Today’s resolution: Brushes with nature

22 Sep

It happened so fast. A small object hurtling through the air, followed by a lightning streak of black across the river path. Frog and  snake. Prey and predator.

Cici and I jumped about as high as that frog when we saw the two of them flash before us near the end of our walk at the Two Rivers Bridge. We cross our hearts and pinky-swear that we’ve never seen a frog jump so high or leap so far or seen a snake slither so fast. We weren’t so bad ourselves.

That frog hopped for his life, propelling his little froggy ass in an arc reaching from one side of the paved path to the grass on the other. That’s where the snake lost him — and stopped. The snake reared up — we have proof — and stood to peer into the grass. Then the frog made the move that saved his life.

He doubled back, hopped out of the grass a few feet away and made an Olympian leap for the other side of the path. He hit it. The snake never saw him; he finally gave up, bellied down to the ground and slid off into the grass.

See that thin black line parallel to the grass in the lower center of the photo? That's our snake. He was too busy hunting his frog to notice us.

Wouldn’t you know, this is when my camera battery would die. But, fortunately, Cici had her iphone and snapped this shot.

The snake was the last of our brushes with nature today. We were near the end of our midday walk and feeling a bit ragged, but the snake gave us the adrenaline rush we needed to make our way to a picnic table, sit down and catch our breath while our eyes jittered back and forth, up and down, scanning the surrounding ground and the tree branches above for snakes. This was not our first snake encounter of the day.

Earlier, near the beginning of the jaunt, a man walking past us pointed out a small snake moseying across the path. This snake was about a foot long and its skin bore the hourglass pattern of a young water moccasin. When moccasins get older — and much, much bigger — the pattern fades and they appear to be a solid color. Don’t mess with water moccasins — they are aggressive, not to mention bad ugly.

We stood and watched respectfully as the little snake wiggled into the horsetails edging the path.

Then we ambled on. And we began to notice the dead frogs. Of course, I shot a photo.

Poor little guy. Was he trying to outhop a snake and run into a cyclist's spokes? We'll never know. Dead frogs tell no tales. Or have tails.

A little bit on down the path, Cici spied another one, this fellow pretty crispy and flattened. Does that look like a bike tire tread on his back?

He's blending into the asphalt through, we're sure, no fault of his own.

After this, we turned our gaze skyward.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

That’s when Cici spotted a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, which she told me is the state bird of Oklahoma. Cici’s good at this nature stuff, isn’t she? She said she saw many of these birds when she lived in Oklahoma. I didn’t take a photo so I looked one up online.

Eastern bluebird

Next, we saw a few eastern bluebirds sitting on a utility line. Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of that either. But I found one for you. Pretty, isn’t it?

Looping back toward the river bridge as we finished our jaunt, we thought our brushes with nature were over.

Until we saw this. Another frog. We were having a froggy day, which reminded Cici that when her now 18-year-old son, Matthew, was little, he referred to heavy, damp, vision-obscuring air as “froggy.” And it is, we have no doubt.

He's missing a leg. No wonder he got squashed. A one-legged frog won't hop far.

Moving along, we thought we had seen all there was to see.

Well, until the frog-and-snake chase flashed before us. We both observed that the snake appeared blade-thin and as if he had flattened himself against the ground, perhaps to boost his slither speed. Wondering if it could be so, this evening I googled “fast snakes flat.” Zip. Got nothing on that, but I did find this interesting tidbit about how snakes manage motion without legs:

“Snakes move by pushing against objects with specialized scales on their bellies called scutes. The scutes act like tire treads, gripping the ground and giving the snake the traction necessary to push itself forward. Also, scutes are hard and protect the snake as it moves along rough surfaces.” — Thank you, University of Indiana

Scutes? Is that like scoots? Hear for yourself.

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4 Responses to “Today’s resolution: Brushes with nature”

  1. lauracartwrighthardy September 23, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    I adore bluebirds. And they’re good luck, in my book, so watch out for some.

    • Rhonda September 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

      They are some kind of beautiful. Happy little things.

  2. Cary September 23, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    We had a snake chase and catch a frog on our patio the other day. We think the snake lives behind the woodpile. I was too interested watching what was going on to snap a photo though…

    • Rhonda September 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

      If it lives behind the woodpile, I bet you’ll get plenty of photo ops, lol.

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