Photo of the Week – November 1, 2012

On Wednesday, our staff was out enjoying some beautiful fall weather and harvesting the last of our prairie seeds for the season.  Walking along a gravel lane, we found a small snake basking in the sun.  I didn’t recognize it, so I stopped to photograph it in case it was a species we hadn’t seen in our prairies before.  Thanks to Mardell Jasnowski and Nelson Winkel for helping me get the photo.  (And for being patient while I shot it from many different angles…)

A juvenile eastern racer (Coluber constrictor) – The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.  As always, you can click on the image to see a larger and sharper version of it.

Juvenile eastern racers look very different from the adults of that species.  Adult racers don’t have any patterned markings on their backs, and are a uniform blue or green color on top and yellow on the belly.  In fact, they’re often called green racers or blue racers because of that coloration (also yellowbelly racers).  When I saw this juvenile, I didn’t even think about the possibility it might be a racer.  I was running through the names of all the snake species I could think of with brown and black patterned backs, and none of them fit what I was seeing.

Eastern racers aren’t the only snake species in which the juvenile has a different, more camouflaged appearance than the adult (black rat snakes are another example).  It’s also a phenomenon seen in other kinds of animals, including white-tailed deer and red-winged blackbirds – among many others.  I guess a little extra camouflage when you’re young and inexperienced in the world is probably a good idea!

Thanks to Dan Fogell for writing his excellent field guide, which helped me identify this snake.

6 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – November 1, 2012

  1. On the farm, I grew up with (what we called) blue racers, black snakes, bull snakes, and, of course, garter snakes. The blue racers could really scoot! “Hence the name,” I thought. (The black snakes were longer, more slender…and faster.) Thanks for the photo of the juvenile blue racer.

  2. Beautiful little snake – don’t you just admire their spirit? Poor thing being towered over by some odd alien with an ENORMOUS eye, and he’s just taking it in stride … err, slither.


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