Whenever I'm out birding in long grass - even around the CyFair campus - I try to remember to watch out for snakes. However, I sometimes forget. Just as I sometimes forget that snakes don't hang out only in long grass.
When I was walking along a trail last Tuesday morning, I noticed a sudden movement under my feet. It was a large Water Moccasin. Before I had time to react, it slithered away into a nearby puddle and then swam off.
After I had grabbed a photo, I turned back and - nearly stepped right on another, smaller Moccasin lying on the trail. Given that this is springtime, I suppose the snakes were a pair and I had interrupted them while they were sharing some quality time.
Unlike its larger partner, this snake didn't try to flee, perhaps because I was between it and the water. It let me take a few photos.
Then it decided I was getting too close and warned me off by opening its mouth wide and showing the white that gives the animal its common name, Cottonmouth.
As she closed her mouth, I was struck by how beautiful the patterning is on the underneath of the lower jaw was. I'd never noticed that before.
Cottonmouths have a reputation for being aggressive but I suspect they don't deserve it. In my experience, they generally react like other venomous snakes: They either make a hasty retreat or they go into defensive mode.
Of course, there are always exceptions. A few years ago I was videoing a Water Moccasin swimming along a small stream on Bolivar Peninsula. I walked along beside it for maybe 20 yards. Then suddenly it came out of the water and headed straight for me, hissing with mouth wide open. I had to back up very quickly. I imagine that the snake felt I was stalking it and so felt threatened.