Category Archives: garter snakes

More spring arrivals

garter snakesIt’s the warmest day so far this month, 64 F by mid-afternoon. The snowpack lingers only in the shade of the woods and on north-facing slopes, and has sunk to just a few inches in depth. The invasive Asian ladybugs have awoken from hibernation in the walls and are crowding doors and windows. Outside, the air is abuzz with the call of the phoebe, who returned first thing this morning and spent much of the day hawking flies in the lawn and barnyard in the company of a bluebird. This is just the first of what I’m sure will be three or four male phoebes staking out territories around the houses, refurbishing old nests under the eaves of the shed, the springhouse, the barn, and the garage.

Steve hiked up around noon, and we watched the first turkey vultures soaring down Sapsucker Ridge, found the first garter snakes in the boggy lawn around the old wells, and spotted the first mourning cloak butterfly (see here), which obligingly landed right in front of my stone wall while we were standing outside talking.

This is only Steve’s second spring since returning to Central Pennsylvania, and a few things are different from what he remembers as a kid. For example, he was surprised to hear that we also count Compton’s tortoiseshell butterflies, now — I don’t think they used to be as common as they are now. And there’s no question that the garter snakes have grown much more numerous since we stopped mowing the lawn. It’s only in the past few years that we have regularly found large mating balls of snakes. I think Emily Dickinson is right that the garter snake “likes a boggy acre”; mowing lawns, as we used to do all the while we were growing up, really turns them into deserts.

UPDATE: Two woodcocks were doing their aerial displays above the field at dusk. That makes five new spring arrivals in one day!