This past week has led me to wonder, "Why travel all the way to the Serengeti when I can see so much wildlife here in eastern Massachusetts?"
During my daily bike rides I've spotted deer (a whole family of them, darting across the path!), wild turkeys, woodpeckers, rabbits, garter snakes, countless chipmunks, groundhogs, and a hawk being mobbed by songbirds. I've been treated to the birdsong of a cardinal, hawk, barred owl, and mourning dove. Speaking of birds ... every time I exit our back door and walk down our driveway, Momma Robin protecting her nest of babies, screeches at me while she flutters over my head as I walk to the mailbox. Only I get this treatment, not my husband or O! And earlier this week, authorities shot and killed a bear in nearby Newton. I'm not happy they killed it, but still ... bears! Newton!
For the past couple nights, my husband and I have been awoken around 2 or 3 in the morning by a terrible racket outside our bedroom window. We went through this last summer. It sounds like human shrieking when you first jolt awake, but then as you listen, it sounds almost like a cat screech. Our house borders our neighbor's long driveway, which is lined with tall trees and we could tell the screeches were coming from the trees. We figured it was a fisher (or fisher cat, which really isn't a cat but a very ugly and rapacious weasel that's the bane of backyard farmers) raiding a bird's nest.
Last night I was working at my computer at 11:30, far past my bedtime, when the shrieking started. My husband, also up late, came running downstairs to check it out. He only went as far as the back porch. I was feeling brave, so I grabbed a crowbar and a strong flashlight to confront the cacophony. By now, O was up and lacing his sneakers for a midnight adventure.
(BTW, I am up-to-date on my rabies vaccinations. I used to handle feral cats, so I've kept up my vaccines just in case.)
I could tell the animals were up in one of the trees overhanging my neighbor's driveway, so I started yelling and banging the crowbar against metal to get what I thought was a fisher to bolt down the tree. The shrieking subsided, but I didn't notice any movement. I could see two blue eyes staring back at me in the flashlight's glare, but the animal didn't budge. Hmmm. Strange. Usually mammals take off the moment a human appears on the scene.
For the next couple minutes, the animal and I continued our stare-off. I would guess that the branch he was on was about 30' high up, so I couldn't get a good visual from where I was standing. I moved a little closer, but I didn't want to get right under him in case he fell or decided to run down the tree and at me.
The eyes would disappear and reappear every couple of minutes, moving slowly down the branch. O kept insisting it was a wildcat, but I noticed the branch wasn't really moving and there was no mass above or below the eyes.
I moved a little closer, and suddenly, I could see why the mass was missing: it was a 6' long black rat snake, making his way back down the tree with his midnight snack!
[caption id="attachment_2360" align="alignleft" width="300"] This is NOT the rat snake we saw, but it was about this big.[/caption]
Holy crap! You should have seen me run!!! For some reason, black snakes give me nightmares. They tend to move fast, and I've figured out that it's the way snakes move that gives me the creeps. If I run across one and it's curled up enjoying the sun, I don't mind them ... but that darting out that startles me.
Anyway, around 12:30 we heard the shrieking again, so I'm guessing the snake went back for another snack. Or sent a friend. Shudder.
Today my neighbor (who heard me out there, shrieking and banging metal last night) and I inspected the tree. We found some small branches and a pile of leaves under the big branch where I spotted the snake. No birds or bird's nest to be seen. I'm hoping Mr. Snake doesn't figure out there's a nest of birds on the other side of our house. Yikes!
Today is laundry day but no way am I heading down into our fieldstone basement without O or my husband. We have caught so many mice down there I'm sure snakes would have no trouble finding their way inside either.