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Rattlesnake Day

August 17, 2012

I’ll get back to a more or less chronological look at this recent trip to Arizona, but I think you’ll forgive me this one jump forward in time when you see what I have to share.

The group of bird bloggers and others in tow had just returned to the parking lot of Huachuca Canyon following a long and rewarding walk up into the oak/pine forests in the upper elevations.  Most were basking in the glow of well seen target birds and multiple lifers, but I decided to walk down the streambed on the off chance that something cool might show up.  Plus there were some cool looking dragonflies down there and I wanted to see if I could get a better look.

I got to the end of the stream loop, where it cuts back in over the road when I looked across the way and saw this guy sprawled out on the opposite bank watching me warily.

A Black-tailed Rattlesnake, one of the southwestern specialty species I had on my short list of finding.

I have to admit, my heart sort of stopped for a second.  I’d never seen a rattlesnake before, well, besides the little Pigmy Rattlers I’d occasionally come across in the Ozarks growing up, and as cute as they are, they’re not the 3 foot monster slowly making it’s way down the streambed not 10 feet away from me.  Once I gathered myself, I yelled to the rest of the group, who came running to see this incredibly cool thing.

Here’s an advantage of having a big lens.  You can shoot portraits of these snakes without getting within a dangerous distance.  Not that this snake would have minded, based on its body language.  It was exceptionally chill, eventually carrying on poking through dead logs and leaf piles looking for food and more or less oblivious to the group of people gathered around.  In fact, it might have been nice to have it panic a little, at least to posture a bit.  Attempting to capture the whole of a 3 foot snake with one large lens is very difficult indeed.  In fact, I never managed it.

It looked recently shed, as the yellows were SO yellow and the blacks were SO black.  It was a handsome creature to be sure, made all the more so because of its inherent danger.

It eventually found its way into a rotten stump and never came out.  Probably for the best, a family with small dogs was around and I’d hate to see what would have happened had those paths crossed. But I’m sure glad mine did.

  1. August 18, 2012 1:37 pm


  2. August 18, 2012 2:26 pm

    Love it! Great nature encounter!

  3. August 18, 2012 6:08 pm

    Yeah, don’t you just love long lenses? 😉 What a stunning snake! I’ve never seen this species. You captured its beauty so well here, thank you.

  4. August 21, 2012 9:14 pm

    Beautiful creature and great photos but perhaps you overstate the ‘danger’.

    • Nate permalink*
      August 21, 2012 9:16 pm

      I certainly didn’t imply that the snake was in any way aggressive, because it wasn’t. But I wouldn’t mess with it, and I was certainly glad I had that long lens.

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