On March 23, 2009 I had the opportunity to visit a park on the Brazos River in Austin County, Texas, USA.
It was still pretty early in the year and the spring had only just begun. A number of trees and shrubs began to form their first leaves. It was a windy day
with overcast but the sun broke through the clouds regularly. The temperature have been close to 20 – 25 °C around noon but the wind chilling factor was considerable, especially along the Brazos River. Upon arrival at quarter to one in the park I was welcomed by a encouraging sign saying: “Watch for snakes”
Around half past one I found my first snake of that day: a female Blotched Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster transversa) with a total length of 83 cm. This subspecies of Nerodia erythrogaster retains the typical juvenile blotched pattern of this species, while the other subspecies become unpatterned with age.
The snake was basking on the banks of the Brazos River and was in the middle of the shedding stage and looked as if she just came out of hibernation. She showed no signs of recent feeding and she was certainly not pregnant.
Half an hour later
I found a huge female specimen of the Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer rhombifer) with a total length of 133.5 cm. Also this animal had somewhat milky eyes as a sign that she was half way in a shedding stage.
The snake had a reddish brown coloration probably because its hibernacula must have been in a soil containing a lot of iron.
Due to the dirt on its body the typical chekered pattern was hardly visible. The size of her had was huge and she must have been able to cope with huge preys. Also this snake was basking on the banks of the Brazos River and she was pretty skinny. Apparently also just out of hibernation, not eating yet and not pregnant.
At 20 minutes past two I saw a small female specimen of the Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus orarius) swimming in a pool of a small stream which was feeding the Brazos River.
The little snake had a total length of 26.6 cm long and will have been born in the summer of 2008 (so 6 to 8 months old). The little snake was brightly patterned with 3 golden stripes on a dark black background, the typical coloration pattern of this subspecies of Thamnophis proximus. In the pool a lot of small fish and tadpoles were swimming and the Ribbon Snake was clearly hunting them.
Around half past three
I observed a Nerodia species sunning in the branches near the same small pool and also 2 juvenile specimens of a Nerodia species in a small pool 5 meters further down the stream, hunting for fish and tadpoles. Based on the somewhat dark colour I expect all 3 snakes belonged to Nerodia erythrogaster transversa. Other reptiles
that I observed that day were a few basking water turtles and several specimens of the famous Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis).
Based on the observations mentioned above I suspect that the snakes have not been active for very long and are just starting to come out of hibernation.
This would mean that despite its southern location and mild climate the snakes also hibernate at this location for some time during the winter months.