Thursday 17 July 2014

An Aesculapian snake fell in the river today.

Having injured my back which has put a temporary halt to all strenuous activity and as it’s been 31°C this afternoon I thought I’d have a wander by the River Charente just to the east of Civray where I could mooch about in the shade of the trees and see what, if anything, turned up or just being lazy in other words, something I'm quite experienced in.

The river Charente has had Asian Hornets almost since they arrived in France as they appeared to follow the river and the tall poplar tree plantations that board the river have provided ideal places for them to make their nests. With this in mind it was no surprise to see some flying around by the riverside but my interest was taken by the fact that they were taking nectar from Water Figwort and stopped to take a few photos, or rather try to as they wouldn't stay still.  

Click on photos to enlarge.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the River Charente is a very clean river in the upper reaches, it positively heaves with a variety of fish which is great for the Otters! Carp, chub, roach, perch, pike, bream and barbell abound and there are plenty of large mature specimens along with large shoals of fry so it’s not unusual to hear and see the occasional large splash. So it was at this point while looking at the Asian Hornets that there was a large splash about 10 metres from the bank in front of me and then a snakes head emerged from the water and it started to swim towards me. Now for some people I can imagine this isn't their idea of fun but for me it’s always a real treat and I immediately froze so as not to frighten it away and waited as it slithered up the bank and into a hazel bush on the riverside. It didn't dawn on me immediately that the snake had actually fallen from an overhanging branch and I was expecting a “water snake”, either a Grass snake or a Viperine snake and was surprised to see that it was in fact an Aesculapian snake about 70cm or so in length, beautiful! They are frequently found alongside water courses and only a few weeks ago I had seen one dead in the road near the centre of town not far from the river. For anyone that doesn't know Aesculapian snakes are generally timid, slow moving and with care quite approachable which enabled me to get nice and close for the next 10 minutes while it meandered its way round the small branches before eventually sliding away along the bank side. They and the Western whip snake are climbing snakes and both spend time in trees and bushes where they can sometimes take young birds. They will both spend time in peoples roofs as well where shed skins can sometimes be found.

Click on photos to enlarge.