Back to the Herrring Run


If any of you have been following my flickr photostream you know there have been a bunch of pictures of a great blue heron recently. That heron or its twin, has been hanging around the Herring Run off Rt 44 for almost 3 weeks now. In rain and sun, morning and dusk that bird is in the same place each day.

I’ve been trying different approaches to see if I can get a really good picture. You know the kind. Not just a good snapshot but the kind of picture where anyone who looks at it sits up and takes notice, the kind that has a “WOW” factor. I can’t understand what I’m missing because this silly bird has been patient and cooperative. It even lets me walk right up to the river edge and all it does is turn it’s head to look at me!

Well I thought it would be a good day today to go back and try again. I had some ideas that I wanted to try. We’d had rain in the morning and most of the day had been gray but now, around 4:30 the sun was breaking out. The light was soft. I thought it might be just the trick I needed.

When I pulled in to the parking lot I looked where the bird usually stands and it was…EMPTY! Oh no! There were a lot of red wing blackbirds dive bombing the picnickers for bread crumbs from their sandwiches but no Heron.

 I decided I’d take a walk around. Maybe it was around the bend in the river. So camera in hand I started along the river bank and sure enough. There was a Heron, this time on the big rock in the middle of the river. 

 That put him a bit farther away than normal but I figured I give it a try anyway.

As I was setting up the shot I happened to look down, to be sure I wasn’t about to step off the rocks into the river, and realized I was straddling a big snake. Now unlike Indiana Jones I don’t mind snakes but I don’t go out of my way to have a “close encounter” either. Especially when I don’t know what kind it is. This one’s eyes looked opaque so I wondered if it was blind or vision impaired. I’ve never seen a “blue -eyed” snake before either.

 I carefully stepped back away from the snake and looked around at the rocks I was standing on. There was another smaller snake maybe 6 inches away to my left.

Hmmmm I’ve never seen snakes here before but it does make sense. The reeds and grasses in the river are really tall and thick right now. And lots of rocks and old stone foundations give them plenty of hidey holes. Both of these snakes seemed to be sluggish. Since the sun had just come out a little while ago I surmised they were on the rocks to warm up in the sun. Comfortable that I wasn’t going to accidentally hurt them or they me, I turned back to my Heron but in my moment of inattention he’d taken off.

I wandered around a bit more now interested in the snakes. I crossed the little bridge over the fish ladder and gazed over the sea of reeds and tall grass. A line of rock foundation jutted into the center of the river  dividing the foliage and those rocks were loaded with snakes too. I found myself wondering if this is what it’s like to explore in the jungle.

I went back to my original location and both snakes were still there.

I hung around a bit more hoping the heron would return but after about an hour I was still just staring at the snakes so I packed it in for the day. I don’t know what kind of snakes they are but I suspect something like a black racer? Or maybe some kind of water snake? With the small heads I am pretty sure they weren’t venomous. Even so next time I think I’ll wear boots.

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0 Responses to Back to the Herrring Run

  1. The one that had some reddish markings appears to be a kingsnake or northern water snake, try googling it and see. As for the opaque eyes, they do that in preparation for shedding. Wow, that sure was a lot of wigglies hanging around in one spot. Did it give you the shivers? When I was an ACO I got copies of snake identification booklets from the Dept of Conservation, off their website. They were free. You can also download them and print them. Always like to know what it was I was handling! Do you have Cottonmouths/water moccasins in Mass? Don’t know if they go that far north. That heron is really beautiful.

    • Dusty Roads says:

      I got the Black Racer name from googling “snakes of New England”. One of the people I met at the river later told me he thought they were water snakes. Could be that’s for sure, plenty of water there. That’s interesting about the eyes. We found snake skins around so I bet That’s what it was. He must have been getting ready to shed. I never knew that the eyes did that but then I never paid much attention to snakes. I don’t think Cottonmouths and water moccasins are very common in Mass. There might be one that escaped or got here by mistake by being in produce but they probably don’t survive the winters. Too cold. I’m told by the local reptile folks that the only poisonous snake we have around here is the Timber Rattler and they are only in pockets, not widespread. There were Timber Rattlersnakes where I grew up in New York on Lake George but in all the years I lived there , I never saw one. I was back there again and the snakes are all gone now. Not a one out sunning but that Heron is still there. 🙂

  2. Patti Ross says:

    Very cool. Thanks for sharing. I love the shot of the longview of the snakes on the rock.