Friday, April 11, 2008

New Gun in Town!

After years of frustration at working in paradise but not being able to adequately capture it with a camera, we took our yet-to-be-received stimulus check from Uncle Sam and bought a camera worthy of the wildlife and habitat found at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest. The Nikon D300, 12.5 megapixel with a 70mm-300mm lens far outguns the Sony F828 that has served admirably until this point. The Sony will be retained for close in support macro shots.

The battery was barely charged for the new camera when the call came out that the students from Lockett Elementary School (Branchville) had spotted a black snake on the driveway. By the time we got outside, the snake had safely made it across the driveway and into the leaf litter and poison ivy that carpets much of the forest floor beyond the high-traffic areas around the parking slots and picnic tables. As we did not want to venture into the ivy or distrub the snake, the camera's "reach out and touch it" ability would get its first test. While the old camera clearly showed an Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) on the ground, the new camera included the snake's nostril and pupil.

Hognose snakes use their upturned noses as shovels to dig up toads, which are their favorite food. If the toad inhales an excessive amount of air in an attempt to make itself too big to be swallowed by the snake, the hognose snake will use special teeth in the rear of its mouth to puncture and deflate the toad. The snake is also unaffected by any poisonous secretions from the toad, which often prevents other predators from selecting the toad as a meal. In its own defense, a hognose snake will flatten its head and hiss to imitate its venomous cousins or it will roll over and play dead. Flipped back over, the snake will (even though playing dead) flip once again on its back with its mouth agape! Captive snakes will often cease to perform after only a short time out of the wild. The snake in the image is black, but the coloration can range from yellow to brown to red to gray.

Although as staff we cannot compete in the 2008 Audubon South Carolina Nature Photography Contest, we hope to take some images worthy of comparison to the images submitted last year.

Images by Mark Musselman

1 comment:

Phyllis said...

In Texas we would call that snake a copperhead. Must be related. Beautiful pictures. Phyllis