Black Racer Snakes Harmless to Humans yet The Epitome of A Supreme Predator
Cardinal Rule of Life...
The Strongest always Prevails. This basic principle can be applied to many aspects in Life. The following story unequivocally exhibits this in the Animal Kingdom in a very abrupt and cruel way.
It was not too long ago towards the end of spring when the influx of birds specifically the cardinal bird, in our area had increased.
The cardinal bird is a pretty bird. The males are a rich, striking red with a short, strong, bright orange beak.The females have an orange beak as well however, they are not red but rather a dark, to lighter shade of brown, sometimes with a hint of light to dark grey. As a fan of all kinds of birds and having had throughout my life different types of birds as pets...it wasn't difficult to become curious about these birds flying constantly around our home.
I noticed along with my family that a particular female cardinal bird started to regularly visit our front yard. We'd hear the same high pitched, short and very distinctive Tweet!
When we'd go out the front door at any time... she always would be there and would right away fly off.
We all wondered, why is she at the front yard so much? Why? When there is a perfectly working bird feeder in the backyard?
The answer we soon discovered: A nest of course!
The chosen spot: About 5 feet from the ground within some nicely shaded shrubs right in front of our house. It seemed like the perfect spot for a nest because easily we would all be able to bird watch from our den, which happens to have a window right in front of the heavily shrubbed area.
Also, it was an excellent opportunity for all of us; especially the kids to see the cycle life unfold right before our very eyes.
Although we could clearly see the nest and bird from our den window, our curiosity to see inside of this nest grew. So,carefully a phone cam photo was taken quickly as soon as the bird had flown away. The picture revealed 3 little perfectly lightly brown spotted eggs inside. We were moved by the sight of the small yet interesting looking eggs. The nest's construction was equally as interesting. It's weaving was detailed, consisting of twigs and tiny branches. The birds included a type of plastic which they intricately interwove with strong long branches as if to form a protective funnel device towards the bottom. How great that a little animal instinctively has the ability to design such a concept and carry it out to be.
From that day on, I became engrossed with mama bird and her baby eggs. I know it was not only because of my love for animals and nature, but I think in a way I had a sort of kinship with them. The birds were expecting 3 offspring. In our home there are 3 thriving, wonderful children and so the number itself signified something special to me.
Within a few days I learned all of this female cardinal bird's comings and goings. Her sweet little lovely tweet became my cue to go say hello to her. Tweet! "Hey mama! Working hard as usual I see." She would look at me, and without ever hesitating, she would hunch in further into her nest protecting herself and her unborn. Sometimes as I watched her she would acknowledge my presence and would stoically peer back at me without moving an inch. When she felt she was safe and that I wasn't in fact threatening she would then very carefully, immerse herself back in the nest.
As every day passed my interest and anticipation became greater with these birds. Every chance I had I would sneek a peek and visit the nest by now our official viewing den window. When anyone else was with me I would say...Let's go check out mama bird! I'm sure she is there right now nesting! How lucky are we to have this chance and perfect view from our window? I can't wait to see the babies when they are here!
Soon my maternal instincts undoubtedly went into overdrive. This was evident when my heart instantly swelled up when I would at any point during the day decide to check on the birds. Without fail and at any given time I would always discover mother bird was diligently incubating her eggs. It seemed like she was always there! If she wasn't incubating, she was repairing fastidiously the nest, if she wasn't repairing, then she dutifully went back to incubating. Complete maternal devotion this little fine bird exemplified.
At some point while observing the bird and surroundings... I thought, why would they pick these shrubs to make their nest when its so near the front door? Don't they find the noise of the opening and closing door irritating? I also thought, and as I write these words I feel a deep pang in my heart. I thought- I hope this nest is high enough because not too long ago I saw one or two black racer snakes quickly slithering through our backyard as they are very common in our area.
I'm always happy to see any snake any time, anywhere. As a child growing up it was a hobby to go snake hunting for fun with my older brother. Not to kill them or hurt them in any way but rather learn and categorize whatever snake we came across. We were fascinated by these animals and so I have no fear of snakes and I highly respect them.
In Florida where we live its not surprising in the least to find a Black Racer snake in backyards, frontyards, lawns, on top of people's barbecue's. or even hanging on a branch as it feasts on a shrieking field mouse begging for its life. These snakes are known to be excellent climbers and are very swift.
I shook my head and immediately dissuaded this most morbid thought. The birds will be fine. It's our front yard after all. What snake would come around here with all this front door traffic?
A week went by, and during my usual early am checkup on the birds I noticed as mama bird was sitting in her nest, she had a speck of some white material on her beak. What is that? What have you got there mamabird? Wait a minute!... Is that? Is that a piece of eggshell ?
I waited for her to leave her nest, and Snap! I took a picture. Behold...the most tender sight...
