Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Little Mermaid Post

Well, well, well. What do we have here? Another quick trip to Walnut Creek turned out to be fun and productive. I wanted to stick to a frog-like popper since the hopping amphibians have been active lately in Nebraska. After downsizing about 3 times, and switching to a dark body to create a nice silhouette in the sunlight, I found what the fishies liked. I caught a little over 30 bluegill and 3 largemouth bass. Two bass with decent size, a 15" and a 11". The 3rd was the size of my thumb. We were all that size once, I suppose. Yes, you were once the size of a fish. Smaller even.

While fishing, a female Redwing Black Bird got all flustered by my presence. I looked down and happened to see her slowly developing family. After a quick photo, I moved on to set the fretting mother at ease. I think she appreciated my departure.

Next to the big bass, the highlight of the day came when I saw another of my reptilian friends skating across the water. This guy put the last snakes I saw to shame with regard to size. He was a good 4-5' long. It was a Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer). I watched as he (I'm 100% guessing on sex here) struggled to reach over the 10"+ rim and move up the grassy hill away form the water. As I followed, what did I see? Well, another Bullsnake awaiting his arrival. This one (I'm calling it a "she") was slightly smaller, more slender, and had a lighter color to her body. They both made sure to intimidate me with hissing and tail rattling. No worries though, those tails were rattle-less. (Jay, any thoughts on sex differentiation between Bullsnakes? EDIT - see Jay's thoughts in the comments below!)

"Almost there"

"Almost up"

"Sniff sniff"

"Let me go!"

I imagined Marvin Gay was blasting somewhere in their minds drawing them to do what animals do in the springtime. Unfortunately for them, they had this annoying human following them with a camera. About at romantic as Scuttle serenading Ariel and the Prince.

Anyway, I let them be and headed back to the car. It was a fun way to top off the morning.

Jay, I swear, I'm not trying to jump in on your snake game. You will always be "The Fly Fishing Snake Guy" to me. Cool?

This one goes out to the two cutest Bullsnakes in Nebraska. My part comes in at 2:22

You were wondering where the title for this post came in, weren't you?


  1. Fish...snakes..birds..the little mermaid...this post truly has it all. glad you had a good morning! Just noticed the phil dunfee reference on your 2011 goals...lol!

  2. Walnut Creek. Is this the lake and recreation area outside Papillion...? I'm from Omaha, and now my parents live in Lincoln. :)

    Great pictures...those Redwing Blackbird eggs are beautiful! Don't think I've ever seen one off her nest...

  3. Sanders - Thanks man. I LOVE Phil. He is my favorite character on the show. By far :)

    e - Walnut Creek is in Bellvue, I think, so yeah, around Papillion. Omaha has been nice. Cool that you are from the area. We like it here. We have been here for 4 years and are now heading out to Virginia. A big move but should be fun!

  4. David, I know you aren't tryin' to steal my snake show. I'm just glad to see someone else posting snakes in a positive light.
    So... to answer your snake question of the week. You asked about how you can distinguish the sexes in snakes such as Bullsnakes. Well... it would be really hard to tell without actually picking the snake up and getting a good look at its tail morphology. Males have their hemipenes folded inside of their tail and therefore have rather thick tails that are typically a bit longer and don't taper down as quickly as that of a female. Male tails will have a fairly uniform thickness for at least an inch or two whereas female tails taper down continually from the cloaca.
    All this being said, you had suspicion that the larger snake might be the female... and for many species this would be true. Female reptiles (and birds) are often larger as they need big bodies for egg carrying capacity. Here's the part you won't likely find in any books (a personal observation of mine)... drumroll please... In species of snakes with intense male competition for females (such as ritualized combat among Rattlesnakes) males typically attain larger sizes than females. Bullsnakes are one such species.
    The fact that you observed one cross a body of water to arrive near another of the same species would suggest male to me... it is mating season and males will attempt to overcome almost any obstacle to find mates (many die on roads this way). Females don't really seek out males and have much smaller home ranges. They make the boys come to them. Bullsnakes aren't known for their aquatic activities, and seeing the larger animal "find" the smaller one after crossing the water shows just how powerful their chemosensory perception really is. Truly awesome. I wish I could have seen it myself, and I'm really glad you shared it with us.

  5. Great answer. That explanation makes sense. The snake crossing the water had a thicker body with less of a taper in the tail. I too was surprised to see it in the water. In my brief reading, it seems this aquatic behavior is quite uncommon for Bullsnakes.

    Also worth noting, when I approached the couple, the male continued to move away, but the female turned on me and slowly approached. She is in the "Sniff Sniff" photo. The closer I got, the closer she came. It was fascinating to watch.

  6. d.nash - best of luck on your move...new waters to explore! :)

  7. Thank you :) I have a trip planned already for mid june to fish stripped bass in the chesapeake. The trout are about 3 hours away, which is closer than now. I'm excited. So many new opportunities. If I get into the sea faring fish, I will have to invest in a heavier weight rod :) Mine is much too flimsy.