Category Archives: Reptiles

It’s Turtle Time – Photo of the Week

I’m just back from a fantastic long weekend in Toronto with family and so just getting 44th Parallel Photography’s Photo of the Week up. This week’s photo signals the start of my Turtle Conservation Photography project – to bring awareness (and hopefully some appreciation!) of these wonderful reptiles. Seeing them dead on the road bothers me and reminds me how many people could stand to treat nature with more kindness.

Click on the thumbnail below to see and read about 44th Parallel Photography’s Photo of the Week.

4 May 2013

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Filed under conservation, Conservation & Environment, Digital Photography, Nature, nature photography, Photo of the Week, Reptiles, Wildlife Photography

Photo of the Week – Year of the Snake

Tomorrow is Chinese New Year and this year, is the Year of the Snake. Let’s use this year of the snake to help promote education and conservation about these wonderful animals.

Click on the thumbnail below to read about this week’s Photo of the Week from 44th Parallel Photography.

9 February 2013

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Filed under conservation, Conservation & Environment, Creative Photography, Digital Photography, Macro photography, Nature, nature photography, Opinion, Photo of the Week, photography, Reptiles, Snakes, Wildlife Photography

Photo of the Week – Big Momma

44th Parallel Photography’s Photo of the Week is back. Due to some technical difficulties last week, I was unable to post one. But don’t worry; it’s back. Please do not adjust your set…

This week’s photo was taken in June, but the post was inspired by a bizarre thing I saw happen in our pond last week. It was nature at its best and its worst.

Click on the thumbnail below to visit 44th Parallel Photography’s website to see the Photo of the Week.

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Filed under Nature, nature photography, Photo of the Week, Reptiles, wildlife, Wildlife Photography

Photo of the Week – Blanding’s Turtle

This week’s Photo of the Week is of a Blanding’s Turtle – a beautiful turtle which is a threatened species in Ontario and in Canada. I’ve only seen one other one in the wild and so this was a real treat to find. Read about my adventure of finding her and giving her a safer home.

Click here to visit the Photo of the Week.

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Filed under conservation, Nature, nature photography, Photo of the Week, photography, Reptiles, wildlife, Wildlife Photography

Do Snakes Make Good Pillows?

My answer is: I didn’t stick around long enough to find out!!

Ok, so now you’re probably wondering what the heck I’m going on about. But bear with me. I did (inadvertantly, I must stress) put my head on a big snake while out photographing this past weekend. Ah, the joys of nature photography.

This is what I set out to photograph:

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) is a woodland native plant. This is what I was photographing when I discovered I had my head on top of a rather big snake!

But instead, this is what I ended up photographing:

An Eastern Gray Rat Snake (Pantherophis spiloides). This was my ‘pillow’.

Ok, so here’s my tale….

Last weekend we finally had nice, sunny, reasonably warm weather. This caused a rapid blooming of the forest wildflowers, which have been in bud for a while and I swear, have had their feet in the starting blocks, just waiting to take off when the weather warmed up a bit. And they did. They took off! So clearly, I needed to get out with my camera since the blooms will likely be short-lived this year.

I went to a place down our road where I had seen a native woodland plant, Dutchman’s Breeches, in flower. I really wanted to photograph them because, although I’ve seen them many times throughout my life, I have never had the opportunity to photograph them. So out I went.

I find one of the easiest ways to photograph wildflowers and other small things is to use a beanbag. I use an Apex bean bag. They are great for supporting your arms, head etc. when you’re in a tight spot, doing macro photography. Under those circumstances, I find a tripod way too unwieldy. They just make me grumpy because they constrain my image making too much. I either can’t get close enough to the ground or at the right angle or whatever. They make me growl. But I digress…

The flowers of Dutchman’s Breeches, a native wildflower in Ontario.

I put my bean bag in a little hollow on the ground, right beside a nice clump of flowers. The forest floor is still covered with crunchy, dead leaves from last fall. I put my bean bag on the forest floor, just on top of this hollow, filled with dead leaves, and then proceeded to lie down on the ground, on my side, and put my head on the bean bag. I then held my camera very tight and rattled off some shots of the flower heads, taken from side on. I’d rattled off about 15 shots when for some completely unknown reason (well, unknown at the time….), I jumped up like a shot! I have NO idea what cued me in to do that. I don’t remember hearing or feeling anything. I just remember concentrating very hard on holding the camera steady and getting my flower shots. And then all of a sudden, something in my mind told me to get the hell up, and fast! And so I did.

Once I was up, I stood there, scratching my head and looking at my bean bag, wondering what the heck had just happened. About 3 seconds later, a big snake poked his head out from under my bean bag and began slithering along the ground and up a nearby tree.

