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[Naturalist Notebook] Snakes Awake!

I’ve had my Rosy Boa Isis and my two Rubber Boas for several years now. Amongst the other thousand reasons that I love spring, these three slithery friends give me one more reason: they wake up from their winter sleep.

My three boas hibernate during winter, even though I have their heat lamps on at all times. Their internal clocks just know when it’s time to rest and right around August or September, they’ll all lose interest in eating and start slowing down. The two Rubber Boas will bury themselves into the wood chips and hardly emerge for more than six months. The Rosy Boa, however, doesn’t dig down or curl up in her hideout: she likes to lay right out in the open on the cold side of the tank and snooze. Every few weeks she’ll rouse herself for some water and a quick bask under the heat lamp, but then she’s right back to rest.

Any offer of food during winter is duly ignored, so I get really excited for that first meal of the year. This year, the Rosy started to get more active in early March, while the two Rubbers didn’t appear until the end of March.

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The last time I moved, I needed somewhere safe to keep my giant Sugar Pine cone so I put it in the tank thinking at least it would be safe til I arrived at my new place. Turns out the Rubbers love climbing all over it and sleeping on it, so, well, it lives in their tank forever now.

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There was a full bowl of fresh, clean water in the tank but they apparently preferred slurping it off the walls after I sprayed the tank to raise the humidity a bit. Which seems weird, but I suppose I’m not one to judge weird.

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The Rubbers readily take pinkies by hand now, which is spectacular because it’s much easier to keep track of how many each snake eats when you’re giving them food individually. If I ever had to leave food in the tank overnight for them to eat, I had no way of knowing which one ate all the grub. These two happily each took three pinkies without hesitation. The male (pictured in the back, with the darker skin color) seemed a little confused as to how to find them and kept trying to eat my hand, but that’s pretty typical for him. The female (lighter color, up front) eagerly snatched her mice and wolfed them down faster than the male.

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Here’s a great shot of her jaws stretching wide and her using her coils to push the mouse into her mouth.

Usually the male is the feistier of the two when it comes to being handled – he’s musked me countless times (and it smells TERRIBLE). This time around, the male didn’t put up much of a fight (maybe he’s still sleepy) and the female was the one to get testy after eating. Understandable, since they hadn’t eaten in close to nine months, I’d be testy too!

Once I put her back in the tank, she actually coiled up into the typical Rubber Boa defense pose: the tail, which resembles the head but has a bony plate to protect it from jabs and pokes, sticks up above the coils to mimic the head while the head is protected beneath the whole body. Rubbers will sometimes even wiggle the end of the tail to confuse predators. She’s slowly coming out of the posture in the pic, but I wanted to share it with you guys anyway since it’s a neat one.

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They’ve grown so much! The female is finally noticeably larger than the male and they’ve both developed their individual colors, with the male being a darker olive brown and the female being a paler, sandier brown. (Their faces actually look quite different too!)

I didn’t take any pics of the Rosy eating this time around because I get worried about disturbing her too much with the first meal (the Rubbers were both on their third pinky by the time I took these shots), but if you want to check out pics of her eating you can go here! If you like reading about these guys, you can see some baby pics here and here too.

How do you feel about snakes? Do these pictures freak you out? I hope not – these boas are incredibly gentle, amazing creatures, and they play such an important role in the ecosystem that humans would be in a bad way without them! :)

Thanks for reading!

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Day 8.

I don’t know how people handle being parents of tiny, helpless humans. I officially applaud you.

I’m sick, have done 10 hours of overtime this week (with another several hours coming), and am insanely fatigued, but the little blue babies still come first. I’m proud of myself, quite frankly. Through the sniffling, sneezing, naps, and long days at work, I’ve still managed to keep them alive. (I’d like a parade now. With some chicken soup.)

I apologize for having the audacity to post about them without accompanying photos but I just didn’t have the energy. They’re amazingly larger than just a couple of days ago. Their bodies are really filling out and expanding to catch up to the size of their feet and they’re generally becoming much more independent. They’re taking far less food from me – it helps that they’re fat, according to how thin the keel is beneath the breast tissue – and instead of begging for it open-mouthed, they’re starting to prefer picking it off the forceps.

Bubba is still not really good at determining food from poop. He carried poop around in his mouth for a couple of minutes this morning, evidently convinced that it would become palatable with time, but eventually spit it out when I put some food on the ground in front of him. I was really hoping he’d learn the whole poop lesson a little quicker, but he’s at least turning into an agile flier. Gump is making up for all the times Bubba stood bullying upon his back by chasing him around and pulling at his feathers. They are tolerating me less and less and do not want to be handled, which is a fantastic sign for their future release. They squawk, they explore, they shit, they eat things they shouldn’t eat, and at the end of it all, they hunker down next to one another and tuck their beaks beneath their wings for a nap.

Learning to be a bird is exhausting work.

Mornings with Blue Jays.

June 2nd, 2011

This morning I awoke to the stirrings and twitterings of Bubba and Gump. Boy, were they ready to take on the day. I took Gump, who was being awfully spunky, out of the cage and placed him on top. Last night they both spent some time up there with Bubba throwing down a little dance move that told me he wanted to try flying, but wasn’t quite sure where to go. At some point, they started making a raspy little chirping noise that I hadn’t heard before. It coincided with me sucking air through my teeth at the dog, but I’m not sure if the two are related.

Feed me!

This morning it was Gump’s turn. He crouched, stood up, crouched, fidgeted, and leapt! His first flight!

Oh hai!

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Baby Birds 201 – Bluejays Steal My Heart

So a small clutch of baby Scrub Jays came into the nature center several days ago. The deliverer had found momma bird deceased and was clearly distressed to have discovered her babies orphaned. There were three. They were lethargic, quiet, cold, and in shock.

I called my rehabber and explained the situation. Instead of her usual response, “Okay, when can we meet up?” she said, “Okay, here’s what you do.” Rehabbers are typically overwhelmed in the springtime and apparently she thought I could handle baby birds solo.

I was up for the challenge.

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