Spines, Scales and Rocks

Arizona in April – this is what is happening in my back yard:

Arizona

I think this is a Claret Cup Cactus. If it isn’t, it should be because it seems like an appropriate name for it… Wicked thorns though…

How I like claret!…It fills one’s mouth with a gushing freshness, then goes down to cool and feverless; then, you do not feel it quarrelling with one’s liver. No; ’tis rather a peace-maker, and lies as quiet as it did in the grape. Then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee, and the more ethereal part mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments, like a bully looking for his trull, and hurrying from door to door, bouncing against the wainscott, but rather walks like Aladdin about his enchanted palace, so gently that you do not feel his step.
– John Keats –

Arizona

The Side-blotched Lizard: If you look just behind the top of the front leg, you’ll see a long dark splotch – that is how this lizard got it’s name. These little lizards (4-6 inches or 10-15 cm in length including tail) are numerous, but easily overlooked because of their small size. They blend in well with the rocks and gravel, but are actually quite colorful when seen up close.

Arizona

The male Side-blotched lizard often has bright turquoise blue speckling on the tail, back, and upper surfaces of the hind limbs

Arizona

My yard is covered in a layer of gravel. The previous owner was big on ‘dry-creek bed’ features, so I have a lot of rocks that range in size from ‘pick up and carry around in your pocket’ size to ‘too heavy for me to lift’ size. I’ve been picking out oval shape flat rocks to build a ‘bed of rock daisies’.

Be a little boulder.
– Author Unknown –

Are you a ‘rock hound’? If you have rocks in your yard, are they an important part of the landscape or an inconvenience?

Rosemary, Rabbits and Rattlers

Clump of Rosemary at our Arizona house

This story starts with a large clump of Rosemary. It has apparently become the home of an Arizona Cottontail Rabbit – or I think that is so, since I have seen it (the rabbit) bolt from there on a number of occasions.

Arizona
A Cottontail Rabbit

It is a very handsome rabbit and except for it’s fondness for the leaves of my Torch Glow Bougainvillea, it isn’t what I’d call a pest.

Rosemary leaves

I would have thought the Rabbit would eat the rosemary leaves too, but if it is so inclined, it isn’t making much of dent in the rapidly spreading foliage!

Yesterday, a new dessert occupant appeared on our patio. At first, I thought it was another non-venomous gopher snake. We see them relatively frequently in our yard. However, when the snake finally decided to slither away, I realized that the pointed end of its 3 foot body was suspiciously rattler-like.

I have to admit that I was startled when The Car Guy pointed out that the snake had chosen to come within 15 feet of where I was quietly sitting and reading. It was only 8 feet away from where The Car Guy had been walking back and forth as he worked on a construction project.

The Rattlesnake (probably a Diamond Back) eventually headed into the clump of Rosemary. I don’t wish to think about whether a rattlesnake and a rabbit can enter into a relationship where the rabbit doesn’t become dinner.

The curious thing is, seeing a Rattlesnake on my patio made me want to pack up and head back to Alberta. It’s highly unlikely that there has never been a Rattlesnake on my patio before – it’s just that I’ve never seen one there before. That makes all the difference.

Today, there is NO rattlesnake on my patio, and I’ve ventured out into the yard to do all the spring gardening tasks that need to be done before we head for our Northern home. Of course, I’m extremely more cautious than I was a few days ago. I’m also hopeful that the snake will chow down on the wood (pack) rats that inhabit parts of our yard, then move over to the neighbour’s yard and never visit my patio again.

Question of the day – what would you do if you found a Rattlesnake on your patio? (I went inside and got my camera, of course…)

 

 

Grow Up, Snake!

Transient – a snake passing through the yard, my ‘fear’ of said snake, the snakes skin.

I have to say at the outset that I don’t really like snakes all that much. Not big snakes, for sure. (A snake always looks bigger than it really is, by the way.) So the first time I saw a ‘pretty big’ snake in my yard in Arizona, I was a bit ‘freaked’ out. It looked suspiciously like a Rattlesnake… Fortunately, our local Fire Department comes running when you call and ask for their Snake Removal assistance. I think they would rather deal with a snake than with a snake bite.

The snake turned out to be a Gopher (or Bull) Snake. From a safe distance, Gopher snakes and Rattlesnakes resemble each other – they have the same sort of markings and colors.

A stretched out Gopher Snake – about 3 ft (1 metre) long.

When I’d calmed down, and took a closer look, I saw how the Gopher Snake differed from a Rattlesnake.

round pupils
Gopher Snake head – no facial pit, and round pupils distinguish the gopher snake from the rattlesnake.

Both snakes can be a bit short-tempered. The Gopher Snake will rise to a striking position, flatten its head into a triangular shape, hiss loudly and shake its tail at intruders. The ruse works very well if the snake also happens to have it’s tail hidden in tall dry grass.

tapered tail
Gopher Snake – tapered tail, no rattles

After this particular snake had slithered off, The Car Guy discovered that it had left it’s skin behind. ‘Love the Skin You’re In’ only works for a month or so for a snake, then they discard it for a nice new one so that they can grow larger.

Here is the skin – each scale sparkled in the bright sunlight. Quite beautiful.

Snake Stories
Common Name: Gopher Snake or Bull Snake
Scientific Name: Pituophis
Description: The top of the snake is tan, cream, yellow, orange-brown, or pale gray, with a series of large dark brown or black blotches, with smaller dark spots on the sides. They can reach 9 feet (275 cm) in length, but 4 feet (120 cm) is more common.
Native to: from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans, as far north as southern Canada, and as far south as Veracruz and southern Sinaloa, Mexico, including Baja California.
Date Seen: April 28, 2017
Location: North of Fountain Hills, Arizona
Comments: This is a powerful constrictor that preys on a wide variety of animals including rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, eggs, and insects. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter.

Have you ever found a snake skin? Did you know that humans shed their entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks at the rate of 0.001 – 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Transient.

Florida – An Alligator at Gatorland

Florida Gatorland

Notice – It’s easy to forget that your original objective was to drain the swamp when you are up to your neck in alligators.
– Sign at Gatorland, Florida –

Gatorland, Florida, is an interesting place to take the Grandchildren, particularly if they like reptiles of all sorts.  It is a 110 acre park with alligators, crocodiles, tortoises, snakes, birds and many other interesting critters!