrasher and it repositioned the dead bird so that it was aerodynamic (head forward) so it would be easy to transport. Scooter and I went outside. All the birds were making noise and squirrels were clucking. The wildlife were alarmed. Is a Coopers hawk that eats a Brown Thrasher cannibalistic?

Nature in the Backyard: Coyote

I walked into the bathroom at 10am and glanced out of the window into the backyard. A large coyote came out of the woods into our backyard, running at half speed. He cut across our backyard and headed towards the street. I lost sight of him as he passed on the east side of our house.

I ran to the garage but I didn’t get to see where he went. Based on his direction, he ran up the walk way in our backyard and between the driveway and the garden. I wonder how often this occurs.

It could happen several times a day and we wouldn’t see it very often. I just don’t know if I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time or if it’s a commonplace occurrence. The path the coyote used is a place where Scooter often goes when we take him out.

What would have happened if Scooter had been on the path when the coyote came by? Would I have been able to intervene quickly enough to prevent Scooter’s demise?