Connecting you with nature
In late December while out taking photos of a flock of mallard ducks, I came across (nearly stepped on by accident…) the Northern Water Snake below. Although taken with my 400mm Canon lens, with a 1.4 telephoto extender/magnifier attached, I was still very close!
This was a new encounter for me, which I love because it gives me a chance to learn something new. It's a little unusual to encounter a snake out in the open like this in late December in the northeast. Snakes "brumate" in the cold months, which is a little like hibernation, but not exactly. Snakes, like other reptiles, can’t raise their body temperature independently of environmental conditions. Many reptile species, like this Northern Water Snake, inhabit regions that get very cold in the winter, so they need to have behavioral adaptations in order to survive. Brumation is a survival tactic hard wired into the brains of these animals for well over a million years. This snake may have been brumating somewhere in the rock ledge that was nearby or even underneath the leaf pile where I encountered it.
It's possible that the recent warm weather in my area (60s), along with rain brought this adult Northern Water Snake out. Not a snake person? …here's a few good to know facts about this snake that might surprise you: 1) The round pupils on this Northern Water Snake tell you that it's non-venomous; venomous snakes like Copperheads have pupils that are vertical, like a cat. 2) Snakes can be very good at keeping the rodent population under control. 3) Northern Water Snakes may bite if provoked, scared, startled, attacked, threatened, etc… but remember they are not poisonous. 4) Another reason to give them their space is that they can release a foul smell if threatened, and 5) The color of these snakes can be highly variable (brown, gray, tan), and adults don't have the bolder patterns that juvenile snakes have.
Snakes have a purpose in our ecosystem, give them their space, observe from a distance, and do keep an eye on where you walk if you're in snake territory.
The mallards also made an appearance and charmed the photographer!