I went back to the park today. (It was raining yesterday.) This time, I brought my camera. Actually, I brought both cameras -- the HD camcorder and the still camera.
Normally, when I go herping, I don't bother to wear gloves. I mean, my hands aren't so dainty that I worry about getting scrapes or cuts when lifting rocks. Sometimes, if my fingernails are too long, I'll break a nail, but that's no big deal.
Of course, if you're holding up a heavy rock with one hand and you find a good snake under it, you've typically got only a second or so to grab it before it escapes into the surrounding brush. (You can't just drop the rock, after all; you might kill the poor snake.) Since you have only one hand free and very little time, this means you just aim for the middle of the snake's body and grab it. Since the snakes you're likely to find hiding under rocks are usually small ones, I don't worry about being bitten. The worst a little Garter Snake (for example) can do is give you some scratches that might bleed a little. I get much worse hiking through a field of brambles.
Actually, what's much more annoying is that a great many snake species produce noxious secretions from their anal glands, which they smear all over any animal that grabs them. It's a bit annoying.
So, since I intended to catch
some snakes today, instead of my usual routine of just lifting a rock, noting what's under it, and then setting the rock back in place to leave the snake in peace, I stuffed a pair of cloth gloves in my back pocket. It beats getting snake juice smeared all over your hands.
Under the first rock was a nice, big Garter Snake. I grabbed it with my free hand, but those cloth gloves don't give you a very good grip. Before I could secure the snake, it squirmed out of my hand and disappeared into the rocks. I thought that maybe I'd just take the gloves off, and deal with the inevitable smearing of anal-gland secretions. But the Garter Snake had slid under a decent-sized rock and I wanted to catch it before it could get away.
So I didn't waste any time taking off the gloves. I lifted the next rock. Under it was a big
Northern Water Snake. That's unusual. Juvenile water snakes often hide under rocks, but adults are usually found hanging out in vegetation along the shores of lakes and ponds. Naturally, I immediately grabbed the snake.
Have I mentioned that Northern Water Snakes are notoriously bad-tempered and prone to bite? It's certainly not as if I don't have lots of practice in capturing snakes without being bitten, but as soon as I lifted the rock, the snake began to flee. If I was going to catch it, I had to grab it right away
. No time to be careful. So I grabbed it right in the middle.
Immediately, of course, it turned and started gnawing on my hand. So I was happy I'd left the gloves on. The snake couldn't have done me any real harm, but he'd have lacerated my hand real good. His teeth were too short to fully penetrate my glove, however.
After awhile, I got him calmed down enough to sit on the ground relatively still, while I shot some video. Then I put him back under his rock.
I caught another Garter Snake and took some pictures of it, too.
Then, to my delight, I found my Brown Snake again, and took some video of it.
Sadly, I didn't find any Long-Tailed Salamanders or Slimy Salamanders, but I eventually located a Red-Backed Salamander. They're a dime a dozen around here, but I took some pictures anyway. Afterwards, I shot pictures of various interesting flowers and called it a day.
As I was wandering through the fields and woods, I'd pluck an occasional wild raspberry and munch on it. They're so
much tastier than the ones you can buy in the grocery stores!
When I was a kid, a woman I knew who was a sort of Mentor/Mother Figure to me used to say that every fruit is allotted a certain amount of flavor, which is why the small wild strawberries and raspberries you can find in the woods and fields are so
much tastier than the much-larger cultivated berries you buy in the store. (The bigger berries, she insisted, have the same total
amount of flavor as the smaller ones, but it's diluted in the bigger berries.)
Of course, a big part of the reason that the fruits and berries you find in the stores are usually much less flavorful than their wild relatives is because they aren't bred for flavor, they're bred for ease of shipping
. So, you get these tough, tasteless fruits and vegetables that can be shipped long distances without being damaged. Besides, in order to maximize shelf-life, the fruits and vegetables you buy in the stores are usually picked before they're actually ripe.
Speaking of such things, there's a local fruit and vegetable farm where you can buy berries, corn, and so forth. So I stopped and got some sweet corn, raspberries, and strawberries. Since these aren't intended to be shipped anywhere, they aren't picked until they're actually ripe
. As such, they're much
tastier than the stuff you buy in the supermarket.
Maybe I'll make a strawberry shortcake later.
There's a dairy farm nearby that sells goods to the public as well. They have chickens wandering around the place and they sell "free-range" eggs that're much
tastier than the ones you buy in the stores. Their cows are grass-fed, and people are invited to come and watch them being milked. (They still milk their cows by hand.) They have this nifty arrangement: they sell their milk in old-fashioned glass bottles, you pay a bottle deposit the first time you get some milk, then when you bring the empty bottle back, you swap it for a new bottle of milk.
Anyway, I go there for their excellent milk, butter, and ice cream. I stopped in, got an ice cream cone, then sat on a bench outside to watch the water bubbling along in the brook. A couple of very well-fed ducks were wandering around and hoping for handouts. A little girl got out her cell phone and took some pictures of them.
I was listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" on the way back, and Garrison Keillor repeated that asinine myth about how bumblebees supposedly can't fly, according to the laws of aeronautics. I hate it when people repeat and perpetuate stupid myths like that.
Really, how insulting is that myth? Do people really
think that scientists sit around and say, "But ... but ... that's impossible
! According to our theory, bumblebees can't fly
!" If it happens, it's obviously
possible. So if your theory can't accound for an easily-observable fact (such as the fact that bumblebees do indeed fly), then even the dullest twit understands that the theory needs to be amended or abandoned.
that stupid and insulting stereotype. No scientist alive is so arrogant and stupid that he'd actually
say in seriousness something so asinine as: "Bumblebees can't fly, according to our theory."
So I sent an e-mail to "A Prairie Home Companion" informing them that the laws of aeronautics do indeed
predict that bumblebees can fly, that there's nothing particularly surprising or mysterious about bumblebees' ability to fly, and that I hope they won't perpetuate this particular myth in the future.
So, a fairly productive day, overall.