Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer

This weekend is the City Wide Nature Challenge, a four-day event where we are encouraged to get outside and document the biodiversity in our home communities.

Last year the weather was perfect for this, and I had so much fun going outside in the morning and evening every day, and looking for all the species I could possibly find.

This year it is raining so much that I am expecting all the animals to start lining up two by two, and asking to come into the house to stay dry. I went out for an hour yesterday afternoon, and pretty much the only things I saw were Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays.

Right after dark, during a lull in the rain, I went out to take care of my chickens. They have a big pen, but the ground is on a slope and it was soggy, so I went to pull hay from an old round hay bale to provide a dry surface for them. In the past when I have done this, the hay has been full of ants and I have gotten a lot of ant bites, so as I pulled a big layer from the bale, I flipped it over and shone a flashlight on it to check for ants.

And right under the section I pulled, a lovely Yellow-bellied Racer was all coiled up, staying high and dry!

Eastern Yellow-bellied Racer, Coluber constrictor flaviventris. I took this one by the light of the flashlight.

I took this picture with flash — the colors of olive gray and blue gray show up better. I would estimate its length at 36 to 40 inches.

I got one picture with my phone, went back to the house and got my camera, and came back out to the hay bale. The snake was still in exactly the same spot (and looking a little confused). After getting some good pictures, I put some of the hay gently back over the top of it, so it wouldn’t have to try to move around in the rain.

It was amazing to me that I pulled the hay bale apart at just the right level! I am pretty used to snakes, but if I had pulled just a little lower on the bale, and then flipped it over, this snake would have come tumbling out at my feet, and in the dark, I think I would have freaked out not knowing what kind it was.

I have seen a few of these snakes over the years, but they really do live up to their name. Usually I just get a glimpse of something gray whizzing through the grass.

Alan Tennant’s Lone Star Field Guide to Texas Snakes informs me that though this snake’s Latin name is Coluber constrictor flaviventris, it is not actually a constrictor. It eats insects, especially cicadas, and vertebrates such as frogs, other snakes, rodents, and birds.  It is a very slender snake, so I have a hard time visualizing it even getting down a cicada, but I don’t know much about snakes.

So I may not have recorded many species for the bioblitz, but I am happy that I got this one!