While I’m on the subject of local wildlife, I should mention our neighborhood snakes. Fortunately we don’t have too many sightings, but the ones that I have seen are memorable.
First there was the “designer snake”.
This was a king snake which wandered onto my raised patio, trying to get to a nest that some swallows had built under the patio. As I have to climb the patio stairs to go between my office and the kitchen, I encountered this snake at eye level one day. King snakes tend to mimic rattlers by raising and shaking their tail, so I didn’t know that it wasn’t a rattler until I Googled it — and Googling didn’t commence until I was sure that Tinto had listened to my somewhat anxious “LEAVE IT!” It was quite handsome, once I was watching it from the safety of my kitchen, and when I found that it wasn’t a harmful snake, that in fact I should be pleased that it lives in my yard because it eats rodents, I ventured out with a long lens to … do what I do. As I photographed it, it started to climb up one of the bar stools on the patio. I’m not sure what it was looking for, but it seemed quite taken with the pattern that I’d chosen for the seats!
Tinto and I hike up our our nearest mountain, Double Peak, on a regular basis. Because it’s one of the last preserved open spaces in the area, there is a lot of wildlife. I’ve seen deer (though not for a while), coyote, rabbits, and of course, snakes. One day, my friend Julie Blair and I were up there, and we saw a commotion in the grass. The grass wasn’t tall enough to hide a coyote, so we weren’t terribly worried, but onto the trail raced a black lizard, with a grass snake in hot pursuit, coming right toward us. The thought crossed my mind that if the lizard ran up my leg the snake was going to follow, so we started backpedalling like crazy. The lizard ran right between us, and the snake, thwarted, relaxed from strike mode, muttered, “Sheesh,” or whatever snakes say when their lunch escapes, and slithered back into the grass. It happened so fast that I have no picture, even though we were up there photographing the wildflowers!
My latest snake encounter was also on Double Peak. About halfway up the mountain I saw this sunning in the middle of the trail.
I only had my “winkie” camera with me, but I snapped a few photos of him. I’d never seen a rattlesnake with black and white stripes on its tail, so when I got home I looked it up and found that it might be a Red Diamond rattler, which is considered rare in the area. I emailed the San Diego Field Office of the US Geological Survey, and sure enough, they confirmed my identification and thanked me for my sighting. I didn’t tell them that as far as I was concerned, ALL rattlesnakes should be rarely seen!