I love snakes and am not remotely worried by them. I find them beautiful, fascinating creatures and could spend hours watching them.
You'll understand then, given this, why I was rather cross with myself this afternoon.
We'd just planted out a penstemon near the pond and I was heading down the garden to the veg patch at the back of the house (the one where the toad has taken up residence) to put the pot on the old shelves where we keep the spares, when a snake of disconcertingly large proportions loomed up at me.
I nearly leapt out of my skin I can tell you.
Of course it took barely seconds for me to catch up with myself, realise it was a harmless grass snake and calm down, but how interesting was that reaction? Despite my love of reptiles, and my general country-bumpkin credentials, the unexpected sight of a snake where I wasn't prepared for one to be produced an instinct that can only have been born of millenia of genetic memory of knowing snakes to be dangerous. It completely bypassed any rational thought and left my heart racing.
Recovered and now rather excited, I rushed round to the kitchen, grabbed the camera and whispered to M (as if the snake could hear me in there) that there was a snake in the garden. We crept cautiously back into the veg patch to have a proper look.
She was beautiful. We reckon she was a metre long (females are generally bigger than males so I'm speculating she was a girl) and thicker in the body than I would have expected. Altogether she was much bigger than felt comfortable! She lay perfectly still in the warm sunlight with her head raised watching us and when I approached (carefully, because they will lunge if frightened) she starting hissing her tongue in and out. I edged a tiny bit closer to sit on the wall and suddenly she whipped round and dived beneath the very plastic sacking underneath which I had been searching for the toad yesterday! I couldn't believe how quickly she moved and we both jumped backwards- more instinctive responses. I've never seen M move so fast and we were both clutching our hearts.
Incidentally, I didn't find the toad when I was looking for him yesterday and am now rather worried that Samantha (we name everything in our house) has eaten him. Her presence on the ground directly beneath the sparrow's nest might also explain why Mr S was making a right old racket in the hedge when he left the nest last night. It was a very worried sparrow noise, so much so that I dashed round to the nest expecting to see it under magpie attack but could discern nothing. Eventually he stopped calling, but I now wonder whether he hadn't spotted Samantha basking on the stones below.
Anyway, it was a real treat to see her, something I will treasure, even if it has left us all slightly nervous about uncovering her unexpectedly somewhere in the garden at a future date! Incidentally, I wonder whether her appearance in the garden at this time has anything to do with the newly constructed pond? We've never seen a snake here before and spend a lot of time outdoors, so it is possible.
And I was expecting newts and dragonflies......
Here are some pics for you to admire.
To give some idea of size, her tail disappears out of the picture and curls back round beneath the white sacking. You can see why I got a shock- I nearly trod on her!