December 22, 2008 - (Elaphe guttata), or red rat snake


I worked the 12 to 4 gig at Springbrook yesterday, and with -9 F temps + -21 F windchill, I wasn't expecting much in the "walk-in" visitor department. 
This went pretty much as expected, but was saved from a total shut-out when a thickly-layered gentleman (it took the casting off of a few layers to confirm this) came in with camera in hand, asking if I'd seen the Barred Owl today. I hadn't but he said it was the star of the Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, hanging out all day, performing, and providing dynamic photo opportunities.
There were about six deer hanging around the feeder all day though, determining their pecking order and looking much too domesticated eating birdseed four feet from the door, shaking the birdfeeders and running and nibbling the buds off of trees.
My interest was inside on this day, I was checking out one of the "baby" corn snakes, the offspring of our gray corn and our red partial albino corn that had hatched their eggs back in October.
The little nippers are now getting to be about 10 or 12 inches long, and filling out to about the diameter of a pencil. I wanted to get one out in the low, bright sun coming in our southwest windows at the nature center while I could, as it seems to go down faster than lemonade on a hot summer day after about 3 PM now.

One very interesting thing about this particular snake is it shows signs of partial albinism and has trippy RED eyes. Not just red eyes, but red irises and red pupils. And they are very round. Something of a Little Orphan Annie sold her soul to the devil effect.
At first Siah thought she was blind, but she seems to have pretty good senses all around from what I can tell. It just makes me wonder what exactly she does see. I know from my own sport optics lenses that red tends to enhance contrast on a cloudy day, I wonder if it's like that for her, or if she can see better in the dark. Snakes don't have that great of distance vision as it is, they say 3 to 4 ft. usually, as they use their highly sensitive infra-red sensing heat organs, their molecule-tasting tongues, and their vibration sensitive bodies to do the heavy lifting in the sensing areas.

When the light comes through just right from the side, her whole eye lights up like a ruby crystal. 
Very classy.

All in all, very interesting. As naturalists are fond of saying (especially when we can't think of a good reason for a weird coloration or supposed adaptation) "There are often significant variations between members of the same species."  Kind of a cop-out, like saying, "because that's just the way it is". People are the same way. We're just different. We won't go into the why right now though.
But.... without variety it wouldn't be a horse race.

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