Full Moon Hike at Spur Cross

It was my first time participating in the monthly Full Moon Hike at Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area.  At 7:00 PM tonight we gathered around ranger Kevin as he explained the path we would be hiking in the moonlight.  The weather was finally a bit cooler – in the high 70’s.

I did not bring my tripod.

I should have brought my tripod.

Here’s a gallery of photos – because they actually capture a bit of what it felt like to be among the giant saguaros – in the moonlight – surrounded by the stillness of the desert.

Please forgive the quality.  Enjoy the experience.

 

And, of course, leaving the park, this native Creeker was not happy to be disturbed.

Arizona Diamondback at Spur Cross

Since this is a monthly event, you can like Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area facebook page to stay in the loop.

If you enjoy this blog, you can also like the Love Cave Creek AZ page on facebook where I post photos from the Sonoran Desert.

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Phew, that was close

Tonight, I was saved by my daughter from stepping on a baby rattlesnake.  To give you perspective, it could have fit in the palm of my hand and I have small hands.

We were returning from walking the dog, and the sunset was breathtaking.

cc-sunset-075This time of year, I like to pick the tender pods off the Palo Verde trees and eat the seeds inside.  They are waxy but I like them.  I was distracted in search of a young tender pod in a tree just off the side of the road when she screamed:

“MOM. STOP. SNAKE. STEP BACK.”

In staccato!

“I don’t see it.” I said, stepping back while squinting trying to find the snake.

“Theeeeeeeeeere” she pointed annoyed with me.

I still couldn’t see it.  It really took me a while to spot it.  The light was fading and the snake  was all curled up and blended so well with the ground.

“Phew, that was close.  I didn’t see it.”

“Mom, you really should wear your glasses.  I worry about you.”

I was careful the rest of the way.  Stepping mindfully and forgetting about the Palo Verde pods.  But the scare was not enough for me… I needed a photo.  So after we got back home, I put on my glasses, grabbed my camera and tripod, left the disappointed dog home, and went back for some pictures (of the snake and the sunset).

Click on the images to enlarge them.  In the last one, you can see Venus.

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This week’s theme: Snakes – Two diamondbacks in love and a bull snake at the front door

And the week is not yet over.  Hmmm.

On what would have been John Lennon’s 72nd Birthday, October 9th, this past tuesday, I found two diamondback rattle snakes at the edge of my garage door.  I did not know at first that there were two.

If one rattlesnake is enough to startle you, imagine what you would feel like, photographing it’s tail, thinking you are well away from where it had it’s head, and all of a sudden another head slithers in your direction.  It took me a moment to realize that what I was seeing was two snakes and not a freak of nature.

Eventually, they unraveled just long enough for me to get a good photo showing the two of them.

Before I knew there were two, I called my neighbours and asked them to bring over the snake handling tongs.   I had to keep an eye on my unwanted visitor who had chosen a location too close to the front door and  could easily slip into the garage if the door were opened.  My plan was to relocate it over the wall into the desert but leave it on the property.

None of us want to mess with one rattler and without the right equipment and experience it is dangerous and not recommended.  But then, when I figured out that I had a happy couple in love, the plan changed.  For sure none of us were going to mess with two!

So we all started making phone calls to find someone to advise us on what to do.

This is one of the great things I love about Cave Creek.  If you neighbour doesn’t know what to do, they at least know someone, who in this case turned out to know someone else that can totally help you.  I hit pay dirt with the Phoenix Herpetological Society who put me in touch with a professional who for a reasonable fee, came and took the snakes away and promised to relocate them unharmed.

I had to keep an eye on the snakes to know where they are.  No point in having the snake handler arrive to find out that these two have moved on.  Out here, they can disappear in a few seconds.

What was most interesting was that the head of one of the snakes (I would later learn that this was the male) was much more active than that of the other one.  Their tails remained entangled together and hardly moved.

It was actually quite sensual to watch their ritual.  The front parts of their bodies slithered together gently with their heads rubbing intimately as if they were kissing and touching cheeks.

After doing some research on the mating behavior of diamondbacks I am pretty sure that the male is the one on top.

What was most interesting, is that at no time, even with me photographing them and the neighbours and I talking did they rattle.  In fact, when the snake handler picked one of them up with her tongs, the other snake remained attached.  That’s when I felt bad about having disturbed what should have been their private moment.  But still, they did not rattle!

This brings me back to the idea that for some of us, including John Lennon, we believe that it is impossible to make war when you are making love.  I know I sound like a cliche but what can I say?  I believe in paying attention to nature and I believe in synchronicity.

Not all lovers are created equal

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression that all rattlesnakes are sensual and don’t mind being disturbed. Here’s a youtube video that I found that shows otherwise.  Notice how they are rattling.  That’s a warning to stay away!

 
Western Diamondback Fact Sheet
Wikipedia on Crotalus Atrox
 

Not a Mating Dance

There are many videos on YouTube that show two diamondbacks in a ritual dance that claim that the two are mating.  (just search for rattlesnake mating dance).  This is not necessarily mating and in fact it is a fight  between two males vying for dominance and the opportunity to mate with a female.  here’s one good video.  If you notice, they are not attached at the tail.

