I am standing by the edge of the pond. The vegetation here is thick, and I had to make my way in carefully – the wild raspberries have been mostly washed out by the rising water, but the ones that remain are tall, thick, and full of thorns.
Fresh green grass stalks break the surface of the pond. Maybe it will revert to a marsh again, after all…
A flash of gold catches my eye and I turn to see a serpent, draped on the tall raspberry bushes. She’s almost at eye level – more like chest level – four or five feet above the ground. She seems unconcerned by my presence – a Ribbon Snake
common garter snake. It seems pretty relaxed, maybe this is one of the snakes I photographed a few weeks ago.
Wait a minute… This is the Allegan Forest, not the Amazon Forest – I don’t expect to see snakes hanging from the branches here. After a few moments, the snake glides away – sliding into the bushes on which it was perched, weaving itself into the shadows below.
A few moments later, I have the next encounter with a snake. This time I’m lying on my stomach, trying to get a shot of a dragonfly perched on a stalk, just inches above the ground. As is usually the case, I get no photo. But as I turn to leave I suddenly realize that I’m eye to eye with a blue racer. The snake is much smaller than the ones I saw a few weeks ago – this one is only about 3 feet long. I can’t even photograph it – it’s too close. I rise up and step aside, and the snake darts off towards the water’s edge, and the thick bushes there.
Well, this morning is off to a good start…
Of course, I’m more concerned with finding dragonflies, so I scour the fields off 48th street to see what is new. As in the past few weeks, dot tailed whitefaces remain in charge. They are actually incredibly numerous – I try to estimate how many appear in a square yard of the field, and it seems like there are at least 3 and sometimes as many as 6. Here are a couple of shots of the dot tails:
Aside from the dot tails, twelve spotted skimmers have also appeared. Though they are never as abundant, these dragonflies are much larger and more elegant in their flight. Here’s a snap:
Leaving the pond and fields along 48th street, I head to the coreopsis field a mile or so away. In the past week the coreopsis has really come into bloom, but I only spot a couple of butterflies on the flowers. I spent a bit of time pursuing this eastern tiger swallowtail, only to find that it had a nasty bite out of the top layer of one wing – close call with a bird, most likely:
So I wound up wandering through the open field. The coreopsis looks great, and will only get to be fuller in the next few weeks. After wandering and watching for a while, I found a handful of
Rapids Midlands Clubtails, which I first spotted last week in the fields north of the river. While the individuals I spotted last week were vibrant yellow, the ones I saw this week were much more greenish yellow. They still liked to pose on the sandy soil – here’s a shot:
From there I moved on to the fields to the north of the river. I saw a delta spiketail, but was not able to get a photo. The
Rapids Midland Clubtails were still prominent, and I managed this shot of a mating pair – hmmm, maybe the difference in color has to do with gender.
All in the all, the spring dragonfly season is off to a good start. I’m surprised to not see any Blue Dashers. But they should be along in due time.
A parting shot of the
garter ribbon snake, high up in the brush:
I think (most? all?) of your Rapids Clubtails are actually Midland Clubtails, or some other species. Rapids is a listed species in Michigan and generally rare, and doesn’t typically have the yellow on the tops of the s8 and s9.
Comment from: Member
Thanks, Julie - I think you are correct. I just compared these shots to a few fieldguides and see what you mean - I think I tended to look at the markings on the thorax vs the abdomen. I appreciate you pointing this out!
Comment from: Member
My thanks to the visitor who emailed me and pointed out that this is a Ribbon Snake, and not a Garter Snake!