Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Serpents

Its hard to believe its already a few days into the month of May. With school, work, and getting ready for my summer job in New Jersey, the past month or so has been an absolute whirlwind. Michigan has had an extremely wet spring, with many rivers flooding and others reaching their breaking point. It hasn't seemed to affect the snakes too much, as I've seen many species so far this spring. I figured I'd do a quick recap of some of the species I've managed to encounter so far this spring.

Blue Racer - Coluber constrictor foxii

It's been a wonderful spring for Blue Racers, as I've seen more than a dozen individuals at a handful of sites in Montcalm, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties. This absolutely gorgeous individual was found in a sandy field bordered by pines up in Montcalm County, and had obviously recently shed as indicated by its bold colors. Most of the Blue Racers that I've seen are not as blue has the one pictured above, but every now and then you can find real nice ones. 

Open fields and meadows with sparse vegetation like the area in the photo above are ideal for Blue Racers. This species is found in the southern and western lower peninsula, though they have declined considerably in southeast Michigan over the years as urban sprawl has claimed much of their former habitat. But there are still pockets of them where the right habitat exists, particularly in preserves and on state land. Here's two more representatives from southeast Michigan.

Blue Racers - Coluber constrictor foxii

Besides blue racers, there's also been a few species of interest that I've been able to see quite a bit this spring. Northern Ribbon Snakes have been extremely common this spring, I always enjoy seeing them.

Northern Ribbon Snakes - Thamnophis sauritus septentrionalis

Ribbon Snakes seem to be pretty common in some areas of Michigan, and oddly absent in others. The second individual pictured above was found at a location that I've been visited since I was a kid and is only the second ribbon snake I've ever seen there. So it was quite an exciting find for that place to say the least. One snake species I've had quite a bit of luck with so far this spring is the Eastern Massasauga, seeing well over two dozen individuals all across Michigan. This past weekend, I visited this nice little meadow.

This small meadow is bordered by a fairly large wetland complex and serves as ideal summer habitat for rattlesnakes. Last year I managed to see several large gravid females and lots of juveniles utilizing this field from May through September, it would appear that this is a major birthing area for this population. On this particular morning, it didn't take long to turn up this big bruiser.
Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus catenatus

I've also seen a smattering of the real common snakes such as Browns & Garters, but I'll share a few photos of each species. 

Northern Brown Snake - Storeria dekayi

Eastern Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis

I've seen browns in fairly large concentrations and garters are nothing to get excited about, but this little snake had some nice black blotches on the neck on each side, similar to a Checkered Garter Snake. That's all for now. Until then, happy herping.

1 comment:

  1. My sister-in-law took photos of a snake in a bush over the pond in her back yard in Muskegon, MI yesterday. I was hoping that you could help to ID it. I have looked through the snakes of Michigan and it looks like a Copper-bellied Water snake to me but being that it is listed as endangered, I question my own ID. Here is a link to our blog where she has photos posted. If you can ID. Please comment on the blog or feel free to send me an email directly at Thank you in advance.