Friday, August 8, 2014

HOPE GROWS…

A couple of days ago I spotted a queen snake twined among the grapevines atop the rail of the narrow deck which overlooks the river. While some folks probably wouldn't view a snake on their porch with much joy, for me this was both a pleasure as well as a welcome bit of good news.

Queen snakes are small members of the water snake family, quite docile in nature, and similar in appearance to garter snakes, to which they're closely related. They feed almost exclusively on crayfish, and are found only along rocky or graveled-bottom streams boasting very clean water. So having queen snakes around means your river or creek is in good shape, waterwise. Alas, in some states, an ever-increasing lack of this necessary high-quality watershed habitat has now caused queen snakes to be added to their "threatened" or "endangered" species lists.

I feel honored to have these little snakes as fellow riverbank residents. Yet better still, soon after moving here, I realized the local queen snakes's winter hibernaculum was apparently within the jumble of limestone rocks upon which the cottage is built. I know this because come the first warm days of early spring, upwards of two dozen queen snakes of all sizes suddenly appear on this southwest-facing deck, basking in the sun of the burgeoning season. After a few weeks of this group sunning, they begin to disperse—though on any given morning throughout the summer I can usually spot two or three queens ensconced amid the now-leafed-out grapevine.

Like clockwork this spring, as the weather warmed back in April, they reappeared—a dozen queens, from small to large, reveling in the welcome sun. 

Then…disaster! A huge winter front moved in. Within a few hours, temperatures in the low-70s˚F plummeted to well below freezing. Plus rain, sleet, snow—followed by a hard, freeze-up which endured for several weeks. I worried about my resident queen snakes. Had they made it back to their shelter in time? Would the population be wiped out? And as the arctic weather continued to linger, the ground remaining hard as iron, would they be able to survive such a long and unseasonable turn-around?

I feared the worst. And I didn't see a queen snake again until a few weeks ago when I found a single, foot-long, pencil-thin individual atop the vine-shaded rail. I've spotted what I'm certain is the same small snake on two subsequent occasions. But the snake in the photo above is considerably larger—in fact, at something like two feet long, about as big as queen snakes get. 

So, two survivors. Not enough to keep a population viable, but enough to give me hope that maybe a few others also escaped the killing cold.   


13 comments:

Gail said...

Hi Grizz - what a wonderful post. I just love that you are so in tune with nature and with queen snakes and their place here on earth - and at your place, under your cottage and basking on your decks. Glorious. I love even more that you were worried about them surviving the early cold and snow and that you find hope in the re-appearance of two queens. You are a helluva guy. I mean that wholeheartedly.
Love Gail
And- great picture! :-)

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Hey, I like my little, gentle queen snakes…not in the house, mind you—but outside, basking on the deck rail under the grapevines where I can enjoy a daily look or have a bit of fun and treat a visitor to a mild surprise. They're part of my wild riverbank family. And I'm really worried that most of them may not have survived spring's unexpectedly harsh and lingering weather.

To each his own, eh?

Momcat said...

This was a nice surprise and an enjoyable read today to find on your blog, especially it explains the photo, which I sent to my snake-loving friend Carol. I'll send this to her, too.
You are sooooo lucky to have your wonderful, earthly environment!


Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

You are exactly right about this place, and I have always looked upon this riverbank cottage as a real blessing…even now, in the midst of all these repairs! It suites me, a little bit of semi-wild so close to all the conveniences—the stream and riparian woods, the fish and birds and wildlife, including queen snakes, which I'm also fortunate to have around.

KGMom said...

Scribe--once again, I stop by your blog and learn something.
I do appreciate that you do your part to reduce humanity's antagonism toward snakes. Not all snakes are "bad."
(But then, I contend the same about spiders...)

Grizz………… said...

KGMom…

The truth is, before I moved here to this riverbank cottage, I knew nothing about queen snakes, and wouldn't have recognized one if I saw it. But once I realized they were part of the riverside citizenry, identified them, and became acquainted with their needs and habits—and ultimately learned how gentle and unobtrusive they were—I began to feel quite proprietary.

But I never gave a thought toward changing humanity's snake antagonism, even a smidgin.

Nor have I ever looked upon snakes—any snake, or spider, for that matter—as "bad." Some are certainly potentially dangerous, but fine in their place, and due all rights and privileges thereto.

Don't want to wake up and find a copperhead sharing my bed…or see a tea-cup size wolf spider scuttling across my living room floor. And yes, I know the copperhead could actually cause me a bit of harm, while the wolf spider is merely a harmless arachnophobic's nightmare. But while I'd likely try and herd the snake outside, that eight-legged horror would suffer the full and fatal brunt of my irrational fear.

On the other hand, that spider-and-web shot I posted a few weeks ago was of a fat old gal who built her web every night across the upper left corner edge of my front door frame. Outside vs. inside by mere inches, and thanks to the porchlight, in constant view. I had to duck and lean to step out onto the deck. Yet we coexisted peacefully…she nightly snared her unwary fluttering bugs for later juice-sucking, I admired her web skill and rich red-brown coloration. And I rather missed her when she eventually disappeared, possibly as lunch to one of the birds who regularly forage the nooks and crannies of the cottage's limestone exterior walls.

Momcat said...

Ah, yes, the circle of life! My husband once sucked up a huge, hairy, fat-legged and fat bodied-spider into the sweeper. He said he could hear the scary thing thundering down the hallway ... a bit of an exaggeration maybe. We were all freaked out over it but didn't want to kill it. He probably wondered what happened as he was cruelly blown in circles down a long, dark tube and then suddenly found himself outdoors!
I also issued an edict to a huge, hairy spider in the bathroom. I told him if he would just turn around and go back to where he came from,I wouldn't drop the big book I was holding on top of him. (Edict implied.) He turned on his heels and left to frighten yet another day.

