The Right Place, at the Right Time

The light of late October plays over the bluffs...

base of a big old beech

hornet nest

copperhead in hole

in situ

copperhead number two

October weather in my part of the world is fickle as spring. The last week of the month was marked by temperatures in the thirties and forties Fahrenheit, but Friday...on Friday the wind changed and came out of the south, the sun came out, and things warmed up a bit. Saturday looked like more of the same. I called Steve. "Let's do it!" Steve is always ready for a trip to the southern end of the state, and if the herps weren't providing enough excitement he'd make a day out of the bird life.

Early Saturday morning found us heading south. We would be arriving just about the time the sun was high enough to warm things up. Our destination for today was a set of bluffs along the river, a place we've visited before.

The sun was climbing through a nearly cloudless sky, and the temperature was climbing towards the 60 degree mark as we started out. High overhead, a Cooper's Hawk turned in a tight spiral, hardly more than a speck in the sky; the woods were quiet, save for the faint tap of a woodpecker somewhere.

Reaching the bluffs, we turned to the south and the autumn sun, keeping our eyes on the ground and to the rock ledges on our right. In gaps between the trees the sun was striking the bluffs with full force, and we looked over these areas with extra care.

Our first snake of the day was halfway out of a crevice, lying motionless in the sunlight - a young adult Black Rat Snake. The snake cocked its head at us as we gave it a wide berth, not wishing to disturb it during one of the last sunbaths it would take this year. I snapped a few pictures and then we moved along.

A cleft in the bluff next merited our attention. Fronted by the trunk of a large oak, there were numerous cracks, crevices and hollows to investigate. Hunkering down, I spotted a familiar snout in a turned up position, about a foot down a slender hole. Copperhead! There was no reaching this little serpent, but perhaps I could grab a picture from a better angle on the other side of the tree. I backed out and took a step over a thick tree root...and nearly stepped on a little rattlesnake! The young-of-the-year Timber was crawling along the root, away from one of the crevices. Holy cow! Ten minutes of walking and we hit pay dirt! I took some pictures and we left the snake to continue on its way. Then I finished stepping over the tree and took a tunnel shot of the Copperhead's chin.

Just a few minutes later my brain's search image wetware picked an adult Copperhead out of the leaf litter, crawling along the base of the bluff. You simply can't go wrong by watching that line where the leaf litter meets vertical rock. We pulled this snake into an open area for a few photos and then put it back where we found it. Hmm, this day was starting to turn into something...wait, better not say it out loud and jinx the thing! Nobody ever mentions a no-hitter in baseball for the same reason.


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