Saturday, July 26, 2008

Welcome Home

Nothing says "Welcome!" quite like a three foot long snake on the front doormat. Like many homes in our part of the world we have a nice big porch with rocking chairs and a cooling breeze. A front porch like that is covered to keep the subtropical sun off one's face whilst one sips refreshing tonics and thinks deep thoughts. From the front edge of the porch roof there are usually decorative hanging baskets of plants. In our case the plants are ferns. But, what does that have to do with a snake on the porch?

Well, early in the spring there is airborne cacophony all across our property. The cardinals, woodpeckers of various types, thrushes, Carolina wrens, and many others seem to stay mainly behind the house where there is a large feeder and the cover of woods. But, in the front we find finches and bluebirds principally. The bluebirds end up building nests in the newspaper tube under the mailbox out by the road. (Another good reason to NOT subscribe to the local fishwrap.) The ferns on the other hand seem to be, every year, finch condos. But what about the snake?

Somehow the Elaphe obsoleta, known around our house as a "big ol' tree climbin' blacksnake" knows when the newly hatched finches are big enough to be a feast, but young enough that they can't fly away from his clutches. Last year we saw about a four foot long BOTCB going straight up one of our porch pillars. How they can just kink their way up a glossy painted vertical surface I can't really understand-- but they can and they do. That was on a Saturday and we went out and escorted him off the property since we figured out his intentions vis a vis the finch babies. However, the next morning the same BOTCB was observed descending from a hanging basket with four distinct lumps in him. Now this year we know for a fact certain that he showed up a day after the finch babies flew away. He hung around a while. Knew, somehow, that he was a day late and a tummy short of finches and eventually slithered away while humans squinted at him and paced endlessly. No doubt next summer another big ol' tree-climbin' blacksnake will come calling. Or, we'll just stop hanging up condos for house finches.