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The story behind the image January 21, 2010

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The story behind the image January 21, 2010

This is not one of my images for sale on FAA although I have been surprised by the number of people who have asked via other sites for a print. The subject matter is not one that brings to mind cute fuzzy creatures, its a deadly venomous western diamondback (crotalus atrox) striking a green jay (cyanocorax yncas) at a small waterhole where I was photographing bathing birds in south Texas. Two of these beautiful but raucous green jays flew into the waterhole and were looking to bathe. Suddenly they split and one went to the "other" side of the waterhole while I continued to photograph the one that stayed put.
Suddenly I heard loud cries from the other jay and looked over to see that it had been struck right behind the head by the diamondback (in a large rendition of the image you can actually see the base of one of the fangs). I was so stunned I almost did not push the shutter but reason won out and I quickly refocused and shot a whole sequence of this action, the last shot is just the feet sticking out of the mouth of the rattler. Interestingly, rattlesnakes usually strike their prey and then let go choosing to follow the heat trail rather than deal with a flailing animal first hand. Here, the rattler never let go, seeming to know that the bird might fly off and the rattler would lose a meal. It took about five minutes for the jay to "pass on". Then the rattler repositioned the body to swallow it head first so the wings and feet would fold flat against the body making swallowing easier. It was fascinating to watch.
A side note: about five minutes before the jays landed I got out of my blind and walked over right where the rattlesnake must have been laying in wait to make some perch adjustments. I probably was standing right next to the snake without knowing it was there. I handle rattlesnakes a lot when photographing them in the wild (with a bite on my thumb to show for it several years ago) so am pretty familiar with them and not afraid, respectful but not afraid. However, NOT seeing this five footer which must have been within five feet did give me pause.......
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