Thursday, May 3, 2018

Rattlesnake Foraging Behavior

I went out in the yard this evening to pick up pine cones and get ready to mow the yard for the first time this season. I spied a big ol Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake stretched out by the driveway when I had about 2 buckets of pine cones to go. I put down the bucket and got out my cell phone to take a picture. I uploaded one to Twitter and then texted one to Kim Sash, Conservation Biologist at Tall Timbers. Her response was exactly what I thought it would be. "Awesome.  Wish diamondbacks crawled through my front yard." 
Where I first saw the snake. Easy to spot. 6:09 pm
I watched it move over to the two big hop hornbeam trees that grow all the way to the ground. I pile up pinestraw under them to keep the briars at bay. The snake was rooting around in that pine straw. I decided they looked occupied enough for me to go to the lab and get my 20x zoom camera. I had to put new batteries in it, but the snake was still in the same place when I got back. I took closeup photos of them so I could zoom in on my computer. I couldn't really see the snake very well without glasses and I couldn't see the monitor on the camera that great either up so close. I should have gotten my reading glasses too. You can zoom in on these photos though. If you double click it might put them all in a gallery.
I like how much of his head and body he holds up as he searches for food
I really do need to mow the lawn already.

I count 8 rattles but that end one is not the natal button. The rattlestring is broken.

The snake started rooting around in the pine straw under the hop hornbeam tree. 

There's something in there
I got a little tired of waiting for something to happen. I turned over the pine cone bucket and sat down and watched and waited while the snake kept poking around in that one spot under the hop hornbeams. I took a macro picture of some ants on a flower that were right in front of me on my bucket.
Ant on a spent flower in the setting sun

I think the snake has narrowed down the spot and figured out a better angle of entry 
What's all this then? This fluffy stuff? Feathers or fur?

Snake keeps poking their head into this hole under the pinestraw

I'm thinking rabbit fur

Lookit the fur sticking out of their blurry out of focus mouth. Dammit.

Keeps going back in

I like the contrast of the keeled scales and the bunny fur

Here comes the head back out of the hole again

Whatcha got in your mouth?

What is it? Why you move so fast?! Make my pictures blurry. It was 7:30 pm and getting dark.

This one the snake was still but I can't see what's in their mouth!

Show me it!

Ok, just swallow it then.

nom nom


Sheesh. You had to wait until it was dark to be so fast? I'm zoomed in here. Aperture is tiny.

Full gullet

Through the mouth and into the neck now

What're you lookin' at?

After the snake finished swallowing what I'm assuming was a baby rabbit there was a lot of that nesting material in their mouth. They kept doing this, opening their mouth real wide.

I mean, look at all that hair in the poor thing's mouth. Blech.

They nestled down for a moment with their head down next to their body, but not for long.

Still doing that hair-in-the-mouth move. This whole shot is blurry though, so most of that movement is on me. Sorry.
This reminds me of when my cousin Rosalie was a baby. She was sitting in her grandmother's lap and said, "Yuk! I have a hair in my mouth!" and stuck out her tongue. Her grandmother had a napkin in her hand and dabbed at Rosalie's tongue, and said "There. See if I got it." And Rosalie looked at her like she had two heads. "What?! I can't SEE in my MOUTH!" 

I kept watching the snake after it was too dark to take more pictures. They kept sticking their face in that rabbit fur nesting material they'd dragged out of the little depression under the straw. I guess they were checking they didn't miss one? I wonder how many baby rabbits the snake ate this evening? Note, I haven't seen any rabbits in my yard lately. Fox squirrels I see every day. Rabbits must be better at staying in cover.

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