It took a few seconds for us to unravel the scene in the above photo but it eventually became clear it was a large northern water snake eating a fish and a smaller northern water snake clinging close to the larger snake. Although we happened upon the scene at this stage of the battle, I’m fairly certain the fish was a catfish. To give credit where it is due, my 12-year-old son Will was the one who discovered the scene and called the rest of us over.
The snake had pulled the fish onto the shore and the fish continued to fight with everything it had. It was quite the battle and we watched for a good 15 minutes. Not having my camera equipment with me, I did the best I could with my iPhone while at the same time being respectful of the natural scene unfolding. The struggle took place a few weeks ago at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Connecticut, along the same shore where I often launch my water tube for a relaxing day on the lake. Guess I’ll watch where I’m stepping next time I do that.
Northern water snakes are large and intimidating looking, especially when moving through the water, but are non-venomous and harmless. They do bite but only when antagonized. They aren’t going to aggressively pursue a human and attack. They are often mistaken for copperheads or water moccasins (cottonmouths). Copperheads live in Connecticut but are snakes of the forest and mountains. Water moccasins are snakes of the southeastern U.S. and do not range into New England.
After about half an hour the snake was able to completely swallow the fish. By that time, the other snake had disappeared. The larger snake, complete with a bulging body behind its head, retreated to the water and hid under a rock along the shore. I’m pretty sure it’s the same rock I use for footing as I launch my tube. Good thing water snakes are harmless.
Here are some more photos to get you ready for summer …
Below, the marking of the harmless northern water snake.
Here are the last two For the Birds columns, mostly focused on what readers have been seeing this spring.
If the past season was the Winter of the barred owl, this is the spring of the indigo bunting.
I’ve heard from numerous readers and friends throughout New England and even Canada about this bright blue bird visiting their backyards. The cause for excitement is obvious as it is one of our more colorful birds, flashing a brilliant blue plumage. The brilliance of the blue plumage is dependent upon the light.
It is also nice to hear that so many of these birds are around and delighting backyard birders in large numbers. Rose-breasted grosbeaks are another popular bird this spring. I’ve had limited luck with indigo buntings this spring, but for me, it’s been a banner year for rose-breasted grosbeaks. I’ve seen as many as three males in a tree overhanging my feeders. A female visits the feeders often as well.
It’s also been a good spring for warblers and nearly every walk last week yielded yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, black-and-white warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, American redstarts and yellow-rumped warblers.
I’ve never happened across copulating turkeys and until this spring I had never been sent photos of turkeys copulating. That changed earlier this month when, in the span of a few days, I received two such photos. Thanks to Wayne Snelley of Pepperell, Massachusetts, and Gino Farina of Jeffrey Center, N.H., for taking these excellent shots and sending them to me.
The future of turkeys seems safe for now. (NSFW means Not Safe For Work for those not fluent in Internet speak.)
For more photos submitted by readers from throughout New England, click here, or click on the Reader Submitted Photos link from the menu above.
Summer doesn’t officially start for about three more weeks, but it unofficially starts this weekend. What better way to kick off the summer than with a good, old-fashioned bird ID quiz from Birds of New England.com? I’m not giving you much to go on here, but it should be more than enough. A great summer bird for New England.