A Garter snake was observed basking in the sun in front of the Naturalist's cottage this afternoon. Notice the snow in the background.
The stones on the shoveled walkway absorb the sun's rays and radiate heat that the snake is attracted to. The south-facing orientation of the cottage also absorbs and radiates heat from the sun and further enhances the warmth of this location.
It's not uncommon to see snakes here each spring, but this is certainly the earliest date these cold-blooded critters have appeared. It's the first time I've seen them basking next to the snow in the eight years I've lived in the cottage.
I hope he/she retreats back under the porch before temps drop again tonight. Cold-blooded critters like these rely on warm air temperatures to facilitate body functions such as muscle movement and digestion. Without ample warmth, cold-blooded creatures will freeze and die.
It would be a shame to lose a garter snake to the perils of cold weather. They are an important part of the natural balance of the lawn and garden in front of the cottage. Let's hope this snake finds its way back into the insulated protection of the porch foundation!
-Adam Zorn, Naturalist