Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Southern Ontario shenanigans for Canada Day (part 1: foxsnakes!)

This past weekend I decided to check out some of my not-so-local haunts in southwestern Ontario. Less than 2 hours after arriving in the door after our 14-day work trip to the north, I had showered, shaved, done laundry, ate dinner, and was back on the road. My itinerary was to hang out with Jon, a fellow herper, on the Friday night and check out some spots in Norfolk County with him on the Saturday. Then Sunday I planned to meet up with some people to check out the birds, butterflies, and beers at Point Pelee (though unfortunately we had to provide our own beer). And finally on Monday I would help out my friend Pauline with some turtle surveys. It was bound to be a busy weekend!

By mid-morning Saturday, Jon and I were finally out the door. It was cool but the temperature was on the increase, and our first few stops produced several Eastern Gartersnakes, Northern Red-bellied Snakes, and Midland Brownsnakes. It was on our fourth or so stop that we struck gold, as Jon discovered two beautiful Eastern Foxsnakes hanging out together near an abandoned building. The younger snake, probably born late last summer, was what we refer to as "in shed". At this time, a few days prior to ecdysis, the eyes become cloudy and the skin loses its vibrancy. However the larger snake had a beautiful pattern, and so we snapped a few photos before sending her on her way.

Eastern Foxsnake - June 29, 2013

Eastern Foxsnake - June 29, 2013

Eastern Foxsnakes are about as close to an Ontario endemic that one will find with a species of snake. They are entirely a coastal Great Lakes species, being found in 3 small areas within Ontario, and a few counties of northwestern Ohio and eastern Michigan. About 70% of their range lies within Ontario, and even here they are Endangered. It is for that reason that I think the Eastern Foxnake deserves the distinction of being a national symbol - much more so than the Beaver, Moose, or Common Loon.

Eastern Foxsnake - June 29, 2013

I really love my Tamron macro lens that I bought back in 2008. The image quality is on par with the Nikon 105 mm f/2.8 macro, and it is about half the price due to the fact that it isn't a Nikon. The following image is "straight out of the camera", save for a slight crop. Unfortunately, re-sizing the image for the blog significantly decreases the image quality. This lens is sharp as a tack.

Eastern Foxsnake - June 29, 2015

Unfortunately, in Ontario Eastern Foxsnakes are found mostly in the build up, agricultural southwest. Roads criss-cross the landscape in a tide grid pattern, and many thousands of Eastern Foxsnakes lose their lives on these roads. Fortunately for the Norfolk County snakes, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is doing a great job buying up land and converting it into restored habitat. No doubt this benefits the Eastern Foxsnake as well as myriads of other species of flora and fauna!

Eastern Foxsnake - June 29, 2013

The next post will cover the rest of the finds from that day, as we lucked out with a bit of Eastern Hognose Snake action.

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