Monday, September 04, 2017

Black Rat Snake

A Black Rat Snake might make a good pet. It was early afternoon of May 3, 2016, as I was doing some painting and edging at the back of my house. I was wearing a pair of Crocs Primas with socks, so the top of my foot was not covered with a shoe. That was when I felt something on the top side of my right foot. I looked down at my foot to see a BLACK SNAKE resting there.

Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
At first, I thought I had backed into a ladder and was careful so I didn't trip and fall. When I realized it was a snake, seemingly curled up and comfortable on my foot, I pulled my foot backwards and stepped away. It seemed to happen so fast, when my brain kicked in, and I loudly exclaimed, "what are you doing?"

Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
The Black Rat Snake slowly moved away and then came up along side of the A/C unit and stopped. It was taking a look at me and probably wondering. I think I over-reacted and asked it again, "what are you doing?" I had never had an interaction with such a snake and maybe should have realized it wasn't posing me a threat, but was probably just curious.

Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
When I first moved in, a neighbor was quick to tell me, "you have a black racer snake." As this was the first time I was seeing a black snake, I assumed it must be the black racer of which she spoke. However, doing a little research online, and noting the snake's mannerisms, I think this was a Black Rat Snake and not a racer.

Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
I saw the Black Rat Snake a couple of more times after that first meeting. It seemed to hang out along side the A/C unit. One of the Comcast technicians told me that he too had a rat snake that liked to lie in his A/C unit pan where it was cool and wet.

Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Black Rat Snake - Leesburg, Florida
On May 26th, I observed the snake coming through my back yard near the shed. Then, again, nearly two months later, on July 26th, I observed the snake slither across the street and disappear into the neighbor's yard.

I don't recall seeing the Black Rat Snake since then ... and noting that I now have moles tunneling around my yard. I rather wish that snake would come back! It supposedly is a timid snake that tends to avoid confrontation.

A couple of days ago, I did see a Juvenile Southern Black Racer coming up my driveway. So, maybe this adult snake will soon return. I'll let you know if/when I see it!

You know, I've surely seen my share of snakes in Florida. Check out my blog post in the Florida Scarlet Snake. In that post, I share photos of the Florida Scarlet Snake along with an adult Black Racer Snake, Common Garter Snake, and Water Moccasin Snake. Check out my other blog post on the Red Rat Snake for photographs of a really colorful snake. Oh, that Red Rat Snake was a lot less friendly than this Black Rat Snake!!

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake

The Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake looks nothing like the adult Black Racer! Perhaps that is to give this snake a better chance to survive in that it resembles other more threatening snakes. It was early in the afternoon on a September Saturday when I noticed a smallish snake scurrying up my driveway. I couldn't tell from my kitchen window what type of snake, so I grabbed my camera and headed outside to get a closer look.

Juvenile Southern  Black Racer Snake
Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Before I lived in Leesburg, I had lived in Jacksonville for well over twenty years. During those two decades, I had the opportunity to observe quite a few black racer snakes in my yard. For the most part, they weren't solitary, but were usually seen racing or scooting through my yard. Not this little guy!

Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
I had never seen a Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake before so it never occurred to me that this was a young black racer snake. Comparing the snake to the color of the driveway, it seemed to have a bluish-gray color offsetting the reddish-brown blotches. It was probably between 14 and 16 inches in length. Newborn black racers are about 9 inches in length.

Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
This juvenile snake was extremely feisty. As it moved up the driveway, it had its tongue out and head up. It was raising its head, assuming a strike pose and did strike out at me a few times. I fully expected the snake to keep on scurrying and head away from me. But, it didn't.

Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
After a few photos, the snake had scurried into my front yard garden and was resting near the trellis of my Confederate Star Jasmine. I snapped a couple more photos and then left the snake. Coming inside, I was curious to try and identify this snake. Not that long ago, I had observed a Water Moccasin in the grass across the street from my home. Judging from the "combative" feisty behavior of this little snake, I was thinking not a friendly snake I'd want to bite me.

Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake - Leesburg, Florida
Doing a lot of Google searches for speckled, mottled gray-blue and reddish-brown snakes, I found this little snake did resemble, a bit, a Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake or a Prairie Kingsnake. I did research a variety of Garter Snakes, but didn't think that was the right snake. It was challenging trying to identify this snake because I wasn't sure how to describe its markings.

The first website that I found which helped me to identify this juvenile snake was Snake Removal Trap which has a photo gallery of Florida snakes. On that page, there is also a closeup photo of a Juvenile Corn Snake which is similar to the Juvenile Black Racer Snake with it blotchy reddish-brown markings.

The second website that confirmed the identify of this juvenile snake was Cambridge in Colour which has a couple of excellent closeup photos on their forum. That's when I was pretty sure I had the right snake as it looked like mine!

