Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Florida Rough Greensnake ... Sara N. Dippity makes a home delivery. Thanks Babe!

Green has been my favorite color all my life ... except for a brief affair with bright orange in second grade... something about the orange Crayola crayon teased me away from green for a few months in Mrs. Ackerman's class.

It was only a fling and I soon came to my senses.

Life is good if green is your favorite color.
It's everywhere ... at least in my habitat, a subtropical peninsula with 55 inches of rain a year.

So green is a constant here, and yet, sometimes a special bit of green serendipitously slithers into your life.

About a week ago, I started up the boy's (now a 3L law student) high school Hyundai just to let it run and keep the battery charged.
(Anyone need a basic car?)

Anyhoo ... After the car ran for about 20 minutes, I decided to run it down the road and back for a little auto-exercise.

Here's where Sara N. Dippity decided to ride along.

Immediately, as I pulled out of our long sandy driveway and on to the paved road, I noticed a thin sliver of ... something.
It was almost a straight line and smack dab in the road center.

At first, I thought it was a twig, but it had a couple of rounded curves ... just barely there, but twigs don't have ripples.

I parked quickly and got out to move it off the road, fully expecting it to be a baby rat snake.

But it was this guy!

Holy Smokes!
The last time I saw a green snake was the late 80's and I was the resident NPS Ranger at Fort Matanzas National Monument.
The encounter back then was one I will never forget.

I was walking towards the visitor center breezeway from the parking lot and something substantial fell from the cedar tree above me and bounced off my Park Service Stetson.
It was a green snake.

But back to the future ...

I grabbed the little green guy off the road and immediately cancelled the car exercise.

This was a photo opportunity, blog fodder, and a road rescue wrapped in my favorite color.

So, with the long slender snake in my right hand, I got back in the car and did a U-turn.

The snake was being completely cooperative ... I thought.
Apparently I mistook it's docile non-bitey attitude for compliance.

As soon as I put my right, snake holding hand on the steering wheel, the green snake thrust the very slender, delicate tip of his tail into a thin space on the backside of the steering wheel and began backing into it.
No dang it!
I tried to pull him out, but he had already slipped in enough tail to get a purchase on something in there.

He was anchored.

I needed to make a 90 degree left turn off the paved road and into my driveway, but that was pretty much impossible with the snake stuck in the wheel.
It might hurt the snakey bits in the wheel and I would certainly loose control of him, which would allow more of him to back into the steering column.

Lucky for me, I live on a VERY quiet country road.

(The extra large eye, and keeled scales say this is the Florida Rough Greensnake  Opheodrys aestivus carinatus)

I stopped in the middle of the road and gingerly tugged and wiggled the posterior parts of the snake out of the steering column. 
He was pretty delicate and thin at his back end and I did not want to harm him.

Eventually, I extricated him and pulled down my drive.

And then the fun began.
I wasn't about to let this gem go until I had my fill of photos.
He was completely cooperative, never attempting to bite even as I manipulated him for photos.

My paws are in these photos mainly for a size reference.

In the photo above you can see the very slender tail tip that this emerald beauty poked down into the Hyundai steering column.
... undamaged I might add. 

He's pretty obvious out of his environment, but take a look below.
I let him go here at PFHQ where snakes are safe and welcome.

I chose this picture to show how arboreal and almost invisible green snakes are and why sightings are fairly rare.

The photos I did not choose for this last scene were good sharp photos, but he was so invisible ... seeing the snake became a challenge.

I think about the serendipity of this encounter and it makes me smile.

Had I not decided to take the little Hyundai out for a brief road run at the moment, (I had not done that in months)... that green beauty decided to bask in the center of the road ... this encounter would not have happened ... or worse, I would have later found a smashed, road-killed green snake in the road.

I DO love it when Sara rides along.

Saturday, November 05, 2016


This eagle was once a regular sight on my work commute. 
His perch of choice was a very large, very dead pine tree across from a pretty ranch.

The ranch, with its mix of dry pasture and freshwater wetlands was popular with both the eagle and a host of other wildlife ... including me.

You can always count on seeing something interesting at the ranch from beautiful horses, cows, the famous "cowdeer" who thought he was a cow and hung with the other bovines, sandhill cranes, anhingas, egrets, ibis, hawks, owls, ... you name it and it probably visited that ranch.

One dark morning almost 2 years ago, as I drove to work, I noticed something large on the road. 
I swerved to avoid it and immediately thought ... "Oh no, was that white feathers in the headlights? Please don't let that be the eagle."

My principal at the time, Darby, loved the ranch views too and we often shared our sightings from the ranch.
On that day, she arrived to work after me, after sun up.
As we passed in the front office, her voice trembled a little as she said, "I think our eagle got hit by a car. Did you see it this morning?"

No more self-denial, no more telling myself, "Maybe it was an ibis", (Sorry Ibis, I think you're awesome too).

You might think, how could anyone not see an eagle and avoid it, but I know just how it probably happened.

I know, because I almost killed this eagle the week before.

Eagles don't always work for their food, it's way easier to scavenge. Around here, they are the lead carrion picker on fresh carcasses.

And where do you find fresh carcasses? 
Right next to the road.

One week earlier, as the JEEP and I cruised home, this same Eagle had leapt up from high roadside grass, where it was (unseen by me) feeding on something dead.

It did this just as I was passing by.

I hit the brakes and the eagle skimmed past the JEEP's bumper as it worked to get airborne.

So I know how this eagle died.
 I don't fault the driver, but I'm damn glad it wasn't me.

I missed the eagle, in more ways than one, but life goes on.

The ranch with all of its other wildlife, seemed a little duller without that bird...

... and then, just to rub salt in the wound, Hurricane Hermine knocked down the old pine snag.
Well, great ... just great.

Then one day ...

... as I was heading home from Cedar Key, I saw this small dead feral hog alongside the road with a vulture ... no wait, ... A JUVENILE BALD EAGLE feeding on it.

A replacement eagle !!!

As I slowed to a stop for photos, the young eagle swooped LOW ACROSS THE ROAD  to a nearby pine tree.

Oh hell no.

Under the watchful eye of Junior, I got out of the JEEP and walked over to the dead pig.
Grabbing him by a hoof, I dragged him down the road shoulder, away from the road, and plopped him at the edge of the woods.

The eagle watched me intently, probably thinking, "Damn, a fresh pig, and this big creature is going to steal my dinner."

Of course, I didn't.

I just moved it away from the road so that this teenager could get some altitude before he crossed it with a belly full of pork.

Little things.
I can't move mountains, but I can move a dead pig.