Here in the Midwest, we are privileged to fully experience four distinct seasons. Summer brings endless encounters with our natural world, especially within our wetlands, perhaps my favorite nature-embracing environment on a sultry summer day.
When a large northern water snake(Nerodia sipedon sipedon) swims alongside your canoe and then suddenly looks straight at you on a sultry summer day, one thing is certain; it has your undivided attention. Northern water snakes are one of the most common snakes of Oakland County and are frequently encountered as the days of summer sizzle on and we relax and recreate near ponds, lakes, marshes and rivers. They are often under-appreciated, and at times heavily feared because of their appearance and bold, opportunist behavior. Herpetologists and nature lovers in theknow are enthralled with their behavior and patient observation helps to better understand their ways and coexist peacefully. Sadly, some people “know” they are venomous. They are not!
Contrary to myth and urban legend, the northern water snake is not a cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus), the only venomous water snake in the United States. The cottonmouth, sometimes called a water moccasin, is found in the Southeast, ranging from southern Virginia to Florida and west to East Texas. The only venomous snake in Oakland County is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, and the behavior of the northern water snake and eastern massasauga rattlesnake have little in common. Our native rattler tends to be reclusive and is seldom seen. The northern water snake is often seen, and almost always at the water’s edge. Continue reading →
Kayaks provide a perfect viewing platform to watch for wetland ambush hunters from early spring to the end of Autumn. Buhl Lake, Addison Oaks County Park
Great Blue Herons, northern water snakes, snapping turtles, Great Egrets and American bullfrogs all share a common trait. They are five of the most commonly seen ambush predators of Oakland County wetlands. Ambush predators are masters of stealth and patience, remaining motionless as they wait for potential prey to come within pouncing or striking range. It’s a very effective strategy for hunting. For by staying motionless, they are less exposed to their own predators. The lying-in-wait strategy gives them the advantage of a surprise attack without the need for an energy consuming and perhaps risky chase. Now, at the dawn of summer, thick carpets of duckweed coat the shallow wetlands and the scene is set for the next lightning-fast strike.