Laziness does not pay off

Actually, just typing that title reminds me of the satirical ‘Demotivational’ poster that I saw some years back, which read something like, “Hard work pays off over time, while laziness is an immediate reward.” Nonetheless, this is a tale of knowing better, gambling and losing, and learning a lesson yet again that I will still fail to heed at some point in the future.

That lesson is, “Keep the photographic equipment handy,” which I’d learned long ago while working at an animal shelter, and usually keep in mind, but this time around I felt I was already lugging too much stuff around. This past weekend, I was house- and pet-sitting for someone nearby, and brought a few things to work on, but didn’t want to, like, pack for an entire trip. What this meant was, when I came across something interesting, all I had available to shoot with was my phone, and if I haven’t yet made myself clear in this regard, I consider shooting photos with a smutphone to be as useful as using your car as a dining table or showering in the sink; it can be done, but “half-ass” is about the best that can be said.

In this case, we’re talking about a little scene that I found while taking the dog for a short stroll around the backyard at night.

juvenile black rat snake Pantherophis obsoletus clinging to brick wall after recent meal
Luckily, the dog missed it entirely, because this particular canine would likely have tried eating it – he sure sampled every other damn thing that he came across. This is a juvenile black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus,) in the transitional color phase between their monochrome mottled immature appearance and their shiny black adult one. And yes, it’s clinging directly to the vertical brick wall – black rat snakes are excellent climbers.

[By the way, if you noticed that I’ve given conflicting scientific names for the species, that’s because the taxonomy actually changed in the period between these posts. Damn biologists can’t leave well enough alone.]

If you look closely, you can also make out a distinctive bulge in midbody; my model here had eaten quite recently. Since it was only about a half meter in length and thus as big around as my thumb at the thickest point (before eating, anyway,) this means it wasn’t a huge meal. Rat snakes tend to target the rodents – imagine that – but there was another species that was visible in distinctive numbers while I was out there, so I’m inclined to say that one of them served as the meal in question:

green treefrog Hyla cinerea on back steps
The green treefrogs (Hyla cinerea) were to be found everywhere in the back yard, so the odds are favoring one of those as the unlucky digestable, but there wasn’t really any way of knowing, because I’d also left the x-ray machine at home (What? You mean you don’t have one?) This photo was taken by the light of my pocket flashlight, which has a kind of side-mounted flood function, so I could stand it up on the step near the frog. For the snake shot above, the flashlight was held in my mouth for focusing, but I believe the phone’s little LED flash went off. At least the pattern came out pretty well.

Not as lucky on the next attempt, perhaps 10-15 minutes later.

juvenile black rat snake Pantherophis obsoletus coiled atop outdoor water spigot
While such snakes can climb a vertical wall, they don’t do it quickly, and this one had made its careful way over to the spigot and perched a bit more securely atop it – I wish I could say where it was heading, but I saw no particular destination in view and I was endeavoring not to disturb it too much. The flashlight was now being held underneath the phone, which should have provided enough light, but either the focus didn’t lock or the ‘shutter speed’ was too slow to prevent some movement blur, so nothing printable here. Just a different perspective from the evening.

And yeah, I’ll be remembering to bring my camera along from now on – for a short while, anyway…