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Thread: Water snake and prey

  1. #1

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    Water snake and prey

    Water snake and prey

    I went to the little creek with the intention to try some shots of a shoal of fish that always stands just below the dam where the water runs out of the little lake above. In order to get the shoal of fish, I had a polariser on my tilt lens, as otherwise the water will reflect the sky, so that no fish is seen, and I thought of tilting to get the focal plane along the water.

    While I prepare to take a shot of the fish, just having aligned the polariser, but not yet focused well or found tilt angle, I see a movement to the left and observe the snake. It is about 2' tall and coming toward me, so I turn the camera and grab a hipshot, just hoping that I will get her:

    Water snake and prey

    I see her little head out of the water, she looks at me, calmly continuing what she was doing. She goes down under the water, turns around, and then I see her shooting back to catch a fish. There's a turmoil under water, and I see nothing, because there is also some debris over what's going on, but in a short moment I see her darting over to the other side of the creek with her catch. Another hipshot, just with a faint hope to get something. I hadn't even had time to chimp the first one, and this is a manual focus lens with a strong filter on. The exposure is bound to be just too long:

    Water snake and prey

    So... this is a wildlife shot. She's not a captive snake, this is her world, her habitat, and I am only a guest.

    After fighting with the fish for some time, she goes ashore at the left side, evidently a bit taken by the struggle, but she has a firm grip over the head of the fish and will never let go.

    Water snake and prey

    And I still have that tilt lens with the polariser on my camera, which is not the best equipment for this kind of photography. After all, I was into something completely different when I ran into this hunter. So I go to switch to another lens that is more suitable.

    She once more takes the fish down into the water, and several times, she violently drives it into the dam, bumping it hard, before once again going up. I don't know what the intention is, maybe to drive it a bit better down into her throat, because water snakes don't kill their prey before eating it.
    When she is ashore again, she continues to swallow the fish that is wider than her own body.

    It takes a fair amount of time, about half an hour in total, to get the entire fish into her throat. Millimetre by millimetre she gets it in, while her mouth opens wider and wider to accomodate the large prey.

    Water snake and prey

    The poor fish is not dead, it still fights. You can see the damage her bumping against the dam did to it in the image above. It has lost large patches of scales, and there are a couple of injuries over the back. Even when only the last tip of its tail fin sticks out of the mouth of the snake, it is whipping its fin.

    Water snake and prey

    And then, when the fish is almost completely swallowed and only the very last bit of its tail is sticking out, I get a big smile:

    Water snake and prey

    Now it's time to get some sleep over the meal, goodbye.

    Water snake and prey
    Last edited by Inkanyezi; 20th May 2012 at 09:20 AM. Reason: messing with the links

  2. #2
    MilT0s's Avatar
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Well Urban when I saw your first image at first I though... what a lucky guy to have meet such a coincidence of a fish eating a fish being able to photograph.

    But then I read:
    "It is about 2' tall and coming toward me, so I turn the camera and grab a hipshot" !!

    and I realize that this is not luck.

    Wonderful story and an amazing image!

  3. #3
    WJT's Avatar
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Nice work Urban, I love to see such close ups of snakes and I have yet to see a snake eating a fish like this. Impressive, makes me want to go for a walk int he bush and see what I can find.

  4. #4

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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Yes, absolutely classic shots.

  5. #5
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    A great series of images Urban!

  6. #6

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    Re: Water snake and prey

    I love it when a series of pictures tells a story.I would have gotten so excited about my luck with the snake that I probably would have forgot my original intent. Thanks for sharing!

  7. #7
    jeeperman's Avatar
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Great set of captures! Very nicely done. Sometimes the best things unfold infront of us when we are looking for other things. The key is to be out there and often and the be ready for anything. You did this and between that and your skill were well rewarded. Geat work!

  8. #8

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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Wonderful story and even more wonderful pics. Really well done.

    I was in a snake active area the other day (lots of signs up) but did not see even one. But even if I did all that could be hoped for would be the same kind of snake shots as everyone else.

    These are so different and well taken that perhaps you should consider submission to NG or the BBC.

  9. #9
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    I can only echo the comments above Urban, great series and narrative - well done,

  10. #10

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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Thanks a lot for feedback. Indeed, it is not very easy, but it is rewarding, and I love these animals. I think it is in a way symbiotic also, as the little dam is a favourite place for the fish, that do not care a lot about the snakes. Snakes go there to take a bite now and then, and it is an accessible place, where many bipedes pass and stop a while, which keeps snake predators at a distance, which is good. There is a heron there, which is a real danger for the snakes, but as long as people pass at the bridge above, the heron stays seventy yards further downstream, picking fish that is bound for the sea and frogs. As long as the snakes stay close to people, they are safe from the heron. I shall see if I can get some good shots on the heron too, but it is far more shy than the snakes. And I had good luck today too and almost filled my memory card. So here's another one:

    Water snake and prey
    Last edited by Inkanyezi; 30th May 2012 at 05:00 PM. Reason: typo

  11. #11
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    Re: Water snake and prey

    Great story and nice captures, especially considering how quickly things happened!

  12. #12

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    Re: Water snake and prey

    I've been down to the snake pit now many times, and I seem addicted to it. But I find it so interesting to study the diverse fishing methods of the snakes. Most of them don't pick fish with any precision, but swim seemingly randomly with their mouth open in hope of getting some goodie into it. Others lie for hours waiting, and when a fish appears within reach, they catch it lightning fast.

    It takes a lot of patience to get an image just when a fish is caught. I have tried for weeks, and this is the best I have got so far. There are several problems involved. A loooong wait, and when it happens, it happens fast. No time to wake up the camera, it must be focused and set, and it must not go into power save. As if that wasn't enough, the light is very low under the trees, and the environment is almost completely black, as well as the snakes themselves, except for the lighter parts, and my camera does not do high ISO well. Exposure times tend to get long. Anyway, I know that I will eventually get that picture.

    Water snake and prey

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