Today was one of those glorious fall days: azure cloudless skies, a tinge of color blushing the foliage, and crisp early morning temps. The signs of fall and the collapse of the growing season are everywhere.
I was deep in the boondocks of Pike County to meet Dave Minney, land steward for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Dave was good enough to take me, along with John Howard and Daniel Boone, into the Strait Creek Prairie preserve. This is a spectacular place, and our primary mission was to find and document one of Ohio's more beautiful - and perplexing - plants. We did, and more on that later.
But as on all forays, many noteworthy plants and animals were catalogued. This little charmer is Bluehearts, Buchnera americana, a rare member of the Figwort Family (Scrophulariaceae).
This is probably my favorite snake, for a variety of reasons. Everything about them is cool: good looks, interesting feeding behavior, and an incredible bluffing game.
But it is all a bluff. The snake's mouth is normally shut during these scary-looking strikes, and it always - at least in my experience - falls short of its target. But if you didn't know what was what with this reptilian master of deceit, you'd probably get the heck away and fast.
If ACT I fails, and the intruder is not put off by the cobra/rattlesnake charade, the hognose tries a different tack. It rolls over and plays dead. No kidding. The snake twists onto its back, gapes its mouth, lets its tongue hang out, and does its best imitation of roadkill. One can even turn it back upright, and the hognose will promptly roll back over.
Amazing what can be found when out-of-doors.