Today Tony led our group on a reptile survey in the hopes of finding Queen and King Snakes. Queen snakes are somewhat rare in the park and we have seen them a few times over the past three years.Prior to three years ago there may have only been one recorded sighting since the park opened in the early 1970’s. Queen snakes are specialist in that they prefer one type of food-softshelled crayfish. As such this specialty makes them susceptible to localized extinction should the stream quality deteriorate due to pollution that may cause decline in the crayfish population. So we were pleased to see that the snakes are currently thriving in the area and that may in turn suggest stream quality is also good. The other speceis we enocountered today was a northern water snake. This one is so common near any body of water even a drainage ditch will harbor a few.
Today was unique in that we found both species stretched out along tree limbs attempting to capture some ealry morning sun. Its not unusual for these snakes to climb out onto limbs especially above water. The branch serves as a place to bask while camoflouging the snakes from predtors. When threatened they can easily drop down into water and evade their potential predators.
(Queen Snakes above and below)
When we stumbled upon these snakes none of us were prepared in terms of camera accessories. A few had cell phones though and were able to get pics. Once the tour had ended I hung around the visitor center for a while then returned home to get my cameras. I decided to go back to Walney and visit the places where we saw the snakes basking. Remarkably they were in the same location and I was lucky enough to get some pics. Normally I am not this lucky and have to “chalk” it off as a missed opportunity. ALWAYS CARRY A CAMERA!!