Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Second sighting of A Red Bellied Snake in 11 Years

While working in the field on the south west end of our woodlot I noticed our cat playing with a tiny snake. It's reddish orange belly was evident from a distance and I immediately interrupted the cat's play to save it. It is a tiny snake and from the top it is a rather featureless gray but underneath it has a clear orange belly which is characteristic of a red bellied snake [Storeria occipitomaculata]. It did not appear very frightened when I picked it up.

After the photo-shoot I returned the reptile to its little depression in the ground which was about the size of a tea cup and it then slithered out of sight down into the earth. This was likely its hibernacula as they call its winter quarters.

I had seen this snake before early on in the first years when we arrived here on the woodlot but never since, and it was also in the same general area. Its den or hibernacula is located near the forest edge just as the descriptive websites indicate. Since it preys mainly on slugs it is a welcome presence in our woodlot. There are slugs galore around here. We need more red bellied snakes.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adding Some Horsechestnuts to the Mix

Chestnuts placed in bare patch
During a recent and brief trip to the small town of Kingsport in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, I picked up a pocketful of horse-chestnuts [Aesculus hippocastanum] from a sidewalk that was just littered with them. One of the nuts I kept in the pod while the others were already husked by the foot or vehicle traffic.

Chestnut patch before rock.
Chestnuts covered up.
According to, the nuts must not dry out if you want to plant them. Unfortunately by the time I got to planting them only the two nuts in the pod were still nice and round while the other half dozen or so were starting to shrivel up.

I planted the nuts along the forest edge or the residential acre in a half metre square patch as shown here and covered the patch with a large flat rock, to protect the nuts against predation by squirrels or raccoons and also to temper large temperature shifts. In spring when the nuts are expected to emerge I will remove the rock. If more that one survives they will be transplanted. I can probably find a spot somewhere for them in this 80 acre lot.

Rock covering chestnuts for the winter.
Though the tree is not indigenous to the area and actually an import from southern Europe, It does make for an attractive showy tree and I figure I can justify it being in the garden area around our house.