Snake Watching

Today's warm, sunny weather lured garter snakes from our rock wall for the first time this season.  Over the course of an hour or so, I watched several emerge from its crevices, moving cautiously after their long winter slumber.  Too sluggish to hunt, they curled themselves near the base of the wall to bask in the mid-day sun.

Snake watching is a bit less exciting than birdwatching.  The subjects do not flit from branch to branch or sing from an exposed perch.  Neither do they flash their colors in the afternoon sun or announce their presence with a flurry of noise and activity.  Rather, camouflaged amidst the leaf litter, snakes lie motionless for hours at a time, hoping to go unnoticed.  Indeed, their very survival depends on stealth and, unless actively pursuing a mate or prey, they choose to conserve their energy.

Humans, impatient beings that we are, tend to be entertained by action, whether it be sports, computer games, movies or outdoor exploration.  Birding and many other forms of nature study fit into that mode, forcing us to move along and shift our attention among a variety of sights and sounds.  Snake watching, on the other hand, is not likely to appeal to many members of our species but it does have its benefits; after all, to be successful, one must be quiet, move slowly and focus on a relatively small patch of ground.  Like meditation, it is a calming experience, a reprieve from the many diversions of our frenzied lives.