While we went looking primarily for birds, our biggest adventure was with the snakes. I'm not a real snake lover, but a nice boardwalk ran right through the marsh, so you could comfortably watch all kinds of goings-on in the water. And things WERE going on! Gluttony and sex, all right there just 6 feet off the boardwalk!
It started with a Northern Water Snake looking for lunch. As we were watching, it disappeared under the muck and moments later emerged with a catfish. The snake had t-boned the fish, which was about 6" long.
Over the next few minutes, the snake lifted the fish and moved to slightly shallower water. She continued to hold the fish just out of the water.
Then to our surprise, while the snake was waiting for the fish to die(?), another smaller water snake approached. At first we thought there was going to be a struggle for the food.
The 2nd snake had a lighter, more reddish coloration. It was also considerably smaller than the first, both in length and diameter. We wondered whether the second snake would even be able to consume the catfish.
But, nooooo, it - he - wasn't after the food. He was in the mood for love. He traveled down the length of the first snake's body, then he moved back up along it until his curves matched the curves in the female's body.
Then she began to make HER move - to consume the catfish. She started to move toward the fish's head. In the following picture, you can see the wound on the side of the fish (you can click on any image to enlarge it.) The male snake and her remained entwined.
The female turns, opens her jaws, and starts swallowing the catfish head first.
It was slow going at first, getting over the big head of the catfish. All the while, they continue to mate, punctuated by slight twitches in the back half of their bodies.
Once over the catfish's dorsal fin, the swallowing moved quite quickly. In the last image, only the tail is left and the snake's body is distended from the fish.
Immediately after the catfish was swallowed, the female entered the water, male snake still in tow. They stayed together for only a minute or so more, then she was gone.
What an interesting encounter it was! I don't know if it is a common occurrence for a male snake to approach and mate with a female that is mid-meal, so if any herp-loving readers can provide insight, it would be much appreciated.Water Snake Resources
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