Date: 7/10/18 7:28 am
From: <mvjohnski...>
Subject: [cobirds] Re: Shocking Saga at Sand Dunes
I thought long about this and decided to post a few pics of the event on my
webpage. Be forewarned they are graphic but give you an idea of what
transpired. You can view 5 pics under "Recent Additions" on my photography

John Rawinski
Monte Vista, CO

On Monday, July 9, 2018 at 1:05:14 PM UTC-6, <mvjo......> wrote:

> Yesterday some friends and I saw a shocking sight that I will not soon
> forget. I was hiking and birding at the Great Sand Dunes with some friends
> when we spotted bird activity at eye level in an aspen tree on the side of
> the trail 15 feet ahead. Flitting around the tree was a pair of alarmed
> Dusky Flycatchers. Soon, we spotted a small nest in the tree, about 4 feet
> up, with something odd sticking out of the nest. My friend said “It’s a
> snake!” Sure enough there was a 14 inch Western Garter Snake coiled around
> the nest and in its mouth was one of the three nestlings! What a shocking
> sight to see! It was quite disturbing to watch but then again, this goes on
> all the time in nature, and is rarely witnessed. We had to swallow hard,
> and watch the drama unfold. The snake stayed on the nest for a good 20
> minutes and continued to grapple with the nestling which was long since
> deceased. The bird seemed so much bigger than this small snake could
> handle. We left the scene after watching this disturbing yet amazing event
> and headed up the Mosca Pass Trail.
> Upon our return 45 minutes later, we saw the snake at the base of the tree
> with the bird nearly devoured. We left the scene under the mixed emotions
> of grief, sadness and amazement all chaotically working inside us as we
> strolled down the trail to the vehicle.
> The event sparked a number of questions. First, I never knew Western
> Garter Snakes could climb a tree so well and skillfully. I had always
> pictured them as ground-hunting predators, slinking through the grasses and
> brush. To see one in a tree definitely shattered my long-held belief.
> Secondly, how did the snake know there was food in that direction? Was it
> a keen sense of smell? Or was it the sound of chirping babies on the nest?
> I am not exactly sure.
> Thirdly, the snake was not large, being about 14 inches in length…not big
> as garter snakes go. But this snake successfully devoured the chick which
> was the size of a ping pong ball! It did take considerable time for the act
> to be completed, but I never knew snakes had such an extreme ability to
> accomplish such a feat.
> John Rawinski
> Monte Vista, CO

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