Readers’ wildlife photos

Up first we have four photos from reader Will from Morris, Illinois, showing Nature red in scale and fang. His notes are indented:

Yet another reason for me to like fishing:  I get out and see things like this.  While fishing the Fox River near Yorkville, Illinois, I came upon a northern water snake (Nerodia sipedon) swallowing a stonecat (Noturus flavus).  The Fox River is an environmental  success story.  It is a much healthier habitat than in the 70s.

He added that “a stonecat is a small, venomous catfish. Yep, venomous.  They have venom glands associated with their pectoral spines.  That snake has to be tough to stomach that.”

And birds from reader Don Bredes:

Here are a couple of American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) portraits. A rather ordinary creature hereabouts, to be sure, but the bird Vermonters call the “wild canary” is just as welcome after such a long winter as are the daffodils.
They’re easily spooked. One morning two years ago, while several males and females were crunching the sunflower seed on the deck rail, and when I approached the window with my camera, they panicked, and one flew into the door glass.  Stunned, he lay there for a couple of minutes till one of our voracious bluejays swooped in and killed it.  Then the jay flew off with it for breakfast.

Finally, a reader requests an ID on this snake. Can readers help?

My name is Alex Kleine and I’ve been a follower of the great Ceiling Cat for about two to three years as of now. I was wondering if you could post these photos (they are of cellphone quality so not really the highest camera quality) in another one of your upcoming Readers’ Wildlife Photos section. I need help in identifying this beautiful snake that sadly was a victim of roadkill in Hays, Kansas. I did some photo closeups of the head, and trunk scale patterns for further detail.



  1. Posted June 23, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    In Hays, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a PhD biologist to ID this reptile! 🙂

  2. Posted June 23, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Gopher snake?

  3. Jimmy Duke
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Believe the snake is a Bull Snake – Pituophis catenifer.

  4. Posted June 23, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I’d guess it’s either an Eastern Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans) or a Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer).

  5. Posted June 23, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Nice to see the water snake so well photographed. When we were kids in Michigan, my siblings and I would catch them in the pond behind our house and keep them as pets.

  6. rickflick
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    The goldfinch often dines on seeds near the ground so sometimes a few of them in the grass look at first like flowers. Keep your distance though they are flighty.
    Snakes are the armless, legless, wonders of the animal kingdom. Whenever I spot them in the wild it’s a thrill.
    Great images all around.

  7. Posted June 23, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    When I blow up the photo of the dead snake, I can imagine I’m seeing hints of 4 prefrontal scales on the head, which would eliminate the Glossy Snake as a possibility, though I can’t be sure.

    So I’d go with Bull / Gopher Snake, Pituophis melanoleucus, using the taxonomy of my Peterson Field Guide, which maps the common name Bullsnake and subspecies P. M. sayi to Kansas. A lot of taxonomy has been done to snakes since I paid much attention, though, and P. melanoleucus had many subspecies then, so I can’t be sure what name is accepted now. Also, people argue fiercely about whether the name Bull or Gopher Snake should be used for any particular individual but as far as I can see, that depends more on the people than the snakes.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 23, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I think you are right on all points. Although I was raised to say bull snake. These are fun to catch since they generally do a big show where they pretend to be a rattlesnake, complete with vibrating the tip of the tail and even striking.

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted June 23, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I believe sedgequeen is correct about it being Pituophis melanoleucus sayi. I kept one for over 20 years.

    • Lars
      Posted June 23, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Yes, have to agree with you. This is the commonest oviparous snake in Alberta, and I’ve seen plenty of them.

  8. David Coxill
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Over in GB our Goldfinches are prettier than the American ones ,so there .

  9. Mark R.
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    It is a much healthier habitat than in the 70s.

    The EPA was instrumental in cleaning up many of America’s polluted waterways. It’s sad we have a president and administration that doesn’t consider that fact a positive occurrence.

    Thanks for the nice photos today.

  10. hempenstein
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Third watersnake pic: A snake quite pleased with itself.

  11. Alex Kleine
    Posted June 23, 2017 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Hey guys!

    Thanks for all of your insight concerning the identity of the snake. I wasn’t sure if there was a specific Ph. D. herpetologist on Fort Hays State University that dealt with snakes so I came on this site for some insight.

    So I guess the consensus is probably bullsnake/gopher snake now.

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted June 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Hi, Alex. According to Wikipedia, the subspecies Pituophis melanoleucus sayi has been reassigned to Pituophis catenifer and is now Pituophis catenifer sayi.

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