A break in the numbers

This was going to be another of the ‘Just Because’ posts, but really, there’s too damn many numbered posts, so it’s not. And it’s a throw-up, just something that I came across today when watering the plants. Which looked almost exactly like this:

black racer Coluber constrictor peeking out from vinca plants
I had initially identified this as a black rat snake/eastern rat snake, but afterward as I looked at the almost uniformly indigo belly and smooth scales, I realized it was a racer (Coluber constrictor) instead. I always pictured them with slightly narrower heads, not to mention the habit of hurtling away upon anyone’s approach, but so much for that. Somewhere in the realm of 120-130cm in length and thus average for the species, this one was remarkably patient, not only staying put as I got the camera and The Girlfriend (who doesn’t like snakes but has gotten used to them enough to observe from a moderate distance,) but also as I leaned in pretty close for pics.

black racer Coluber constrictor  motionless with head raised
The one aspect where it was not cooperative was with the tongue action; it demonstrated plenty as I shifted position, but only a hint when I was locked in and focused, and I caught just the barest tip in a single frame, visible only at high res. Ah well.

And while we’re here, the eastern rat snake, almost identical, would show a distinct longitudinal line, a ‘keel,’ on each body scale – subtle, but it would be plainly visible in this light. This might actually be the same snake as last year, though it’s a few dozen meters away from that area – certainly not outside of any normal range. Going through the collection of frames from both years just now, the color pattern around the head isn’t identical but is remarkably similar, so I’m giving it a better than 80% chance, myself [Editor’s note: The author has no scientific training and hates math, so his estimate has less than a 50% chance of accuracy.]

Still closer.

black racer Coluber constrictor lloking alert and threatening
I was a little amazed that this guy did nothing but twitch slightly as I got in this close, though I admit that, a little later on using the smutphone camera just to pester others with the shots, the snake finally decided that I was invading its personal space and gently, slowly backed from view. The focus on this particular frame needs a closer look, however, so let’s get to that:

black racer Coluber constrictor in close portrait
While last year’s shot was done with the 150-600mm lens, this was with the 18-135mm, meaning I was considerably closer. So menacing in appearance, and racers are much more willing to bite than rat snakes, but this one just stayed as motionless as possible and counted on this as protection; it may have been a different matter had I tried to pick it up, but I’d rather encourage it to hang around, so I let it be and went back to my yard work. We’ll see if I encounter it anytime later on.