An Insufficiently Sneaky Snake

Surely snakes don’t eat water lilies. Do they?

Perhaps they do. The crisp, curled edge of the leaf the snake is sidling up to might be evidence of previous nibbling.

But, no. The sudden thrust of that serpentine tongue clearly is seeking a different kind of treat.
Whatever the prey, it escapes: a wingèd blur of disappointment to the hungry snake.

There’s no time to sulk. Somewhere, another morsel awaits.

As the snake submerges and ripples smooth, no record remains of the little pond drama — apart from these photos, of course.


Comments always are welcome.


58 thoughts on “An Insufficiently Sneaky Snake

  1. I am glad the prey escaped. I understand the snake needs food too. The snake had this angry look in its eye when the winged creature flew away. So glad you captured that moment of freedom, Linda.
    What a fluke!.
    I suppose the snake might have found some food at the bottom of the lake. Perhaps a small shell-fish or little grub. Something a bit lower on the scale of living beings. I suppose that shows my prejudice.

    1. It is funny how different people read different things into photos. I saw the snake’s expression as disappointment rather than anger: perhaps mixed with a little frustration. Can’t you imagine him thinking, “Mom told me to get within a tongue’s length before making my move!”

      I’m sure the snake found something else. I just hope the little flying creature didn’t get picked off by a dragonfly in the next minute. The food chain is real, and sometimes more real than we like to think about.

    1. Thank you ~ I’m glad you did. When I realized what I’d captured with the camera, I enjoyed seeing them, too. It’s always fun to find an unexpected surprised when we look more closely at our own photos.

  2. What a lucky capture of the episode. Right place, right time (to have the camera in hand). At first I thought the head and neck which can be seen, might belong to a long-necked turtle :)

    1. When I first saw the snake, it was completely underwater, and I didn’t know what I was looking at. I thought at first it was some underwater plant life, or a limb that had broken off. Then, I realized how quickly it was moving, and started paying more attention. I’d actually stopped to photograph the water lilies, and they were far enough away that I had my telephoto lens on the camera. As you say, luck all around.

    1. Sometimes, just standing around and watching is all it takes — as you know. The tiny dramas of life are all around us — and the ones in nature are fully as interesting as what shows up on the front page of the paper. (Well, or on the newsfeed. My metaphors show my age.)

    1. Indeed we can. I’d stopped on the boardwalk solely for the purpose of taking water lily photos. The next thing I knew, I had a photobombing snake on my hands. Of course, it wasn’t until I got home and put the images up on the computer that I saw the fleeing insect. Going through multiple images may be time-consuming and even a bit of a pain, but I like to think of it as mining for surprises.

  3. This is neat! Like those Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom shows years ago (I’ve seen on YouTube), where the prey always escapes at the last minute, and the predators never get a square meal. The bug, enjoying it’s Shangri La moment on the blossom, unaware of the fearsome danger, seemingly oblivious, and suddenly…
    What a great photo-story. :)

    1. Wild Kingdom was a great show. I do wonder if it might say something about changes in our society that we’ve gone from their escaped prey conclusions to excruciatingly detailed portrayals of a kill — but that’s another discussion for another time.

      Do you suppose the snake was bugged by his inability to catch his prey? I’m sure the bug will be a little more cautious from now on. Islands are great, but sometimes they not as isolated as we think!

      1. I’m sure that snake was already licking his lips, if he had any.
        TripAdvisor review from the bug:
        “It seemed like paradise, the beautiful blossom, the perfumed air, the delicious pollen – but there were snakes in the grass! Well, it was an island, so technically, snakes in the water.”

    1. And now you’ve brought back something I thought was gone from my mind forever: the Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipped by the Pastafarians. Somehow, I think you might be familiar with them.

      That aside, thanks! and I’m with you on wishing a few delightful treats would fly away, since it’s clear that I’m not going to stop pursuing them.

    1. It was at the Brazoria refuge, on the boardwalk. I actually had stopped to take photos of the water lilies, and I was just standing around, looking, when the snake hove into view. To say I was surprised is an understatement. Even though I’ve seen plenty of water snakes, I’ve always seen them on land. It was a treat to see one in its element, so to speak.

    1. It was a revelation to me, Terry. Of course, I’ve only seen water snakes on land, where they tend to do things like nap in the sunshine. It was fun to see one hunting — even though it took me a while to realize that’s what it was doing.

    1. I’m a lot more kindly disposed toward snakes when I spot them first, GP. I must say, I’ve gained a new appreciation for them, and for the role they play in the environment, but like alligators and feral hogs, I’m just as happy for them to be “over there.”

  4. Great job Linda. I also like the light on the subjects. Did you use multiple exposures to catch the moment? It seems so. When I photographed birds I had to use it often.

    1. I did, Maria. I was photographing the water lilies, but when the snake showed up I switched from single to multiple exposures, and from aperture to shutter priority. It was his movement that caught my eye, because I was focused on other, prettier lilies.

  5. That’s a mighty BIG snake, compared to the garter snakes I’ve found in our backyard. Once again, Linda, you were in the right place at the right time to capture Nature at its most interesting — well done! I’m sorry the poor snake didn’t find food, but something tells me he will lurk beneath the water’s surface and try again. Poor little winged critters better stay on the lookout!

    1. Most of the water snakes I’ve seen are about two to three feet in length, though I usually find them coiled up on land, so it’s hard to say. I don’t see them often enough that I’ve developed a good sense for estimating length. One thing’s certain: this one’s size is evidence that he’s a good enough hunter to have grown up into a big boy. He clearly gets a ‘hit’ as often as a ‘miss.’

    1. From the photos, I suspect it was a plain-bellied water snake. I’ve seen the banded ones in my area, but their colors and patterns are usually distinctive.

