7.26.12 Snake Eyes
The greater diversity of plants we have in our garden, the more creatures we attract. Fewer chimpmunks are roaming around the rock walls that surround our raised beds, and now we know why: the snakes have arrived! I love snakes and am very fascinated by them. I adore their gorgeous skin and have not been above spending close to $1,000 on a python Bottega Veneta bag. But that was in another life. Now I prefer to admire them alive and in my own yard. We have established that there are at least five and are beginning to understand their habits—when they like to take the sun, when they are on the move, when they rest. It's all about being warm, but not too warm. I am slightly relieved that these are just common garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) because they only have a tiny bit of venom which doesn't affect humans.
Like all snakes, garter snakes are carnivorous. They eat pretty much anything they can overpower, including slugs, worms, lizards, frogs, rodents and sometimes eggs. Food is swallowed whole. I don't really want to see a snake eating one of our sweet garden frogs, but I am kind of curious about the way they unhinge their jaws to open wide.
You may have noticed, above, that these photos were not taken by me. I'm not scared to get close—I even petted one with a small stick the other day!—but it takes a bit of patience to get these shots, and I'm kind of short on that. I did, however, sit still for quite a long time the other day when we spied two eagles and two nests in a new secret spot we've discovered, just a short walk from our house.
The snake in the first photo has eyes with a reddish gleam. This one's are distinctly blue. Not sure what to make of this. Any ideas? Their eyes are always open. I read that a snake's eyes will turn a milky color when it's preparing to shed. In fact, its whole body becomes covered with a milky fluid that separates the old skin from the new.
The only snakeskins I collect these days look like this. On our lake property in Forestburgh, on the periphery of a cracked cement slab that is part of some old foundation, we have found several shed snakeskins. From the size and markings, we have deduced that they are most likely Timber rattlers or copperheads! I am a tad freaked out by this, but as yet we have not come across any live specimens.
My favorite part of this skin, besides the incredible pattern of the scales, is the fact that you can plainly see the clear, convex eye coverings. Like Eve, I am sorely tempted by the sensuous contours and sinuous slitherings of this magnificent creature.