Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Snakes....don't you just love 'em.

As my friend Tom back in Texas says "every snake seen on land is identified as a Copperhead or a Rattlesnake, and every snake seen in or near the water is identified as a Water Moccasin". He isn't far off the truth. So far in Fairfield Glade, anyone that I have talked to that has seen a snake says that it was a Copperhead. Yes, there are Copperheads here, but there are also many non-poisonous snakes.

For example, the beautiful snake in the first picture is a young Eastern Milksnake. Obviously the picture is not the whole snake, it is only the undamaged portion. Unfortunately it was run over on the road a couple of hundred yards from our house. Milksnakes are non-poisonous and beneficial. But I would bet that fewer than one in one hundred people who saw this snake on the road knew what it was. I'll bet most people would have called this a Copperhead.

Two days after this picture was taken there was a dead Blacksnake on the same road within a hundred yards of the corn snake. It was about 4 1/2 feet long. I didn't have my camera and when I returned, it was gone. Probably the crows got it.

Last Friday while playing golf, I stepped onto a rock in a stream and another non-poisonous snake, a water snake, caused me a little adrenalin spike as it slipped into the water from the same rock that I was on. The snake probably had a little adrenalin spike also.

There are Timber Rattlesnakes in our area, although someone I know at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says they are very rarely seen. But there are some around because the workers killed one a few houses away from my house last fall. Rattlesnakes are kind of hard to misidentify because of the rattles on their tail.

Now, this snake is a real Copperhead. Again, unfortunately, this one was also dead. We found this snake on a Hiking Club trip along the trail. Someone hiking on the trail before us probably saw the snake and killed it. Copperheads are poisonous but they have less potent venom, shorter fangs, and smaller doses of poison than rattlesnakes. Copperhead bites are usually not even treated with anti-venom, although that shouldn't encourage you to pick one up because their bite will be very painful if venon is injected (it isn't always).

So before you kill that Copperhead that you see, remember that it might not even be a Copperhead. Also, even if it is, just leave it alone to control the rodents and frogs and such. Plus, it is illegal to kill a snake....probably a law that isn't often enforced, but it is illegal.

By the way, I read somewhere that most snake bites involve two variables.....teen or older males.... and alcohol. Imagine that!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Turkey wrangling

Yesterday while Nancy and I were out for a walk around 2pm we heard a clucking in the woods next to the road. At first, we thought that maybe we spotted a quail. But once we got a better look we could see that it was a baby turkey and it was very very small.

Then we spotted mama Wild Turkey who was the one doing the clucking. Mama and babies were just inside the woods at the intersection of two roads. I told Nancy to go on up the other road and I would go into the woods and try to herd the mama and babies in her direction so she could get a good look at them all.

Well, mama turkey herded nicely right across the road in front of Nancy but the babies disappeared. They had scattered and then sat tight in the undergrowth. I slowly walked through the brush and spotted one or two of the little guys. But once mama realized that I wasn’t following her and that I was looking for the kids, she turned around and started clucking in earnest to round up the family. One by one the babies scooted through the brush and caught up with mama who by then was only about 30 feet from me clucking softly but steadily and showing no fear.

If I would have had my camera I would have been able to get some good shots because the turkeys were all very close to me. Instead, I found this photo on Google Images so you could get an idea of what we saw.

Today in the car, about a mile away we saw another mama turkey and some babies….very small, just like the first bunch. Then when we continued driving up the road to the area near our house where we saw the first turkey, there she was again at the side of the road with her brood. This seems to be hatching time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Talking to a Barred Owl

Last evening about 10pm I stepped out on the deck to listen to what was going on in the woods at night. Often it is very very quiet. But sometimes a whip-poor-will or two will be calling. When in top form, they can say "whip-poor-will" non-stop for hours or for several minutes before flying to another spot and starting up again.

Last night the tree frogs were singing everywhere. A week ago we didn't hear any. But far away down in the valley I heard another sound. It was only one note but I recognized the voice from nights of camping in Oklahoma for fly fishing. It was a Barred Owl.

Barred owls are very large, over 20 inches tall, and almost the same size as Great Horned Owls. We have heard Great Horned Owls from our deck several times. They have a low, soft, hoohoohoo hoohoohoo hoo. Barred Owls, on the other hand, have a very loud, higher pitched, "who cooks for you, who cooks for you-all" sound.

I only heard one note, not the whole "who cooks for you" sound, but I knew immediately that it was a Barred Owl. I went to the closet and got out my tape of a Barred Owl (doesn't everyone have one of these?) Two Barred Owls began answering my tape with their whole repertoire of sounds. I would play one call and then mute the tape and wait for the answers. The owls moved closer. After a while they were in the two largest trees nearest our house and calling loudly in a three-way contest...owl #1, owl #2, and me on the tape player...each calling in turn. We turned the spotlights on in the backyard and the owls stayed in the trees calling. We saw them flying to another tree and back a couple of times. We played this game for about 30 minutes until the owls begin to tire of the fun. If any of the neighbors heard any of this action, now you know who was making all the noise. Tonight we may try for Screech Owls.

Friday, July 07, 2006

New neigborhood sign

This picture is probably not too exciting unless you live here....and it is really not too exciting even then. This is the new sign at the entrance to our neighborhood that was just installed about a month ago. It is kind of cute with all of the colors and the mountains, the trees, and the setting sun. I like it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Identify this rock.

For those of you who saw me sitting in my front yard the other evening and staring at a rock for 20 minutes....I have not gone over the edge....yet. I was trying to wait for an Eastern Box Turtle to emerge from his shell so I could get a picture.

Box turtles have a hinged plastron (bottom shell) and they can retreat completely inside their shell and close up tight when threatened.
When I picked up this one in a berry patch he retreated inside and wouldn't come out for a picture.

If you look closely on the right side you can just see his nose beginning to poke out. That is as far as he would come out for a picture. At least you can see the beautiful camouflage pattern of his shell.

Box turtles supposedly live up to 80 years in the wild. This is the 5th one that I have seen this summer. An hour after this picture he was long gone ... probably looking for the next blackberry patch for dinner.