3 sweet, very small, fragile, hardly feathered yet beautiful baby birds revealed in the photograph. I, along with my middle daughter which happened to be with me at the time, were thrilled! As my 9 yr old daughter hugged me goodbye when her bus came to pick her up for school, she excitedly said, I can't wait to come home to see those babies again!
By the time I got back from the bustop, father bird had made his appearance.
Talk about co-parenting! I observed them intently taking turns feeding their young. They at once developed a natural care system. I was really entranced by their interaction with one another, and also by their constant, caring, and relentless brooding.
Here's my Interpretation of The Cardinal Bird as Newly Parents Behaviour:
Dadda Bird:Ok listen, I'm gonna fly way up there. See up there in that lampost? I'll stand watch while you stay here and feed the babies.
MamaBird: Ok, but when I get out of the nest and go fetch some more grubs you need to fly back down immediately to the nest. Alright?
Dadda Bird: Yes, yes of course. Ok, while you go get some grubs, I'll clean up the mess they've made, and feed them with whatever I can find on the way back from the lamp post. Last time when I came back from the lamp post I found some seeds right here on this ground. Have you noticed there are seeds on both sides of this front yard? Both sides! There's a lot of good stuff to eat around here. Wait here, don't move I see some worms right there...see? Hold on, I'll get them right now. Hey look some seeds right over there too!
Mama Bird: Yes, yes of course I noticed! that's why I been so much around here. I told you that weeks ago! You NEVER listen to me!! Go back to your lampost right this minute, I'm really busy now I must feed the babies. I'm tired and I can't remember the last time I ate a thing.
Dadda Bird: Fine. Fine. You're right. Yes dear. I'll see you in a bit. I'll bring some extra stuff for you as well.
It was touchingly sweet and yes at times even comical....
But hey! I had to get busy with my own life, and so I gave my good wishes to the birds and went on to do my own things at home.
Some time passed....I was washing some dishes with my Ipod on. When suddenly something unusual started to happen to me. I felt like a tightening, to my chest...like when you feel worry. But I didn't recognize this type of worry because it was so sudden. I've never suffered from anxiety but as best as I can describe it, It was like flash of panic mixed with urgency and my pulse went up. What was this? I'm I having some sort of panic attack? Everything is in order, nothing out of the ordinary was going on to produce such a feeling of distress? What the hell was going on?
I remained calm, but I just didn't feel right. I kept on washing dishes hoping to try to gain some clarity of what could possibly be worrying/happening to me all of a sudden and to this strange degree?
During this "episode" my Ipod was still on, and I'm still doing the dishes...and SOMEHOW big emphasis on SOMEHOW in between fractions of seconds of either deciding to turn off the ipod or the song switching to the next tune and then me finally turning the Ipod off ...SOMEHOW -
TWEEEEEEEEET! TWEEEEETTT!!! TWEEEETTTT!!!
Huh? What???!! What is wrong with you guys? Are you two birds fighting??!!
I ran to the den window...
First thing I see is mother bird fluttering, flying in and out of the nest, chirping very loudly. I could tell by her movements that she was very upset even borderline hysterical. Something was very very wrong! I couldn't see what was wrong right away but I did see father bird was there too. He was even more frantic, chirping even louder, and flying violently everywhere.
They were both going crazy and then I saw why...
It was a Black Racer Snake making its way into their nest.
I Just -Could Not- Believe What I was SEEING!!
The most horrific sight imaginable. Slowly and starting to coil the snake was headed straight into the nest. It was absolutely sinister looking and disturbing all at once.
The contrast of the snake's superior strength against the delicate form of the nest was mortifying. As the birds tried desperately in vain to scare away the snake with their heated sweet tweets, this was by far the most dreadful thing I'd ever seen.
The birds were no match for the snake.
Within seconds of taking this horror in and I pounced at the window with both my fists.
I yelled a gut wrenching NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
I ran outside to the nest. I wasn't angry, and I felt no disdain for the snake. All I wanted was scare it out of the nest, before it got to those babies. That's all I wanted. I wanted the birds to stop tweeting and being so scared. I wanted to help them. I wanted to save their babies. I quickly reached the nest and the snake was not yet inside of it. With the greatest force on my right hand I nudged the snake really hard. From my knowledge and experience I already knew Black racers are non venomous so I wasn't afraid to touch it or be near it. Even without feeling fearful or angry, as well as being a fan of snakes, I can honestly say that at that moment after so many wonderful memories of holding snakes of all kinds of shapes and sizes, I hated touching this snakes' cold skin. It made the brutality of the situation much more real.
As I nudged the snake really hard, I yelled at it GETTTTTTTTTTTT OUT of there!!!!!!!!! GET OUT GET OUT!!!!!!
It quickly backed down, and slithered down the shrubs. As it moved I looked at the snakes' body hoping not to see some difference in its shape. The shape of baby birds. I didn't see such a thing. The snake then disappeared into the nearby brush area.
