Birders On The Border

If you've seen one life bird, you've seen 'em all.

My Photo
Names: Tom & Sheri Location: Bisbee, Arizona, United States
We're a husband-and-wife naturalist team living and working on the Mexican border. If it walks, crawls, swims, flies, or photosynthesizes, chances are it'll get our attention, but birds are our main focus both personally and professionally. We lead walks, workshops, and tours, give presentations, write articles and books, band and count birds, scrounge for funding for our tiny nonprofit organization, and spend way too much time stuck in the office...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cousin Slim comes to visit

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

-- D.H. Lawrence

It was one of those hot, hot days, and when a breeze kicked up at midday I began to worry about a few tender young plants still in starter pots. Pepper seedlings can handle temperatures in the 90s, but single-digit humidities combined with a breeze can turn them into shriveled little mummies in a matter of minutes.

Out on the patio, I did a double take. It looked like the gardening fairy had beat me to it and placed a thin gray hose into the tub that partially protected the tiny chilitos from the elements.


A quick peek over the side of the tub confirmed that it was not a hose at all, but the rear third of a Sonoran Whipsnake (Masticophis bilineatus). I dashed back into the house to grab a camera and returned to capture the event in pixels. But this was hardly the snake's best side, so I lightly touched it near its tail, outside the box. Up popped a foxy snout and brilliant amber eyes.

A Sonoran Whipsnake
A couple of quick flicks of the tongue, a couple of clicks of the shutter, and the snake's head disappeared into the tub again. Dang...

In "Snake," the poem quoted above, D.H. Lawrence owns up to struggling with the "education" of his childhood:

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

Ultimately, "those voices" won out over Lawrence's fascination with the snake (a venomous species), and he picked up a log and chucked it at the poor creature. I always managed to resist my family's efforts at "education," so harming this whipsnake never entered my mind. But in the quest for a better photo, I stroked its hindparts again. This was too much for it, and it shot out of the tub, nailing me on the hand with its needle teeth before vanishing under the house.

And immediately I regretted it...
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

I had been a boorish host, groping my guest for the sake of a photo opp. If he honors us with another visit, I'll treat him with deference befitting "one of the lords of life." --SW
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It's the time of year, I suppose - Julie Zickefoose just blogged on a similar visitor, though not welcomed quite as wholeheartedly as ours. --SW