Saturday, December 26, 2015

'Twas the Day Before Christmas... 12-24-2015

... and all through the woods,
creatures were stirring.
The weather was good.

The temps were going to try for a new record today; it was pushing 70°. What could be better than a Christmas Eve hike through the local woods, taking a peek at the dens to see if we could extend our record for latest snake seen? Of course, we'd have to check for our pal Robles first.

Up near Robles' den, Andrea flipped our first Ambystoma of the month... a gorgeous Blue-spotted Salamander.
This protected species isn't tough to find here but thanks to the adjacent cemetery expanding beyond its range and destroying part of a hill (that we suspect is their winter home), there have been a lot less Blue-spotteds this year. This one was a sight for sore eyes. Big fella, too.

I walked right by but eagle-eyed Andrea saw Robles speed past.
He was looking good... alert and quick.
And derpy.

We headed down towards Sly's den. I had no sooner said that we hadn't seen many Garters at this spot since the Spring, then this lovely specimen was spied stretching out.
Another speed demon, he streaked off after this photo.

So, Christmas Eve was lookin' pretty good! Sly's pond got us a chubby Redback, too. Species #4.

Into the Valley of Nerodia we went. A small Garter was acting as the Gate-keeper.

The rest of the Valley was snake-free (that we could see) but as we ascended the hill, we saw a good sized Water Snake doing the same.
This was a cyclops snake that we have encountered many times before. Beautiful banding.

At the top of the mound was an unfortunate fellow. He's already missing one eye and the other one is crusty and ready to pop. Blind as a bat, he was still up basking and was filled with piss and vinegar as I passed by him.

We went on. We stopped by our friend Andrew's Eastern Cottonwood Den© and saw a young Garter stretchin' in a straight line.
Let's get a close-up of that little cutie's face, shall we?

Our new Rock Wall Den produced two more slim Garters that were up exploring.

At this point, we had to turn back as Christmas Eve celebrations were beckoning. The walk back, however, was not without squamate joy.

The cyclopian Water Snake had completed her journey to the top of the hill and she was enjoying a sexy bask atop a log. Her perfect beauty and position made for what I consider my best Nerodia photo of 2015. Shot on December 24th!!

Heading down into the Valley, we spotted this little Nerodia Nipper nestled in the leaves.

Well, that was just about it. I probably said something to the effect of "oh well, we fell short of double digits in snakes so the day is a complete failure." Then at about the same time, we saw this beast.
That is easily 3 feet of sirtalis... the matriarch of the Garter Clan.
She is a beast!! (The snake, not Andrea)
I love a big ending! What a beautiful gal. We had no tape measure on us but she wins the size award for Garters in 2015, I'm sure. Massive beauty.


Best Christmas Eve ever.

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