It started with a cacophony of avian voices, mostly eastern bluebirds, but also a titmouse, a mockingbird, a few sparrows, and even a cardinal. Oh the racket they made.
I meandered toward the noise to see what was happening. I saw the bluebirds—both the male and female—flitting to their nest box and hovering near the entrance, then flying to the roof of a storage shed where they would hover where the wall and roof met. All the while the bluebirds complained loudly and constantly, joined often by the other birds in attendance.
“Their young must be fledging,” I thought to myself. Only I knew it was too early for that; the bluebird young wouldn’t fledge for another week. And even if they were fledging, the other birds wouldn’t care.
So what was going on?
I decided to move closer, knowing it would disrupt the birds, but also knowing it was the only way I could figure out this raucous rabble-rousing.
Facing into the setting sun and peering at the roof of the shed, the cause of the uproar made itself quite apparent. From outside, at least, where I could see part of a large snake as it meandered atop the wall.
With the bluebird house only a few paces away, I had no problem understanding the hoopla.
More of the snake was inside the shed than outside. And trust me when I say there was a lot of snake to be seen.
Perhaps six feet/two meters long, this Texas rat snake (a.k.a chicken snake; Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri) didn’t appear phased by the birds outside. For that matter, it seemed only casually interested in my presence, even though I stood close enough to reach up and touch it.
Our bluebird houses are protected by multiple lines of defense: barbed wire encircling the posts that hold them up and baffles higher up that stop anything from climbing to the nest boxes. But the birds don’t know they’re so heavily guarded.
Besides, many snakes—rat snakes included—are excellent climbers, able to slither into trees, up walls and posts and poles, and pretty much surmount any vertical obstacle so long as they can get some grip.
As long as they knew the snake was there, the birds continued their uproar. And the snake?
Eventually it curled up in the corner beneath the roof, apparently settling in for a nap.
We had no problem leaving the snake to its evening and its eventual hunt. This is a real farm, and that means we have real rodents. Rat snakes make a welcome addition to our anti-rodent arsenal.
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- This encounter reminded me of a not too dissimilar encounter last year while my cousin was visiting. I’ll have to share that story soon.
- Not all small critters are unwelcome. Rats, mice and gophers are some of our worst enemies, but we also have moles who are not villains. I recently caught one—an eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus)—and relocated it to safer territory away from the house and farm buildings since our outside cats hunt those areas. And yes, I took pictures of the mole, so I’ll share those soon as well.