Thursday, March 27, 2014

Diamondback Rattlesnake

                                      We have rattlesnakes in Wisconsin…not many…a few…none where I live.

I was kind of excited when I finally saw a rattlesnake here in Arizona.  I was hoping I would see him first, but this encounter happened the other way around.  I don’t know when he spotted me coming, but when I first heard him, I was already one step past his comfort zone. Neither the snake nor I wanted to be this intimate.

I was walking the Big Wash in Arizona’s, Oro Valley, near our winter home looking for birds. I was mainly finding the year-round resident birds, as the spring bird migration out of Mexico and Central America has not reached here yet.  It’s still too cold for the birds to consider moving north, but the rattlesnakes are active.                 

      (Click any picture to enlarge.)

I found this Gambel’s Quail calling out in all directions.  Perched on a high branch for good visibility, he was proclaiming quail dominance to this spot. After hearing no replies, challenges or invitations, he left…mission accomplished. 

It had been a very quiet day.  Truthfully, the Gambel’s Quail gave me a few good profiles, but for a day’s work, I had little to show. I gave up. I was leaving, too.

Dodging the barbs of acacia trees and cactus, I wove my way out, when I stepped on a pile of brittle branches making a dry, crackling sound.  But layered on top of that dry crackling sound came another dry, crackling sound.

For a half-second I thought it could be a birdcall…wrong! I cannot identify many birds by calls, but it didn’t take me long to figure out this bird could bite me in the leg.

This was either going to be my lucky day or a day in the hospital. 

I stopped and reversed course abruptly...all in one motion.

Coiled up and looking seriously disturbed, this Diamondback Rattlesnake was insisting I stay away.  I was happy to oblige, but honestly, I was happy to see him, too. I don’t mind snakes.  Snakes don’t bother me. Spiders creep me out though. 

Actually this is the second rattlesnake I’ve seen in Arizona.  My sister-in-law, Linda, spotted one on a previous trip into the Big Wash.  That one slithered away so quickly however, I had no chance for pictures.

This one posed for me…well, sort of.  Whenever I moved towards him he would coil up and rattle.  When I backed off he would relax again, but he never ran.  His head followed me around as I photographed his changing defensive posture, but he gave no indication of wanting to back down or escape.  He had lots of good cover to retreat into, but that was not his game.  He was here, he was staying and I would have to go around him.

That, too, made me happy.  I got to spend some time with an unfamiliar animal for which I have a lot of respect.  In some way he won this encounter, as I had to walk around him to leave, but I left with 150 pictures of my first Diamondback Rattlesnake.