Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Neighbor Called...

"Got you a snake" he said. i don't need another snake, we have plenty in the yard, but I have taken to saving reptile lives by relocating the offenders to remote areas. Not sure that works but I feel good about doing it and the neighbors see that rattlesnakes aren't endowed with supernatural powers, they're just another animal. This one was small, about 30 inches, and skinny. The neighbor had taken a pitchfork and lifted it into a bucket, just as I'd described and he was amazed at how easy it was to handle safely at the end of a hickory shaft. Once you get them off the ground, they tend to just hang there, but there are exceptions. Moving slowly and keeping a little space is always a good idea.

My son and I went and picked up the beast and brought it home to the aquarium we have set up for such events. For such a small rattler, this one had 11 rattles and kept them going in a constant buzz. This looked to be an older snake and after thinking about it, I decided there was a good chance that it had recently given birth, which would account for it's depleted nature. After a few days we dropped in a mouse which became food in a matter of minutes. We waited a few days for a good rain and loaded the snake into a cloth sack and then into a bucket for the trip over the ridge. There was a new growth area where a fire had been that was to be the release site. I have no idea whether the snake will stay or travel or get eaten but it had a better shot this way than remaining on the neighbor's farm.

On the way up the creek there was a lot of screeching coming from the trees near the ridge.


I knew there was a nest somewhere because I had seen the adults hauling food on a regular basis. Our national symbol is a lazy thing but they'll do what has to be done in order to get junior out of the house. I didn't mark the calendar but I think it's about 7 or 8 weeks since I noticed the birds carrying fish and road kill upstream. With all the screeching I figured Junior was having the normal learning experience with flight lessons. The parents call to the youngster and the youngster screeches incessantly and then flaps out of the tree. They start up high in the nest so that the baby can glide to another spot with just a few flaps. The glide seems natural but flight flapping takes some figuring out and the first several landings more resemble a train wreck than an eagle gaining its majestic perch.

The trail is heavily vegitated and we could hear them above us but we couldn't see anything. The calls came from several directions. We worked our way past them and went out to the creek's edge and loked around, and there in a low pine was one of the parents, only about 150 feet away. A big white head shining in the evening sun might as well be a flashing light in a green pine tree. we could hear the other birds but couldn't see them. The bucket I was carrying started buzzing so we went on up the trail to finish our true task.

Working our way off the trail and into a suitable spot with good cover, we opened the snake sack (which looks a lot like one of the pillowcases off the guest bed) and carefully slid the rattler out next to a rock. it immediately took the classic pose and buzzed away. It was at that moment, with the rattler all puffed up and stretched out on the leaves that I realized I didn't bring the camera. We left the snake there and the buzz stopped as soon as we got twenty yards away.

Good luck, little beast!

As we returned along our path, we studied the one adult we had seen before and tried to pick out where the youngster was. I figured he was somewhere down low, but they are very dark in color and are difficult to see. We worked our way back downstream listening to the screeching which echoed off the cliffs and seemed to come from everywhere. At each opening I stared at the trees on the other bank, making myself look for dark shapes onlimbs near the trunks of the trees. It takes a stout branch to hold an eagle. Then I saw it. I pointed at the shape well hidden in a scraggly pine tree. We were very close to it and then I realized that there were two of them. Twins!

Well done, Mom and Dad. No wonder you guys were working so hard. Now for the hard part that all parents face...Teaching them to live without you.




  1. Nice account! May the little rattler and the new eagle live happily ever after.

    I'm a little worried about some absences here this year. Although the birds seem to be in fine fettle -- I've stopped putting out seed for the nonce but continue to supply fresh water -- two normal elements are missing.

    In spite of the fact that I planted a butterfly (and hummer) garden this year, there have been almost no butterflies. Then too usually at this time of the year one has to walk carefully between trees and bushes because the argiopes (my favorites) make their huge webs bang in the middle of where one wants to be, I haven't seen one. None. Nil. Nada. We've had drought, then rain, and now more dry very hot weather. But there's nothing very unusual in that.

  2. I spoke too soon. Yesterday evening I found -- well it could hardly be missed -- a huge argiope web descending from the white clematis on the cedar post fence. The setting sun shone on the stays which connected both sides of the web to the ground, the whole structure looking a bit like a low Eiffel tower. Now it's a matter of keeping the dogs from running in that direction, breaking the stays.