There is something to a 6th sense, I gotta tell ya. I spotted a patch of narrow-leaf milkweed about 20 ft. off trail and was excited it was still in bloom. I wanted to take a closer look for nectaring leps, and as I lifted my leg to go, a voice in my head shouted "Look for snakes!" Sure enough, in the shadow of my boot was this cryptic CA kingsnake. Whoa.
Who would have thought that someone out looking for butterflies also has to keep a keen eye out for snakes? Fortunately, every organized field trip I did this spring came with stern warnings about rattlesnakes and watching where you step. I try to keep snakes in mind at all times... that is, if I'm not too distracted by some other new find.
While I probably would have done more damaged to this snake than it to me, I'm glad I didn't step on it. I have to say those stripes do a good job hiding it in the grass. The only other time I've seen a CA kingsnake was a freshly flattened one on the road out of Pinnacles, and the camouflage made little impression on me then.
This was the only picture I managed to take. Once it deemed I was interested, it quickly slithered backwards into what looked like a gopher hole. Given that I had already seen an unusual number of fence lizards, both juveniles and adults, I figured it would be safer for me to stay on trail for the remainder of my hike. Something about this day made it a good one for finding snakes and lizards out and about. It could have been my startling heightened awareness, or the sunny temps were just right for sunbathing reptiles?
ps 08/14/14 - We also saw a CA kingsnake at Podere di Farfalla in Monterey Co. on August 7, 2014 not very far from where we saw a juvenile horned lizard. Maybe baby lizards make great snake snacks? It's the season, apparently.