I was looking now for a Florida website to see more photos and information on this snake. I came upon UF's Florida Museum page on the Coluber constrictor priapus where it clearly states, "Juvenile southern black racers are blotched." Well, now we know.

A really excellent photo of the Juvenile Southern Black Racer Snake was found on the South Carolina Public Radio website by Kevin Enge of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Researching this snake further, I learned this snake is not recommended as a pet because of its nervous disposition. It will readily bite to defend itself -- yes, I definitely got that part of its makeup! About four in ten of the juveniles will survive ... so that may explain why this snake starts off with the interesting markings ... to enhance its chance at survival.

If this snake was hungry, it came to the right yard! My front yard garden is occupied by a plethora of brown anole lizards and some skinks. I've seen snails, frogs and toads and beetles. As I work a lot out in my garden(s), I will be curious to see if this little fellow hangs around!

Want to see other Florida snakes I've observed? Check out my blog post in the Florida Scarlet Snake. In that post, I share photos of the Florida Scarlet Snake along with an adult Black Racer Snake, Common Garter Snake, and Water Moccasin Snake. Check out my other blog post on the Red Rat Snake for photographs of a really colorful snake.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Awful Tasting Coffee Review

I recently purchased two different packages of ground coffee from my local Bealls Outlet that turned out to be some awful tasting coffee -- Dark Chocolate Decadence 100% Arabica Coffee by Coffee Masters and Michael's Gourmet Coffee Hawaiian Kona Blend Arabica Ground Coffee.

awful tasting coffee from bealls outlet
Michael's Gourmet Coffee Hawaiian Kona Blend Arabica Ground Coffee
Dark Chocolate Decadence 100% Arabica Coffee by Coffee Masters
Both of these ground coffees cost $4.99 a package with compare at prices of $8.00 and $7.00. I guess I am happy I didn't pay the compare prices.

Dark Chocolate Decadence 100% Arabica Coffee by Coffee Masters
What the package says about Dark Chocolate Decadence - "Our fine coffee is wonderfully flavored with buttery rich dark Belgium chocolate." I would agree that the package of coffee does have a distinct chocolate fragrance that smells like a Hershey's chocolate bar. And, the brewed coffee definitely has a chocolate flavor.

Reading further on the package, "if your tap water is distasteful due to hardness or treatment, consider using bottled water." Ah, that must be part of the problem?? I should have tried brewing a cup using some bottled water.

The chocolate taste of the hot coffee was interesting. I wouldn't say it was bitter, but I had an odd after-taste. With each sip, I kept thinking that I would prefer a hot chocolate and not a hot chocolate coffee. I more appreciated sniffing the package than drinking a cup of this brewed coffee.
Michael's Gourmet Coffee Hawaiian Kona Blend Arabica Ground Coffee

What the package says about Michael's Gourmet Coffee - "Michael searches the world over for the finest Arabica beans from the premier growing regions of the Americas, East Africa, Arabia and the Pacific Tropics."

When I first brewed this coffee, I had just finished off a package of Kauai Coffee Coffee, Ground, Dark Roast, Koloa Estate that I purchased at my local Publix. The Michael's Gourmet Coffee Hawaiian Kona Blend did not even come close with the flavor. It had a more awful taste than the Dark Chocolate Decadence.

Checking the package, it also suggests bottled water for best results! Who knew? I don't think I've ever used bottled water for my coffee unless maybe while on vacation in Mexico?

The flavor of this brewed coffee fell flat for me. The package says to use 2 tablespoons for 8 ounces of water which is what I did. Interesting that the Dark Chocolate Decadence suggests 1 tablespoon for 6 ounces of water.

My final taste test was to try half and half of these two coffee blends when brewing that cup of coffee. I definitely tasted the Dark Chocolate Decadence over the Hawaiian Kona Blend in that cup of coffee.

In my taste-testing, I also varied the creamer to try Coffee-Mate vs a Publix non-dairy creamer. It didn't seem to make any difference on the type of taste ... all cups of coffee I brewed had an awful tasting coffee.

The type of coffee that I normally drink is Seattle's Best Coffee Level 5 which is a dark and intense French roast. I don't do Maxwell House or Folger's coffees, but if those are the types of coffees you like, you might like the Michael's Gourmet Coffee.

There was an episode on the Today Show reviewing the best-tasting coffees. A variety of coffees from Ethiopia were touted on having the best tastes. Those packages of coffee were definitely a lot more expensive than $4.99 -- up to 3 times more a package! I've tried an Ethiopian coffee bean in the past and been satisfied with the taste. I think that will be the next "exotic" coffee I try to find locally.

I just went shopping at Publix and bought a package of Seattle's Best Coffee Post Alley Level 5, a dark roast that is smooth-roasted. It is a 100% Arabica coffee smoky and intense French roast with a "wonderfully smooth" side. That's what I had this morning with my Coffee-Mate. Now, this was a wonderful tasting cup of coffee.