An Ordinary Day, With Green Snakes
In the middle of the story another tale emerges. The new tale forks off early in the narrative with the discovery of a Rough Green Snake, stretched out in a bit of shrubbery growing out of the bluff base. A nice spot by Ryan, and categorized by the group as "oh, cool, a Green Snake - nice to see one on this trip." A young one, a yearling perhaps. Cameras are drawn and shots fired - let no Opheodrys go unrecorded is the rule.
The main story takes over, with pit vipers galore - then "another Green Snake!" is shouted back down the line. "Number three!" comes not long after. A neonate in the leaf litter; a larger one in a small tree. The day is getting interesting in an unexpected way; not many of us have seen three Green Snakes in a single day. The afternoon looms rich with promise.
By the seventh snake, we're looking at each other with wide grins. We don't know what's going on, but we do like what's happening. Most of these are neonates, and they're out patrolling where the horizontal meets the vertical - where the ground meets the bluff. Here there are gaps between soil and rock, cracks and crevices that offer places for a small snake to sit out the winter. On fall days when the sun is out, so are the snakes, taking every opportunity to forage for another meal or two before winter drives them completely underground.
It appears we've hit a 'sweet spot' now, here where the river veers close to the bluffs, leaving a narrow band of sloping ground in between. The large trees are somewhat thinner here, with large stands of cocklebur and fleabane and grapevine in open areas, along with pawpaw and other small shrub-like trees. A playground for the bug eaters. Now every few steps we see another neonate patrolling that leaf-covered liminal space - "thirteen! fourteen!" - head and neck raised off the ground.
"Green Snake!" Ryan calls. "Another! Whoa, Cottonmouth!" Two yearlings are trying to look like vines in the breeze to a small moccasin facing them just a few inches away. A chance meeting, perhaps, or does the Cottonmouth have lunch plans? Human intervention leaves the question unanswered, as the chunky adder is lifted by hook to the other side of the trail.
How many are off the ground in the trees and bushes? These may be harder to spot, but we do find a few. We've got a heckuva a search image working now. Rich, Ryan's dad, finds the biggest Green of the day in a tree, one well over two feet in length.
have to turn around and head back now, having reached the far end of the
bluffs we were walking. Back through the sweet spot and the snakes are
still out and about. Our total for Rough Green Snakes today is around
thirty; we know commercial collectors in the south have done far better, but
for us, these numbers are stupendous - we're used to seeing just a handful
of Opheodrys for the entire season. Here is a story within another
story worth remembering.
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