Rat Snake Time: PhotoFeed Contest - Wildlife Photography #46

It was a windy day and the grass needed a trim and that's how I got to spend 20 minutes with a Rat Snake.

A very welcome garden visitor, the Indochinese Rat Snake

It's a common snake but this was the first one I had seen in our garden. Being medium-sized and brownish-grey you have to be a little careful with identification as cobras can look similar. But as you can see here with the scale patterning, particularly along the back half of the animal, it looks like its wearing a fishnet stocking. In Thailand, that's an easy way to identify this as an Indochinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros) except... the King Cobra can have a similar scale pattern! However, the King Cobra has a much thicker body and a very distinctive, bulky head. This one only had a small head with bulging big eyes - hence it's Thai name of the "big-eyed snake". Plus the chances of a King turning up in our garden far from the forests it loves are virtually zero. Definitely a non-venomous Rat Snake. Anyway, treat all snakes with respect and you'll be okay.

Distinctive black net pattern along its body

It's name comes from its ability to hunt rodents and in Thailand these snakes are protected by law thanks to their role in helping to keep the rat population down. Protected and yet...in parts of the country these snakes are still popular in a curry!

Lovely big eyes on this active hunter

My theory is that being so reliant on seeing movement to notice threats snakes find it harder on windy days to see what's going on. All the vegetation blowing around masks other movement. They also detect ground vibrations but if your step is light and your motion is slow it is possible to get quite close without the snake being aware of you. So that's what I did.

I managed to get within a metre of this lovely youngish snake as it probed through the grass looking for lunch. Whenever it lifted its head up I froze. I was close enough to notice it had a tick lodged in the back of its neck.

A well-fed tick lodged under a scale on the back of its neck

In the end the ache in my knees from trying to hold my position for too long meant I moved too quickly at the wrong moment and the snake was gone. So fast and almost impossible to follow with my eyes as it zipped through the grass and away. I would have loved to have been able to get that close then slowly retreat and leave the snake forever ignorant of our time together but that's hard for a bumbling human in his mid-fifties!

One last look then it's gone

Anyway, what a wonderful way to spend 20 minutes. Thank you, Ratty.

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