Spring is here and with it comes warmer weather and increased activity across the preserve. The bees are buzzing, the birds are singing, and the snakes are slithering!

Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources to provide adequate temperatures for them to thrive; they do not create or maintain their own temperature like mammals. As the weather cools in the fall and winter, native snakes respond by entering brumation. Hibernation and brumation are very similar: they are periods of dormancy in which an animal becomes less physiologically active, growth stops, and metabolic processes slow down. Unlike hibernation however, snakes do not sleep for the entire duration of their dormancy period; they will experience periods of activity in conjunction with periods of milder weather. During these brief periods of activity, the snakes will leave their chosen hiding spot or den to bask in the sunshine or find a drink of water.

As the seasons turn and the world warms back up, the change in temperature, the photoperiod (number of daylight hours), humidity, and even barometric pressure, all tell animals that spring is coming and it’s time to start preparing. This time of year, we begin seeing more and more snakes on the move through the nature preserve. Having relied on their built-up reserves of fat and glycogen all winter long, these reptiles are hungry and on the prowl for snacks! But you shouldn’t worry- humans are far too big for any local snakes to chow down on; our scaly friends are far more interested in rodents, small birds, and even other reptiles.

As they start becoming more active, you may encounter snakes hanging out in nature, by the road, or even near your home! The staff at Quest recently uncovered a little rat snake hiding in our conference room, likely looking for a dark, quiet place to warm up in. Do you know what to do if you find a wild snake?

  1. Don’t panic! Contrary to what the movies teach us (looking at you, Samuel L Jackson!), snakes are NOT out to get you. So, stay calm and carry on!

  2. Avoid disturbing the snake- you don’t want to drive it into hiding, especially if it’s in your home.

  3. If possible, carefully open a nearby door and use a broom to gently herd the snake outside.

  4. If you can’t herd the snake and it’s coiled or bunched up, slowly place an appropriately sized container over it, then put a weight on top to trap the snake.

  5. Call for help! You can call a private pest removal service to remove snakes from your home or living area.

By Ty Cryan, Davidson College Intern

When you think of scientists, what images come to mind? White lab coats holding a test tube, gaze locked in a pensive stare pondering the great questions of our universe? What if I told you the real picture of a scientist looked a lot like you?

Through the Citizen Science initiative, science is no longer exclusive to professionals or people with specializations. Millions of regular people across the country and the world are already participating in Citizen Science, and you can, too! Citizen Science makes exploring the important questions of our world accessible, attainable, and, most importantly, FUN for the whole family!

But first, what exactly is Citizen Science?

Citizen science incorporates the public into the scientific process, whether that be through designing of experiments, analyzing results, solving problems, or, most commonly, collecting data. The world is a big wide place, and it’s impossible to see it all. But through the collective effort of many people reporting what they see, scientists have a better shot at understanding how all these complex systems work. The data collected allows trained scientists to make more informed decisions on matters such as ecosystem management, climate change, and even pollution. In addition to assisting trained scientists, Citizen Science helps you learn, too! By viewing your environment with an inquisitive and analytical eye, you are bound to expand your knowledge of the wonders of our natural world.

At this point, I know you are wondering, “how can I use citizen science to help birds like those found at the Raptor Center?”

Well, there are a plethora of bird related citizen science projects out there. Many of the raptor-related projects, such as the NPS’s Hawk Watch, are focused on regions of the country outside of Mecklenburg County. However, the Cornell Ornithology Lab has an array of bird related projects to suit your fancy. eBird, one of the most popular projects offered by the Cornell Lab, allows citizen scientists to share bird sightings and explore the diversity of wildlife in the local area. Learn more about eBird here:

Another initiative, NestWatch, allows citizen scientists to locate and monitor trends in the development of baby birds. NestWatch is a great way to get out into nature and learn about the reproductive biology of birds! Learn more about NestWatch here:

Whether you become a lifelong citizen scientist or sporadic participant, Citizen Science offers a structured way for the whole family to explore nature. If you are inquisitive about the natural world like me, noticing that cardinal darting by or the well-camouflaged owl perched overhead, then Citizen Science may be just right for you! Why not put your observational skills to the test by helping professionals make decisions with major environmental implications, and at the same time reconnecting with the natural world? And, hey, you just might learn something, too!

* While the common term is "Citizen Science," community based science such as this is open and accessible to all people who reside in the United States.

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May 20, 2021 by Bob Oberg

Thursday is my volunteer day at the Raptor Center, a special place much beloved by Marianne (my wife) and now by me. After Marianne died they hung a special plaque in her memory at a little ceremony. I was invited to volunteer in rehab, and I accepted! The shift that was open was Thursday diurnal feeding, and that was perfect — the day Marianne had originally volunteered. Being at the Raptor Center is healing for me, both by being with the birds and with the wonderful people — staff, volunteers and interns. It is a community. This short poem came to me one day while feeding birds!


How beautiful is a bird on the wing

Such elegance and grace

It fills my heart with joy.

Inspire me, oh my feathered friend,

That my own dream may have wings

And fly!