      This certainly wasn’t the prettiest lily in the crowd. I had stopped to look at some others that were obviously fresher and damage free, but the snake’s movement caught my eye — even though I never figured out what he was up to until I put the photos on the computer and spotted the insect.

  6. Our snakes, when I was growing up, much preferred frogs. More meat on their bones. Frogs make a very distinct sound when they are being consumed whole. We always knew when snakes got lucky. I once “saved’ a frog by pulling it out of the snake’s mouth. The frog quickly hopped away, happily I imagine. The snake was not so happy.
    You’ll appreciate this story, Linda. I think I included it as entertainment in my book. We had screen doors in Liberia and I would sit next to the door at night and watch tree frogs stalk and zap up bugs from the screen. They were often joined in the hunt by a large Praying Mantis and bats. It was a real jungle out there. :) –Curt

    1. These water snakes do prefer frogs and such. I suspect this was an instance of opportunistic hunting. Or maybe it was an appetizer — a snake’s equivalent to a cheese cube on a toothpick. One thing’s certain: you sure enough did save that frog. Given the circumstances, I can imagine the snake briefly considered taking you on.

      It’s interesting that you saw bats at your place. The only time I ever saw a bat in Liberia it was a fruit bat, and it was part of my soup and rice back in the bush. It was quite tasty, but it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find the W-shaped bones until I was done with lunch.

      1. The bats flew in circles around our house, Linda, coming in to grab a bug at each round.
        We used to catch them behind their heads so they couldn’t bite us. :) But I am pretty sure that the snake wasn’t happy with me. –Curt

  7. (You must have been humming that song – and it leaked over my way HAHA)
    Probably someone told that snake he needed to include some salad in his diet, but he slithered off in another direction
    One of the coolest sequences of flowers and snake I’ve seen. Watch a lucky snap. A bit of sun after all the rain certainly has lots poking their noses out and about right now.
    (Sun – cool-ish-er!!! Outside while you can…they must have sprayed for mosquitoes. Tolerable walking this morning.)

    1. Well, so much for that sunshine. I’m so heartily sick of this rain. I think I’m going to vanish this morning no matter what. As we always say, a bad coat of varnish is still a coat of varnish.

      You’re right that the song crossed my mind. I almost was tempted to inflict it on people, but resisted. It is a catchy tune, and a lot of fun. Of course, it was just as much fun to discover I’d captured a bit of neighborhood drama.

      Speaking of drama, how are things with the pack? I’ve thought about that a couple of times. I think I might choose the snake over that rambunctiousness.

    1. The only disappointment I had was not getting a good enough image of the insect to know what it was. I don’t think it was a dragonfly, because that would have been large enough for me to see. I’ll have to go back through my other photos of the flowers and see if I can find something lurking about.

      I never thought of snakes eating crickets, but why not? I’ve known people who’ve tried fried crickets, and they claim they’re tasty. Of course, fried anything can be pretty good.

      1. I’ve never eaten fried insects, but in elementary school we had the opportunity to eat chocolate covered ants and bees and crickets. I’d think we could say the same, at the very least, about chocolate covered food as fried.
        I’d say it may have been some sort of fly but with the blur that’s probably just a way off base guess. The shape doesn’t look like a dragonfly though.

          1. I read that there is one species of mayfly that lives, as an adult, for just five minutes. Basically it’s find a mate, do the mating thing, lay some eggs,and die. Of course, most only live for a day anyway as they have no mouths. Maybe it’s my age showing, but I think I’d rather eat than mate at this point. LOL

  8. This is a great series, Linda. (And you have VERY good eyes to spot it!). I have to say, I’m not fond of the snakey subject matter but so long as he stays in the water, I can work with that!

    1. These water snakes can be grumpy if you bother them, but they aren’t venomous, and basically just want to cruise around, find good things to eat, and bask in the sunshine. Sounds like vacation in a lot of ways, don’t you think?

  9. A delightful sequence, Linda. I can sense the snake’s surprise and disappointment and the panic in the little critter’s frantic, fluttering escape. As well as finding the photos delightful, I was greatly amused by the Pastafarians, whose existence heretofore was unknown to me. Apparently in Dec 2017, a Pastafarian swore an oath of allegiance to New Zealand on the pasta-worshipping religion’s new holy book.

    1. I had heard that New Zealand’s one of the countries that now accepts metal colanders as religious headgear, and your linked article has the proof. I’ve known one person who purported to be an adherent, but it was hard to say how serious she was. The line in the article that caught my attention (apart from being opposed to cutting off body parts) was, “”Our church is very strongly supportive of anything that improves the well-being of sentient beings.” I’d love to know how they define ‘sentient,’ but I guess I’m not interested enough to explore the issue.

      I’d rather go out and watch the sneaky snakes and frantic flyers.

    1. It really was — discovering the full story was like unwrapping a gift inside a box inside another box. I thought I’d seen it all when I discovered the snake sneaking up on the lily. It was quite a revelation to come home and find I’d been witness to a hunting expedition!

  10. Great series of images! Was your heart thumping rapidly – hoping the images would turn out well in this amazing nature-viewing opportunity?!!! I suspected that the prey would be a little frog, but no matter – the pictorial provided wonderful entertainment! Thank you!

    1. Actually — no heart thumping at all. I was just hanging out on a boardwalk, looking at the lilies, when I thought, “Hmmmm…. what’s that moving around out there?” I was hoping for little more than a single portrait of the snake. Little did I know I could get a story out of it! It’s another bit of proof that there’s a difference between “looking for” and “just looking.” Sometimes just looking can be more productive.

    1. Wasn’t it, though? There’s just no telling what’s lurking around under the surface of the water, or under a rock, or behind a tree. It makes being out and about a good bit of fun.

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