Today was my idea of a lovely Sunday: I unexpectedly had another female stickleback ready to spawn, so I was able to collect one more datapoint. On top of that, it was gloriously sunny (finally). Better yet, the fish spawned quickly, so I didn’t have to wait around for two hours to collect my datum.
But the best part: as I was preparing to recapture the experimental fish, up swam a garter snake:
Snakes are quite good swimmers, and this one had probably slithered in to the pond to snack on the frogs which are ridiculously abundant right now. They seem to move through the water exactly as they’d move over solid ground, and leave hardly a ripple in the water. But it looked like this snake—a garter snake*, probably a western garter snake, Thamnophis elegans—was having a hard time climbing back out (again, the steep, smooth plastic sides of these ponds are not very-wildlife friendly), so eventually I fished it out. Then I and several other researchers there gawked at the poor thing for a while.
I should probably add a disclaimer here: if you find a snake, please don’t pick it up. That is (a) the one way to guarantee that it will bite you, though one this small won’t break the skin, (b) also a good way to get yourself sprayed with stinky stuff, and (c) not very nice for the snake, which will be stressed out and potentially injured if not handled properly. I do actually have considerable snake-handling experience so just do as I say, not as I do. (Unless you are in Guam and find a brown tree snake, in which case kill it.)
*Garter, not garden. There is no such thing as a garden snake.