Thursday, October 10, 2013

This Week's Crops & Clips: Waterthrush in dangerous encounter

While checking for waterthrushes at this flooded hole (created by ORV drivers doing donuts) I spotted a venomous Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. While I was photographing it, a Northern Waterthrush suddenly appeared in the viewfinder. 

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 01-20131008

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 02-20131008

I focused on the waterthrush, expecting it to quickly fly away.

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 03-20131008

Instead, the bird started walking towards the snake!

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 04-20131008

It actually flew up a bit ahead of the snake as it swam towards the shore.

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 05-20131008

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 06-20131008

The waterthrush flew down and approached the snake.

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 07-20131008

It was only inches from the snake's head as the reptile moved up into the brush.

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 08-20131008

The bird never showed any signs of being alarmed, as it watched the Cottonmouth disappear into the shrub. Was this just curiosity, or was the bird looking for invertebrate prey that may be stirred up by the snake? 

Northern Waterthrush with Cottonmouth 09-20131008

The waterthrush went on feeding as if nothing unusual had happened.

Northern Waterthrush 20131008


  1. Classic case of "eyes bigger than stomach". That "Yankee" bird never saw such a big worm!

    Great series, Ken!

  2. I fear snakes ...a phobia. Of any kind...venomous or non- But, I must admit with your commentary and the photos I was totally amazed. Now, about that snake? Didn't you have nightmares that night? [insert wink]

    And Ken, thanks for the heads up on the Common Egret...I did mean to put cattle...dunno why I did what I did ---but it's corrected now. Your opinions and help are ALWAYS appreciated.

  3. Very interesting photos! I think the "big worm" is quite beautiful.

  4. Cool sighting and captures! I am glad to see the Waterthrush was safe.

  5. I wish I could be as calm about coming upon a poisonous snake as the waterthrush appeared to be!

  6. Amazing that you captured this encounter Ken. As to your question maybe we will never know but that bird was certainly dicing with death. Just a question though. Is that species of snake particulalry fast and did the bird imagine it could quickly fly off?

  7. @Phil-- The Cottonmouth is highly venomous, but I have not found them to be very aggressive. They seem to prefer lying in wait. When disturbed the smaller ones generally retreat but will strike if threatened with a probe. The large older ones make threats by opening their mouth to show the white, but do not seem to strike readily as a rattlesnake might, at least in my experience. They turn tail and race away as soon as they get a chance. Many people do get bitten by Cottonmouths, most commonly they either step on them or reach into foliage, as when pruning or trimming shrubs. One got caught in a swimming pool inlet basket and bit the owner when he tried to remove it. I have had the big ones swim right towards me as if curious, but they gave no indication of a threat. As mentioned, they are big carrion eaters and seem to prefer getting food the easy way. In any event, I certainly want to see them first before they see me!

  8. Oh my gosh...what an amazing encounter... lovely series, sure leaves us with a lot of questions doesn't it! (Glad I have time to catch up here.)


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