BTW, did you happen to watch the "Nature" program about"Snow Monkeys" ... about macaques ... Wednesday evening? Fascinating! They look for all the world like people sometimes.

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

Myladylove and daughter also favor the safety-in-distancing of the vacuum-hose suck-'em-up approach…though without any glimmer of thought to subsequent release on their own recognizance outdoors. I take things more personal. Rather than holding conversations with trespassing arachnids, I mount counter-terrorism measures and swift elimination.

By the way, and I'm just sayin'…unless you're making a point, the likely more accurate personal pronoun to apply to large spiders one chases (or talks to) around the house, would be "she," since the preponderance are female. It's tough being a guy spider. Males, alas, have the unenviable habit of being lured by the female, with the prospects of sexual gratification, then—before or after, depending on one wrong move—being killed and eaten. Incidentally, that's why you don't see groups of old guy spiders hanging around in the sun trading tales of youthful conquests.

FYI, I did not see the macaque program, though it's available via my Roku PBS app, so I'l probably watch it. Re. "They look for all the world like people sometimes…" Maybe it's us who look like them?

Momcat said...

Two points taken; one point questioned.

Yes, we must look like them since they allegedly were here first. And yes, re: the spiders. The pronoun should have been "she;" most likely it was a she.

However, I take issue with whether spiders actually experience sexual gratification! Did anyone ever hear them say," Oh, Mona, I love you so much .. do that again!" (We are adults here, right?)
More like, "Sorry, but we are put here to procreate. Ya don't have to bite my head off about it!"
(Hey -- you told me I need to find my voice find my voice to write my novel, right?)
Anyway, I love your last line about spider guys hanging out together! Haha!

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

Humm, two out of three…better than I thought I might do.

So, we agree that "she" is most often correct.

You hedged a bit on the macaque issue re. the fact of who was here first—which, I would do as well. (As a footnote: if they were first, and we "evolved," doesn't that then put evolution's direction in question? By about 180 degrees? Just sayin'.)

I say we have no genuine idea what spiders do or do not feel, only our theories, and these arguably superior opinions coming from a species which insists its ancestors included macaques—which, I might point out, are not daily at war with one another at home and abroad, but manages to eat and sleep and forage as a group without any lasting rancor. Another point against our kinship, don't you think? To our shame, we're by far the most warmongering, self-centered, and too often evil species ever to occupy space on the planet. I certainly wouldn't want to claim us as a descendent species.

[And no, though your editorial nerves are doubtless sounding an alarm, I didn't misspell "descendant." While the correct spelling for the noun meaning "person descended from a particular ancestor" is descendant, ending with the suffix -ant, rather than -ent, the word "descendent" is an adjective, mostly used—and I think correctly here—in the scientific context of meaning "descending from an ancestral species."]

Momcat said...

Unfinished business .. I said I would ponder and reply.. the main point I wanted to make is that my best friend Carol and I have agreed for years with your comments about mankind and whether he (we) deserve to be here. Obviously, there are many exceptions who cherish animal life (as well as humans they love) as a gift from God and do everything they can to preserve and aid them when possible. But it seems to me man in general is a destroyer of things good and beautiful. Right on! That being said, I have a sign at home that says, "The more people I meet, the more I like my cat!"

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

Man is, generally speaking, a "destroyer of things good and beautiful" because of selfishness and fear. We desire love and joy and peace, but we fail to look beyond ourselves—fail to answer those questions in terms of who we are and where we come from; fail to find any meaningful purpose in ourselves and our existence. We see ourselves and our world only in terms of flesh and intellect, body and mind, while ignoring spirit and soul. Evil isn't the opposite of good…it's the absence of good. An important distinction. A heart and mind and life without good is filled with evil.

Good and evil, holy and unholy, require a power and law greater than ourselves—an unavoidable point to which we must all answer for our actions. More and more, we reject that such a point exists. We are the dominate creatures, self-created by way of evolution—the planet's pinnacle species, up from seas and mud, ultimately answerable to no one or thing.

Do we deserve to be here? Yes. If you believe, as I do, that we are here at God's behest, through His creation. I surely do believe this earth and its creatures were planned and made by and for God. But I also believe that original sin occurred, allowing evil to contaminate mankind, while also making us accountable. Only by forgiveness through grace can we be changed.

Grizz………… said...

Momcat…

Man is, generally speaking, a "destroyer of things good and beautiful" because of selfishness and fear. We desire love and joy and peace, but we fail to look beyond ourselves—fail to answer those questions in terms of who we are and where we come from; fail to find any meaningful purpose in ourselves and our existence. We see ourselves and our world only in terms of flesh and intellect, body and mind, while ignoring spirit and soul. Evil isn't the opposite of good…it's the absence of good. An important distinction. A heart and mind and life without good is filled with evil.

Good and evil, holy and unholy, require a power and law greater than ourselves—an unavoidable point to which we must all answer for our actions. More and more, we reject that such a point exists. We are the dominate creatures, self-created by way of evolution—the planet's pinnacle species, up from seas and mud, ultimately answerable to no one or thing.

Do we deserve to be here? Yes. If you believe, as I do, that we are here at God's behest, through His creation. I surely do believe this earth and its creatures were planned and made by and for God. But I also believe that original sin occurred, allowing evil to contaminate mankind, while also making us accountable. Only by forgiveness through grace can we be changed.