Monday, May 3, 2010

Of Orioles & Snakes

Orchard Orioles continue to be plentiful along New England Road (the road to Higbee's Beach) today and we even had one singing in the garden. Indeed, it was through following up on the song of an Orchard Oriole this morning that I discovered a Black Rat Snake, on an old tree stump in our yard. As Megan and I watched, we witnessed the whole process of sloughing off the old skin as the snake quickly acquired a smart, shiny new coat. The process began with the snake rubbing its nose against the rough surface of the stump, until a split in the skin appeared. It then gaped widely a lot until the split became wide enough for it to start slipping out of the old skin. The snake then climbed up some old dead sprouts atop the stump and managed to hook itself over a small snag. This snag was then used to pull the skin off. An amazing spectacle, but not something I would like to have to go through myself!

Black Rat Snake slipping out of something less comfortable! You can see the thinner tail end of the snake still in the bag of old skin. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

In this picture, the snake appears to be checking on progress. The skin did falter at one point and ended up coming of in two pieces. I had the privilege in the end of holding onto the old skin while the rest of the snake slipped out. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

One of the weirdest things about snakes shedding their skin is that the skin even comes off from the eyes! Here the two cups that cover the eyes can clearly be seen. Indeed, often the first sign that a snake is about to shed its skin is when the eyes appear to go opaque, as the outer skin covering them becomes detached.[Photo by Mike Crewe] 

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