A few tentative breaths

ywllow-bellied sliders Trachemys scripta enjoying the warmth
The past few days have begun to get pleasantly warm – I was going to say, “Finally,” but this is pretty much right on time for this latitude; it was even warm enough to open up the house for a bit today. Yesterday and today, I ventured out to see what else was venturing out, which is a guide for other photographers: we are now entering nature/wildlife photographer season, so if those are your goal, you’ll start seeing them appear on lakeshores and along game trails.

Anyway, yesterday was just a brief outing around the neighborhood pond, revealing nothing that I wasn’t already seeing routinely, but the yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) were out in force, and by that I mean in the dozens, finding anything that would support some weight to bask and enjoy the temperatures. I also spotted a few red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) here and there, closely related but not native, or at least not historically – that may actually have changed by now.

red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans eyeing the photographer warily
The red “ear” (really, just a stripe on the dorsolateral portion of the head, nowhere near the ears, so never trust biologists) is often barely visible, simply because it sits right where the sunlight reflects from the turtle’s somewhat slick skin, especially if it’s still wet. Coincidence, or is there some nefarious purpose to this location? Ya got me, pilgrim.

And, really, not a whole lot else to see despite the weather. Even the geese were scarce, presenting only a handful, and just one great blue heron (Ardea herodias) hanging out on the pond’s edge until it decided I was acting suspiciously…

great blue heron Ardea herodias portrait
… and I was, because while plenty of people were perambulating around the pond without even looking over, I was pausing and raising this big black contraption, then strolling a little closer and doing it again, and so on. Just not kosher.

But last night, I went out trying to find a couple of good locations for the chorus frogs (and whatever else I might see,) and happened upon a spot that may provide some cool photos just a little later on. I don’t want to say anything else right now, because then you might (like you always do) start harassing me if you don’t see anything appear here promptly enough. We’ll wait and see how lucky I get.

That meant, however, that I wanted to see what the spot looked like in the daylight too, so I stopped there today to check it out, picking up a Carolina mantis egg case in the process, so I have one of those to monitor now. Then I went down to Jordan Lake for a peek.

And Jordan Lake was crowded, lots of people taking advantage of the weather, which isn’t ideal because they tend to scare off some of the subjects, though admittedly, most of what I see down there are birds at a distance anyway. Which were not in evidence at all – I think I saw a lone seagull and a perched vulture. In fact, I wasn’t seeing much of anything until, wandering the water’s edge, I spotted this:

juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon motionless at water's edge
Right where the waves were pushing up detritus and the occasional dead fish sat this guy, a dead northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) only slightly longer than my hand. When I first spotted it, it was in my shadow, and never twitched as I moved and let the bright sunlight shine on it; in my experience, snakes can sleep easily in the open (and have no eyelids, so it’s not often obvious,) but will still launch themselves for cover when something blocks the light. I did a few frames, then reached down and nudged it just to be sure.

basking juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon
I was rewarded with a sudden flinch into a more ready position, and a whole lot of tongue activity (which I simply couldn’t time to capture in a frame – it takes place in less than a half-second.) The position was a little curious, because while out in bright sunlight to take advantage of it, the snake was still in enough contact with the water (which isn’t yet at a good temperature) to be losing some body heat to that. Not a very quick learner, this reptile: both failing to bolt when danger threatened, and not being efficiently cold-blooded. Kids these days.

But I switched angle and did a fartsier shot, because I was told to:

juvenile northern water snake Nerodia sipedon sipedon from opposite angle
I’m a little curious about the change in color register, because for all photos the white balance was set for full daylight (no correction.) I expect the shadows to be noticeably bluer, but we’re still seeing sunlit areas here, just a more oblique angle. I don’t know, but while I normally prefer a little warmth in photos, I actually like this last version the best.

So, it’s a start, with serious, committed spring ready to rear its ugly head. Or something. This also means that I’m in transition from the typical winter depression to the spring allergic reactions, so, yay? Whatever, I’ll cope, just gimme something to shoot.

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