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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Species Spotlight #18: California Kingsnake

James and I were at San Elijo Lagoon near Encinitas, finding awesome birds like American Bittern and breeding plumaged American Avocet. While I was scoping the far impoundments for Long-billed Dowitcher, I heard an odd call, and immediately I turned my attention to the bush behind me. Meanwhile, James decided he would scout up the road a bit, and when my mystery bird turned out to be nothing more than a Common Yellowthroat (man they sound different from my eastern birds!), I decided to follow James’s tracks in the sand.

Right before we met up, I noticed something in the road between us. I thought it was a stick at first, but after getting it in my binocs, it turned out to be a beautiful California Kingsnake! Now, having never seen any other subspecies of Common Kingsnake, I’m not quite sure what the difference is, but I think it’s got something to do with the thickness of the pale striping. Still, it was a brilliant-looking snake, and a really confiding one at that.

Contrary to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this is not the same thing as a sidewinder.

James tried to sneak a little closer and photograph it in macro, but the kingsnake quickly slithered itself off the trail and into the nearby scrub. For the rest of the trip, I’d only see one more snake (a nice California Whipsnake at Cabrillo, but no pictures of that one unfortunately). So in the absence of rattlers, racers, and the rest, this shot of a sweet California Kingsnake is the only memento I have of California’s awesome serpents.

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