|Special guest at today's volunteer project|
|Western yellow-bellied racers demonstrating the periscope and the laid-back techniques for|
finding prey in dense litter.
|Blotchy coloration of a juvenile western yellow-bellied racer on Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.|
Has the large racer eyes.
|Gopher snake on Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve|
|Northern Pacific rattlesnake on Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve|
Any snake you see in the grasslands with long stripes down its length is probably one of the many species of gartersnakes. Not "garden" snake, but "garter" snake because their long stripes reminded someone of the old-fashioned striped garters or suspenders used to hold up pants or socks. Gartersnakes are often seen in or near water.
|Santa Cruz gartersnake at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve|
|Coast gartersnake on Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve|
Kingsnakes are banded - with wide rings going around their body rather than down its length.
|California kingsnake on Los Trancos Open Space Preserve.|
This juvenile snake was being harassed by a Stellar jay.
|California mountain kingsnake on Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve|
There are other snakes that can be found in grasslands of the Santa Cruz Mountains, but these are the ones most commonly seen.
A California mountain kingsnake will be making a guest appearance with me today at my lunchtime presentation for the volunteer day at Los Trancos Open Space Preserve. We will be spending a few hours pulling the few remaining invasive yellow starthistle plants out of the Los Trancos grasslands. At Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, we believe that volunteer projects are just as much about the experience of being outdoors as they are about getting work done. Since I just rescued this lovely snake from the Dipper Ranch springbox, I figure it can teach the volunteers about some of the local wildlife species and thank them with its colorful loveliness for restoring the native grassland.
If you are interested in other unique volunteer experiences in local preserves, check out the upcoming volunteer projects on the newly designed Midpen website here. I can't promise a friendly snake guest at every Midpen volunteer event, but there's always something interesting and fun to learn outdoors.
The volunteer day went great. We pulled widely scattered yellow starthistle plants in two meadows of Los Trancos. The quiet task of weed pulling provides the chance to strike up a conversation with a new friend and gives one intimate glances of the small critters that live in grasslands. The volunteers seemed to enjoy the lunchtime stories and photos of grassland snakes and, after some initial surprised responses, everyone enjoyed meeting the calm and handsome California mountain kingsnake. We are starting to test the new Weed Manager tool on Calflora - reports of our work on these two meadows can be found here as poe 2574 (plant observation entry) and poe 2575.
Western Yellow-bellied Racer, Coluber constrictor mormon
Pacific Gopher Snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus
Santa Cruz Gartersnake, Thamnophis atratus atratus
Coast Gartersnake, Thamnophis elegans terrestris
California Kingsnake, Lampropeltis californiae
California Mountain Kingsnake, Lampropeltis zonata