I had an exciting wildlife encounter during a recent visit to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. As I was walking along one of the trails, I noticed a shiny slime trail on a plant. Following it with my eyes, I spotted a land snail slowly making its way up the stalk of a plant that had recently been mowed.
I quickly took out my camera, a Canon EOS 7D with a 100-400mm zoom lens, and slowly approached the snail to capture some photos and video. Being able to get so close to wildlife in their natural environment is one of the things I love most about nature photography.
As I photographed the small snail inching up the plant, it reminded me of the cultural and historical significance of snails as a sign of harvest time. According to ancient Greek sources, farmers looked to snails for hints about the season and timing of harvest.
The Greek poet Hesiod, who lived around 700 BC, wrote in his agricultural calendar Works and Days that the appearance of snails climbing up stalks was a sign that the time of harvest was approaching. As Pliny the Elder later recorded in his Natural History, written in the 1st century AD, the “crop should be reaped when the snail ascends the stalks.”
So when I encountered this little snail slowly making its way up a freshly cut plant stalk, it seemed to be a harbinger of the end of summer and time for harvest, just as Hesiod had observed some 2700 years ago. The snail’s symbolic connection to the agricultural calendar and its long association with the ripening of crops gave special meaning to spotting it in the midst of late summer.
Witnessing these types of fleeting yet meaningful moments in nature, like a small snail crawling up a plant, is what makes every day in the field an adventure for me as a wildlife photographer. I feel fortunate to spend time observing nature’s small miracles, like this determined snail, in special places like the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. I can’t wait to see what I’ll spot on my next visit!
Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer
- Camera: Canon EOS 7D
- Lens: Canon EF 100–400 mm f/4.5–5.6L IS I
- Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
- Date Taken: September 27, 2013
- Program Mode: AV
- Aperture: f5.6
- Shutter speed: 1/640
- ISO: 100
- Exposure Compensation: 0
- Focal Length: 400 mm