Tonight’s front door visitor

Back in March 2010 I wrote a piece called The Earth Is My Witness that describes how I live in the desert where the wildlife and I connect at the threshold of my front door.

Tonight, it was dark when we got back from our evening walk and the dog came to a complete stop a foot from the door and backed up, startling me.

I’m glad.  She saved me letting this little guy into the house.

This is not a rattlesnake.  This is a bull snake and he is most welcome to stay around the outside of the house.

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Clouds Butterflies Rattler and the Moon

Two days in a row, I get to take a walk at sunset.  I’m loving this slightly cooler weather.  In the wash, the butterflies were amazing… I only caught a picture of one.  And when I got back home, I almost stepped on the diamondback stretched across the driveway.  It’s the first rattle snake that I’ve seen on the property this season.  It was well after sunset and it blended so well with the ground that I almost didn’t see it.  And the moon, was orange.  Too bad the photos don’t do it justice.

 

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Shake Rattle and Roll

In my latest encounter with the rattlesnake, I had the luxury of time and so I decided to observe it.  It was interesting to see how my movements controlled its rattle; made me feel more certain that we are connected.  Interesting also how the rattle controls my movements.  I mean in the desert, I freeze when I hear a rattle.  Back in March I wrote an essay called The Earth Is My Witness

The snake mirrors to me my state of being.  I love it.

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Sonoran Desert Up Close and Personal

The snake was caught in the chicken wire of the garden gate.  In hindsight, I figured it was trying to leave after realizing that the tiny mouse that was caught in the have-a-heart live trap would not be hers.

It was 6:30 in the morning when I stepped down to my garden to feed the chickens and caught sight of the Arizona diamondback.  Of course it rattled just in case I would miss it.  I knew it was going to be a strange day.  The chickens (all four of them – I quickly counted!) may not get fed for some time.

Rattler at my garden gate caught in chicken wire

The first thing I did was to get the dog back into the house which was a bit tricky because she was on the other side of the snake and I had to make sure she did not cross the snake’s path a second time…

After I snapped a few quick photos, I called my neighbor who is my partner in animal rescue and relocation.  To date, we have taken care of a few rattlers, a bat, birds, bunnies … and of course our animals.   My favorite was rounding up her horses when they got loose.

Today however, I was not sure… I mean, to free the snake, we will need get really close to it to cut the chicken wire from around its belly.  Yikes.  It was definitely an Arizona Diamondback – a dangerous rattlesnake.

Here is a view of the rattler’s tail

I must admit, that I started to set my intention and visualize it relaxing its muscles… I did not want to get up close and personal with this one.  She was panicked and upset.

The first thing I did was to post a sign because I was afraid that my brother-in-law who is visiting from England may not see it on his way to the garden…

… I knew I needed to relax myself and so I continued with the meditation and visualizations… and by the time I had changed into my thick work pants tucked into my heavy leather work boots, long sleeved denim shirt and leather gloves, and returned, the snake was free!  YES!!!

That was when my brother-in-law showed up and almost failed the snake spotting test.  A mistake anyone could have made…

When my neighbor came, we continued to watch the snake and debate on whether we should relocate it.  We decided to just keep an eye on it and see what it did on its own.  We had the snake loop ready should it decide to go towards the patio instead of the desert.  We also decided to release the mouse that attracted the snake in the first place.

I still had my camera strapped to my hand, and I caught a short clip of a cardinal in the tree.  Classic Cave Creek morning.

After running some errands, enjoying the cooler than normal and overcast weather, I returned home to find out that the snake had dissapeared (on my brother-in-law’s watch).  This was not a good thing since he did not see where it had gone and we would need to be extra careful until we spot it again.

And then it happened, out of nowhere, we got hail!  Yes. In Cave Creek, on October 5th, 2010.

The amount of rain was incredible… I went outside to investigate.

It’s hard to believe that this post covers a time period of less than 8 hours.  I love Cave Creek Arizona!

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Diamondbacks

This blog post is not for the faint of heart.  Yesterday, while helping me trim some plants on a landing that is next to the steps leading to the garage, my friend shouted “there’s two”.

Earlier in the morning, I warned him that we had spotted a diamondback just under the step where we were working.  And to confirm, I leaned down to pick up a large piece of recently shed snake skin.  It was still moist and supple.  He cringed as I rubbed my fingers across the ridges of what was the underbelly.  “Just make some noise and don’t put your hand where you can’t clearly see.” I told him.  “The snakes are more scared of you than you are of them.”  I could tell he was not convinced.  “But be careful, my husband was almost bit on the weekend when he stepped too close to the snake sunning itself on the concrete step.”

Of course, he ignored me until he heard the rattle and when he looked, he saw two.  In this video you can only see one.

… we eventually had to move the two snakes in order to finish our work and we relocated them just to the other side of the house.  I did not let my friend handle them with the rake like he wanted to.

Rattlesnakes move very fast and can strike with incredible speed and their venom can be deadly.  I don’t understand what part of that is difficult to understand.

Moving snakes is not for amateurs…

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