I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario. The most common snake we have here is the Garter Snake. They are beautiful little snakes. Little snakes. Maybe about 18 inches at most. The snake that I had apparently been inadvertently using as a pillow was one I am very familiar with from my cottage days, back in the 70’s and 80’s. Our cottage was not far from where I live now, so I know they are in the area. The snake was an Eastern Gray Rat Snake (Pantherophis spiloides). Or Black Rat Snake, as we used to call them. There are only two populations of them in Ontario. The population here, on the Frontenac Axis, is listed by COSEWIC as threatened. The Gray Rat Snake is a beautiful snake. And also one of the biggest in Ontario. Perhaps the biggest. I know there is a small, isolated population of Massassauga Rattlesnakes up around Georgian Bay, but I think the Grey Rat Snake still takes the prize as the biggest in Ontario.

An Eastern Gray Rat Snake, about 4 feet long and nearly 2 inches in diameter.

So HOW big? Well, the snake that I’d been lying on was 4 feet long and nearly 2 inches in diameter. For most Ontarians, that’s a BIG snake! Thankfully, Gray Rat Snakes are very docile (unlike Northern Water Snakes which are simply put, cantankerously inclined). So this big guy simply slithered out from under my bean bag, slithered along the ground and onto a nearby tree. Gray Rat Snakes are tree climbers. They eat bird’s eggs and baby birds, but will also eat frogs and mice and other tasty morsels that they can get their lips on.

I watched in aw as this huge snake nonchalantly slithered slowly up the tree trunk and into a cavity in the tree, where a big branch had once broken off and rotted out. Cool! He happily curled up in there, with just his head poking out occasionally, to see if I was still hanging around.

The Gray Rat Snake peering out from the safety of a tree cavity. These snakes are tree climbers and are very at home up in the branches and in tree cavities.

Of course, I was snapping shots like crazy! Once I regained my composure after what happened, it was clear I couldn’t let this moment go unphotographed. I had my macro lens on my camera and there was no time to change lenses. So I couldn’t get much of a full body shot or any perspective on how big the snake actually was. But I did get some nice shots of his head and upper body. They are truly beautiful snakes. I read that young Gray Rat Snakes have a more mottled pattern rather than being more solid black or grey in colour. All I can say is that if this snake, based on his colouring, is ‘young’, I hate to see how big he’ll be when he’s ‘old’! The literature says they can grow to be 2 meters in length, which is over 6 feet. And we have seen the grand-daddy of all Gray Rat Snakes before – back in the 70’s, when we were building our cottage. We thought it was our 3 inch black PVC pipe connected to the foot-valve down in the lake. But nooooo, it was about a 6 foot long Gray Rat Snake. It was huge! Way bigger than the guy I saw. Several people in our cottage area saw him (and screamed!). He was nicknamed “Black Joe”, after the black joe tar paper people used when building their cottages.

Gray Rat Snakes are excellent tree climbers.

I have a real soft spot for these snakes. Partly because of my history of encountering them at the cottage when I was a kid. And partly because they are a threatened species. Studies have shown that Gray Rat Snake habitat in the Frontenac Axis has actually increased in the past 100 years and yet the Frontenac Axis population is declining. It is thought that this is partly due to road kills. The snakes are so long that they often straddle the entire width of a dirt road and sadly, are run over by vehicles. So please, if you are traveling this summer in the Perth-Westport-Kingston area of Ontario. PLEASE, brake for these snakes. And well, please brake for ANY snakes you see on the road. If you don’t like snakes, you don’t have to get out of your car and pick them up to move them. But please don’t run over them. I’m appalled by the number of dead snakes and turtles I see on Ontario roads every summer. And I have personally watched people swerve to intentionally run over them. It’s disgusting and inexcusable behaviour. Snakes and turtles aren’t cute and cuddly animals. But it doesn’t mean they are any less important to our ecosystems or that they have any less right to live. So please drive carefully. You may not want to give a snake a hug. But at least….give a snake a brake. 🙂


Filed under conservation, Macro photography, nature photography, Reptiles, Snakes, Wildflowers

A Wildlife Photography Interview with Shelley & France….

Back in May I posted on my blog (May 14, 2011), the announcement of a photographic exhibit of the reptiles and amphibians of Gatineau Park, by me, France Rivet, Claus Vogel and members of the  Club de photographie PolarisĂ© de l’Outaouais. Shortly after that announcement we were contacted by Charles Hodgson, who has created an extremely wonderful and popular blog about Gatineau Park. It’s a fantastic resource about anything having to do with the park. I encourage you to check it out. Charles asked France and I if he could interview us about the images in the reptile and amphibian exhibit and put the audio recording of parts of the interview with our images in a video. Of course we enthusiastically agreed and our colleagues agreed to have their images in the video too.

Well, here it is! The end product. Watch the video. Charles did a fantastic job on putting the video together. It’s a great way to showcase the images of the park and also provide some context to and comment on the images in the exhibit. You can also go directly to Youtube to watch the video.

Have a look and let us know what you think!

Eastern Newt (red eft stage).

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Filed under Amphibians, Exhibits, Reptiles, Wildlife Photography