May 16, 2023
When I went outside to pay the guys who were mowing my yard, I noticed that the birds were really noisy and nervously flying from tree to tree. It was so noticeable that I commented on this, and one of the men said they were probably upset about the snake. Snake?
He said when he was mowing near the Bluebird house, he was puzzled to see an extension cord coming out of the bottom of the stovepipe baffle that’s around the post that the house is mounted on. When he got closer, the “extension cord” moved, and he realized that a snake was trying to get up to the nesting box! He intentionally bumped the post with the mower, and the snake crawled out and moved towards the fence on the west side of the yard. Great….
It’s hard to tell how many times this baffle has prevented predators (particularly snakes and raccoons) from getting the baby Bluebirds, but over the years we’ve learned that snakes can be very, very persistent and remarkably clever.
One night in 2014, a Black Rat Snake (also called an Eastern Rat Snake) was able to gain access to the nesting box by slowly and carefully s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g itself towards it while balancing on a small blueberry bush. We knew that the last Bluebird baby had fledged that afternoon (whew!), but after watching this athletic and gravity-defying feat from the back porch, we went out to the yard and gingerly evicted the snake.
We also moved the Bluebird house a little further away from the blueberry bush so there would be no repeat performance.
This was not our first encounter with a determined snake, however. In 2012, one (possibly the same one?) climbed on my roof to access a maternal colony of Big Brown bats in the louvers of my attic. (Bats? Yep, that’s whole ‘nother story.) Despite my desperate attempt to scare it off by using a hose to spray water on it, I couldn’t stop it from getting some of the sweet little baby bats….
Despite this, I don’t hate snakes–and I’m not necessarily afraid of them, as long as they don’t surprise me like this one did in 2017 in an unfinished part of my basement!
And for the record, I’ve actually gone out of my way to help snakes, such as the time in 2020 when we wrangled an injured snake on a roadway into a large container and took it to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
But in any toss up between a snake and a furred or feathered creature, I’m going to be try to discourage the former and protect the latter. While I understand and respect the whole “circle of life” thing, I really don’t like to see it playing out in my back yard.
So after the guys finished mowing, I went out on the deck to see if I could see the snake. Sure enough, it was moving back into the yard from just beyond the west side fence. A frantic chorus of birds was starting up again, and I used the zoom on my camera to track its progress.
To my surprise, it bypassed the Bluebird house. I guess it remembered that it hadn’t been able to get past the hardware cloth at the top of the stovepipe.
But after going past the house, it turned towards an old propane grill in the yard. What was it doing? It seemed to be moving with a definite sense of purpose–and a plan….
Well. It climbed onto the propane tank of the grill and then made its way to one of the shelves.
A brave little Catbird was watching all of this–and fussing mightily!–from just a few feet away in the blueberry bush.
The mama Bluebird was keeping her eyes on the snake, too, from a nearby Tulip Poplar tree.
From its vantage point on the shelf, the snake stopped and looked directly at the Bluebird house, perhaps calculating distance and weighing its options. After a few minutes, it seemed to realize that despite the height advantage of being on the grill, it was just too far away from the nesting box to be able to reach it.
It wound itself back down, and once on the ground it moved towards one of the bushes. I’d noticed this earlier of course, but damn this was a long snake!
We knew we had big black snakes around here when we found this snake skin in one of the raised garden beds in 2011:
I don’t know where the snake went once the last tip of its tail disappeared, but soon the Bluebird parents were back to business as usual, feeding their babies.
That evening, after bringing in the bird feeders from the east side yard and switching out the card in the trail cam out there, I started reviewing the pics from the day. After zooming in and cropping, wanna guess what I saw in one of the pictures?
Hint: It’s not an extension cord.
Guess I’ll be watching where I step whenever I venture out anywhere in my yard!