The Unexpected Visitor

Eastern Worm Snake, Carphophis amoenus amoenus

Eastern Worm Snake, Carphophis amoenus amoenus

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We found an unexpected visitor  sunning himself on a stone today.  The Eastern Worm Snake rarely allows itself to be seen.  They burrow in rotted logs, underground and in leaf litter most of the time.  We were amazed to find it even active in January!

But we’ve had a rapid melt, yesterday and today.  We had a sunny day today with temperatures over 70F.  This, after single digit nights early in the week!

Our snow melted away in yesterday’s heat and only the big piles, left from plowing and shoveling remain.  As you might imagine, the ground is completely saturated!  My guess is this little guy came out of his winter hiding place for a breath of air.

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And so we found him, enjoying the winter sun.  He never even twitched as I approached and photographed him.  Probably still winter-sleepy, he hung around for a few hours before disappearing once again.  Do you see the tiny white spider on his back?  We were amazed at how many little creatures woke up in today’s heat.

His facial features are very small.  You may just barely make out his tiny eyes and mouth.  Believe it or not, there are 9-12 teeth in that tiny mouth!

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These totally harmless snakes are native to the Eastern US from Massachusetts to Alabama and west as far as Illinois.  They eat what invertebrates they can find while burrowing.  They earn the name ‘Worm Snake’ both for their worm-like appearance, but also because worms make up a large part of their diet.  They don’t have much color or interesting markings, probably because they spend much of their life underground.

I’ve found them in the garden before, in autumn, while I was digging in an area covered with leaves.  This is the first time we’ve seen one in winter.

This is an adult and near the top of the chart in size.  The longest one ever found was only around 13″.  We hope he found his way back to cover before the cardinals or owls found him.  I’m sure he would be a tasty treat for our winter hungry birds.  But I’m sure he’s far too clever for that to happen, even in the midst of winter.

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january-12-2017-visitor-006

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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After 5 days under a heavy snow cover, this pot of Ajuga and moss has recovered nicely in the warmth and sunshine today.

After 4 days under a heavy cover of snow, this pot of Ajuga and moss has recovered nicely in the warmth and sunshine today.  You would hardly know they just thawed out!

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “The Unexpected Visitor

  1. 70+? Oh, my, what a change from 12! And a surprise visitor, too, what a great day!

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