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JUNE 20, 2009   

Saturday, snakes

Gray and cloudyIt didn't look too promising at dawn today, but the forecast calls for sun later in the day. Strangely enough the weather predictions this week have been right in almost every case. So the afternoon should be better.

Water snakes

Swimmers pointing to water snakePiet, Martha, and their daughter Nora arrived yesterday, and today as promised the day turned warm and sunny. Here the ladies of the group are wading in the lake behind the house. Martha is pointing to a big water snake, visible as the black dot at bottom left.

It's fairly unusual for snakes to approach humans this closely-usually they avoid any shadow or motion they see. In this case the snake may have been more concerned about the fish in his (her?) mouth, because a moment later he swam up on the rock just a few feet from where I was sitting. The picture below was taken without a zoom lens.

Water snake with gobi in mouthWhen we started vacationing on Kelleys Island about fifteen years ago there were signs everywhere declaring Lake Erie Water Snakes an endangered species to be protected. Now their numbers have recovered to the point where last year there was talk of taking them off the endangered list.

Fortunately the snakes seem to have a particular taste for round gobies, an invasive species that entered the Great Lakes via ballast water on freighters from Europe. As with many foreign species, gobies have caused problems for native fish, eating the young while having no local predators themselves. Except, it seems, for our friends the water snakes.

This video shows the goby struggling to escape. I've watched snakes attempt to swallow fish on many occasions—they have to flip them around so they go down tail-first, a process that often leads to the fish escaping. This time after several minutes the snake went back into the water without swallowing the goby.

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