Lying in Wait

One afternoon I went out to change the hummingbird feeders which hang up outside our back screen porch. As I started to reach across the rose bush branches to replace the bottles, I saw it. Stretched out and wrapped in neatly among the stems, lay a non-venomous gray ratsnake.

I immediately jumped back, and may or may not have let out a startled scream. As I studied the situation, a little hummingbird came and landed on a branch a few inches from the snake’s mouth. Then it hit me. This snake, which is handy to have around because it kills rodents, was probably also after the hummingbirds.

I was hoping that the snake would be scared by my presence and slither away. But it remained motionless and resolute. My husband came out and encourage him to move on.

I hoped that that would be the end of his hiding on the branches near the feeders. But the next evening, there the snake sat again. As I mulled it over during the night, I realized what I had to do. So early the next morning before the hummingbirds showed up, I went out and cut back the branches of the rose bushes which provided the snake a place to lie in wait.

This turned out to be an unpopular decision with the hummingbirds, who lost their favorite branches to perch on and guard the nearby feeders. And I do miss having a front row seat from my rocker inside the screen porch. Now after getting a drink from the feeders, they tend to fly away to bushes further out in the yard. But still, the more I think about it, the more I know it was the right choice for the hummingbirds’ survival.

I’m pretty sure that I now know why the cardinal eggs disappeared from their nest at the end of the porch a couple of weeks ago.

“Decisions are the hardest move to make, especially when it’s a choice between what you want and what is right.” ~Unknown

13 thoughts on “Lying in Wait

  1. I pushed “like” but this story does make me sad. I know people will tell you all about the “circle of life” and I get that told to me too, especially with regard to the hawks and the squirrels at the Park. But it’s unfair – it endangers our little friends and diminishes our enjoyment of nature. Now the hummingbirds don’t linger but at least you saved their lives. I was very startled a few years ago to read that praying mantises prey on hummingbirds, lying in wait in the leaves, blending in, then striking. I won’t go into details how they kill the hummingbirds, but it is not pretty.

    You are likely correct about the cardinal eggs Rebecca. I had a friend in Virginia who had a nest of Robin’s eggs about three years ago. The Robins built the nest in a corner of her back deck – she passed the nest multiple times daily to let her dogs out in the backyard and documented the nest goin’s on, from eggs, hatchlings to almost fledglings. She came outside to find a huge black snake and Mama Robin all aflutter. The snake had climbed up and gotten into the nest. It was day #13 since they hatched – Robins can fledge a 14 days. One baby escaped, knocked out of the nest into a bush by Mama. The others were gone. My friend took a rake and hooked the snake and put it into an empty clay pot, covered the pot, then took it to a wooded area. (I’d have screamed bloody murder.) I’m glad I don’t see snakes – I have a big problem with spiders. I saw a massive one while doing yardwork last weekend – a shot of adrenalin let me kill it as it marched into the garage because if it was “at large” in there, I’d have been beside myself.

    • I imagine that nature is a hard place for almost all creatures. I figure that we do what we can do, and try not to ponder too much on the things that are out of our hands. I had heard that about the praying mantis also. I believe they also kill butterflies. Their looks are deceptive. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them also. My dogs use to keep the snakes out of the backyard, but I lost two of them this past year (old age and liver disease). The one that I have left doesn’t have any hunting instinct. Living out in the country, the mice start trying to come in when the weather turns cool. I’m hoping the snake will be a deterrent.

      • Yes, we are helpless sometimes aren’t we? I saw the hawk gliding overhead at the Park in a beautiful blue sky this morning and felt sick as I saw it circling the entire Park. I didn’t know the praying mantis preyed on butterflies too. Amazing. I was shocked to hear about the hummingbirds. Well, hopefully the snake helps to thwart mice coming into your house. I understand the hawks and peregrine falcons are keeping the vole and pigeon population down in our city.

  2. 😁 “…may or may not have let out a startled scream…” I’m with you on that one!

    Great captures of the snake, Rebecca. The rose vine thorns make an interesting addition to the scene.

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