I thought ..wow I made it in time! Whew! I can't believe this has happened! I can't believe I heard the birds when they needed help even when I had music playing in my ears while washing dishes! It's like a miracle!
The birds kept fluttering about, tweeting. They were upset and understandibly so. I went back inside and from the den window, I said -its ok guys I made it in time. Take care of your babies now. Settle down.
I few minutes went by, and the birds kept making noises not as frantic as before but they still kept tweeting. My instincts told me to get the camera to make sure the baby birds were ok. When I took the picture and turned the camera to its view window...
My heart sank.
They were all gone! All 3 birds baby birds GONE.
I went back outside, walking up to the nest...the birds started to switch from looking for the babies from the ground to the nest and vice versa. They paid no attention to me at all. They were on a mission to find their young.
I joined the birds, as carefully as I could on the ground. As they tweeted and flew around I looked frantically through the shrubs, the grounds, I turned every leaf, Everywhere. I kept whispering as I looked, "oh no, Oh no..they're gone, oh no...a minute passed and by then I just couldn't stop sobbing hysterically. I was trying so hard not to scare the birds any further. I kept whispering, as I cried.... I'm so sorry your babies are gone. I'm so sorrry your 3 babies are all gone.
I called my husband at work, and he comforted me greatly(after scaring him to death because I was so upset) He told me there was nothing different that neither I or anyone else could of done to change the outcome or fate of those birds. That's just how life is, survival of this fittest. I agreed with him, however I couldn't so easily shake off the remorse and the should of's and could of's started to hit me really hard.
I kept having terrible flashbacks of the snake near the nest, and the birds' piercing tweets.
But what was the most heartwrenching of all, what kept aching my heart was that the birds wouldn't give up looking for them.
I gained some composure after some time had passed,and as soon as I was calm....wouldn't you know again I started to hear the birds going crazy outside??! Just as the first time!TWWWWWEEEEETTTTT!!!! TWEEEEEEEEEETTTTTT
BECAUSE....The snake was back!
This time around, I had chose to observe the snake from the window instead.
In surpreme predatory mode the snake laid hovered, coiled inside of the nest. If it wasn't taunting the birds to get closer then it would switch to being hidden completely inside the nest. Waiting patiently for them! To strike. I could not believe it.
Unbelievable! You've come for the parents now??!!! YOU!!!!!!!!!! SNAKE!!!!!!!
I grabbed my camera and my dog. My plan was for the bark of the dog to deter the birds away, so that of course they wouldn't get eaten as I took these pictures of this snake because for the life of me, I felt I needed to capture the audacity of this snake on film.
My dog did exactly what I needed. He barked and the birds kept away and were safe. Meanwhile I began to approach the now infamous snake of the hour.
Since I wasn't threatening at all towards the snake as I got closer to it, the snake just looked at me, smuglike and confident as if saying: "I'm a snake. That's my job and I'm very good at it. I eat smaller helpless things. You can't hate me for that. Take some pictures go on, you don't bother me in the least. I'll be worth the effort you'll see, I'm very photogenic."
I despise the fact that the snake did what it did, but the snake in its own right is an amazing animal. I took several pictures. The snake certainly was an excellent photo subject as you can see in the slideshowphotos.
When I was satisfied with the amount of photos I'd taken, I again nudged the snake, watched it disappear into the nearby brush area. I removed the nest so that the parents had no chance of getting eaten by that or any other snake. At least the parents did survive.
That was that. But...as if that wasn't bad enough...
How to break terrible news to the kids?
Well, to my great delight there is a happier end to this story.
Here is how the children reacted:
Eldest(11): Oh mom, I'm so sorry you had to witness that, and that you are soooo upset. Come here give me a hug.
For my other two children 9 and 6 I waited for them to ask about the baby birds in order to break it to them "gently."
Both of them asked after dinner..."Can we see the baby birds?" I bowed my head, and started to say...well guys I have something to tell you....
Youngest : Oh no!! Oh No!!! They they get eaten by a snake????!!
Middle: Yeah! I bet that's what happened because they were wayyyyyyy too low, Mom.
Fighting back the tears, I said Yeaaaahhhh....that's exactly what happened.
Middle: No wonder you look so upset mom! aw mom! Don't worry they'll be plenty more birds in this world.
Youngest: I knew it! What were those birds thinking making their nest so low? I mean seriously there are snakes all around here to be worried about! You can't just be putting nests so low, everyone knows that mom. IT's ok mom, stop crying.
Middle: Yeah mom, it's ok......you know.... That's life for ya!
I may have been through a very distressing emotional experience earlier that day, but to know that my children are resilient, strong, loving, caring and will be more so as they grow older...
That made me feel a whole lot better.
Ever since this happened I remember those birds almost every day because each morning cardinals birds continue to merrily tweet as they feed from our backyard feeder.
The strongest will prevail and life goes on...