While visiting the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma last week, I was fortunate enough to come across a beautiful sight – a water snake draped over a limb in the water. As a wildlife photographer, I live for moments like these.
Water snakes are reptiles that rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. By draping themselves over sun-warmed branches and limbs near the water’s edge, they are able to absorb the solar radiation they need to remain active and healthy. This behavior, known as “basking”, is common among many species of reptiles.
In addition to thermoregulation, basking on branches provides water snakes with a better vantage point to spot potential prey and predators. The limb also serves as a stable perch where these reptiles can rest and conserve energy between hunting excursions. Their cryptic color patterns blend in seamlessly with the grays and browns of the woody debris in the water, adding an extra layer of camouflage from threats.
When I came across this particular serpent draped elegantly over a limb in the refuge, I slowly moved into position to capture some photos without disturbing it. I was hand-holding my camera and had to be cautious of my movements to avoid spooking the sensitive reptile. The morning light filtering through the trees cast beautiful highlights on the snake’s iridescent scales.
Getting the chance to observe and photograph water snakes in their natural habitat was a breathtaking experience. I feel fortunate to have captured this basking beauty before it slid silently back into the water. Moments like these remind me why I became a wildlife photographer, to appreciate these fleeting glimpses of nature’s splendor.
Camera: Fujifilm X-T3
Lens: Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II USM (attached with a Fringer EF-FX Pro)
Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
Date and Time Taken: May 31, 2020 (08:31:21 A.M.)
Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec. (as determined by the camera)
Exposure Compensation: -0.33
Focal Length: 400 mm