|Not an advertisement for Stihl helmets, just a place to keep a small California mountain kingsnake safe while putting down the Stihl brushcutter. Amazing how the colors match.|
The dusky-footed woodrat who lives in the barn is pleased to know this. So are my co-workers and neighbors who are coming to harvest walnuts, watch the sun set, and potluck it.
Walnut harvest means it is time for the annual reader poll. From all the snakes seen at the Dipper Ranch this year, you get to vote on which one will be featured on the 2013 Dipper Ranch Walnuts label.
From everyone who submits a vote in the comments below, I will randomly pick one who will get a bag of 2013 Dipper Ranch shelled walnuts with the new snake label. So if you have an issue with snakes, if you think they are agents of the devil and anyone who honors them with a pretty picture is likewise an evil one, don't bother voting. Or change your mind about the value and beauty of snakes by checking some of the Dipper snake photos and linked stories below.
The 2013 contestants are:
|A northern Pacific rattlesnake in Italian thistle, first snake of the year.|
|Forest sharp-tailed snake.|
|Curly rattlesnake at the curly hose|
|Just another rattler at the barn, on May 20th|
|Another visitor on May 20th. Even without seeing its tail, there are ways to tell that this is a gopher snake instead of a rattlesnake.|
|Spectacular reptilian orange.|
While brushcutting medusa head (an invasive grass) in one of the upper meadows in late May, I saw a flash of bright orange, black and white. I quickly switched off the brushcutter, set it down and dashed after the color. Yes, it was a California mountain kingsnake. Not only are these snakes a prize to see, but as always when we are mowing, we temporarily capture any snakes or lizards we find in our work area until we are done so we don't accidentally trim the reptile.
|California mountain kingsnake upon its return to mowed area. Notice the bulge in the middle - while waiting for my return after its photoshoot, the kingsnake apparently accepted the lizard offering from a grateful RT.|
It was going to take me two days to mow the medusa head, so I made the kingsnake comfy in a bucket. The next morning I walked it across the street to visit with a construction crew and state park archeologist who were working on the new Mindego Gateway parking lot. Most of them had never seen this California native, and since they were being so careful to protect natural and cultural resources while grading the site, I wanted to show them another natural treasure.
I didn't write about this beautiful kingsnake on the Dipper Ranch blog at the time because Random Truth did such a good job writing about it for his blogsite Nature of a Man. Despite all his travels and time outside, RT had never seen a California mountain kingsnake either. He too got a chance to visit with the snake while I finished cutting the medusa head. And, wow, the photos he posted at NoaM are amazing. This California kingsnake was small compared to the two I saw in the previous two years. I was pleased to realize this indicates the California kingsnakes are successfully breeding here.
But before you get all starry-eyed about the California mountain kingsnake, I would like to point out that another California mountain kingsnake was featured on the Dipper Ranch walnut label last year, so share the fame and make sure to give the rattlesnakes a shake at appearing on this year's label. Such as the rattlesnake that showed up in the farmyard on June 2. Since this was the fifth rattlesnake of the year and the average annual number of rattlesnakes I've seen at the Dipper Ranch over the past five years is five, I loudly announced to the Dipper environs that I had had my share of rattlesnakes for the year and there would be no more rattlesnakes at the farm house in 2013. It seemed to work. At least for a few months.
[video removed until I figure out how to load better quality]
June 29 was a very hot day, so I watered the pots on the porch. A few minutes later I returned from likewise filling the birdbaths. Tralalalala. On the concrete pad beneath the dripping pots, a shallow puddle had formed in which I was very surprised to see a coast gartersnake. Then suddenly, a long gopher snake came shooting out from the buckeye tree and rolled right over the coast gartersnake. I thought there was going to be a battle, but the gopher snake just kept moving and the gartersnake was drinking.
|Coast gartersnake after its puddle soaking.|
|Small rattlesnake in the bottom of the springbox. Check out the scalloped edges on its diamond shapes at the top of photo.|
Okay, those are the candidates for the 2013 Dipper Ranch walnut label. Vote away in the comments below. And, ahem, I just want to repeat, that the rattlesnakes are still waiting to be represented.
November 23, 2013 UPDATE: voting has closed and the forest sharp-tailed snake wins by a scale. Jean who voted on November 3 was selected by a random number generator and wins the bag of walnuts. I'll post the new label soon.
|Rattler waiting for release.|
Northern Pacific rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
Common sharp-tailed snake, Contia tenuis
Forest sharp-tailed snake, Contia longicaudae
Pacific gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer
California mountain kingsnake, Lampropeltis zonata
Coast gartersnake, Thamnophis elegans terrestris