It's been a whirlwind last few days; off to the fabulous Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia for a speaking engagement, then out to the spectacular coastal Atlantic waters of Barnegat Light, New Jersey. I saw lots of interesting things on this brief foray, including some sensational birds, and I've got photos. I'll get to some of those soon.
The previous post, about an oddly marked (or unmarked) Kirtland's snake, Clonophis kirtlandii, generated some fairly heated debate. Go read the comments to see for yourself. After seeing those remarks, I sent the photos of this snake to some people who know snakes well, and also see Kirtland's snakes on a regular basis. Their opinions run counter to those in the pro queen snake camp, agreeing with Jeff Davis's initial identification of an unpatterned Kirtland's snake.
The question of this snake's identification is rather beyond me - I've seen scads of queen snakes, but never the much scarcer Kirtland's snake. Although I sometimes forget, I normally remember lessons learned of the folly of trying to label something which is tricky to identify without having any direct experience with said tricky organism. Hence, the value of seasoned experts such as Jeff Davis or any of the other authorities that weighed in to me with their thoughts on this snake.
One cautionary note: in the comments, much was made of the seemingly inappropriate habitat for Kirtland's snake shown in the photos. The animal was found in an area that still has noteworthy swaths of fairly intact habitat, and the stream corridor in this area still boasts spring-fed meadows hosting unusual plants such as hairy-fruited sedge, Carex trichocarpa. This sort of graminoid-dominated meadow is probably a pretty decent habitat for Kirtland's snake, from what I gather, and the county from which this record was made has previous Kirtland's snake records.
In any event, one of my snake-seeking friends, who probably sees more diversity and numbers of Ohio snakes in the field than most of us do, made the following interesting photo. It is a montage of a known queen snake, the aforementioned Kirtland's snake in the middle, and a known Kirtland's snake. The photo features tight head shots, so that detailed comparisons of the scales can be made. I've uploaded it at the highest resolution available to me, so by clicking on the photo you should be able to see things pretty well.