It was around 0900 and I was at work. A feeling came over me that I could not shake; I knew that day I had to be in the mountains, no place specific, just any one of my survey sites would do. It was the middle of August, which is the start of timber rattlesnake birthing season, and I had a feeling that it would be a productive day for a survey. By 0930, I was heading north for the hour and a half long trip to a favored assemblage.
After huffing a short distance up a leaf and stick strewn hillside, I emerged onto the sun kissed stone face, and made my way directly to a crevice I knew housed a few gravid timbers. I stooped at the opening, and with a hand mirror, I reflected a beam of sunlight into the crevice and was quite thrilled by the sight revealed. In the best possible location at the throat of the crevice was a mother horridus birthing her young! I was thrilled! I immediately removed my camcorder from my pack and put it in place to capture the beautiful scene. Not only was there a mother Horridus birthing babies, but there were also two copperheads stuffed inside with the timber family.
I tried to position the mirror to give the camera better light to film by, but I felt the beam it emitted was too intense for the quiet moment. So instead, I used a small flashlight with a dimmer, warmer light to illuminate the family. I left the camera and took a walk in the surrounding forest, very pleased that I decided to take a day away from work in response to a hunch.
I left the camcorder recording for about 50 minutes while I explored outlaying stone escarpments in the forest. I found three other litters that had already been birthed. I then found a shady spot beneath some dwarfed oak species and amongst some tall grasses overlooking the den, took out my thinking book, and began to write. The breeze was fantastic in the spot I chose to sit; however, the bees were out in numbers and I had to keep a constant eye on their flight paths. None bothered me beyond their proximal buzzing.
I filled a page with some thoughts, and then I returned to my camcorder. As quietly and gently as possible, I removed it from the crevice and was immediately drawn to the blinking light that signaled a low battery. I dug into my ruck for the spare, but was dealt a blow when I realized it wasn’t there. I had so much more I wanted to record. Despite the dead battery, I was thrilled that I got 50 minutes worth of footage of a mother Horridus birthing young. Quite a productive day of truancy this turned out to be.