<< Previous Next >>

"Last Gasp"

Photo Information
Copyright: Nigel Deacon (Merlin) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 445 W: 267 N: 455] (1713)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2009-04-24
Categories: Reptiles
Camera: Nikon D300, Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4 ED+Nikon TC14EII
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/1000 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): The predator with the Prey 2, Animals feeding, part two [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2009-07-30 3:39
Viewed: 5314
Points: 42
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Viperine snake,, Natrix maura (Linnaeus, 1758) with carp prey.

I think reptiles are the most difficult subjects to represent photographically - so here is my attempt. Cropped quite closely for impact within the 800px TN limit. This scene was photographed on the shores of the Cuber reservoir, Mallorca, in the late afternoon. There were three snakes on the shore in one small bay, this small (50cm) specimen and two larger specimens that were squabbling over a much larger carp. The "fight" was over in seconds, as the carp was quickly swallowed.

They hatch at around 15 cm, averaging around 40 cm but growing up to 76 cm.

They are very slim and fragile as juveniles and young adults. When they reach a length of around 50 cm long, their body becomes more robust, but they are still slim and elegant. Their head is slim and rectangular. They have small eyes, with round pupils (c.f. Vipera).

Patterns & colours
Highly variable; usually either gray with darker zig-zag markings and sometimes spots on the flanks. Other common colours are brownish-green with dark markings. Orange specimens are not rare. Also bilineata form (lined form): usual patterns plus two thin and usually yellow or creamy lines running down the back. Belly is chequered black and white.

Geographical range
Western Europe, the Iberian peninsula, France (except the north, limit at around Orléans), west of Switzerland, northwestern Italy, Sardinia, Mallorca and Menorca.

Sexual differences
Females are larger than the males, especially in late spring when they carry their eggs.

Their main food source are amphibians of all genres, they eat mainly frogs and tadpoles, but fish are also taken. Young snakes will feed on large water insects and more commonly tadpoles, small fish and earthworms.

Defensive habits
They may hiss loudly and/or emit a foul smelling liquid from the anal region when handled. Sometimes, a specimen may try to pass itself off for a viper and try more aggressive looking techniques to get its self out of trouble, this includes flattening their neck and head, hissing loudly and swinging out towards the predator as if they want to bite, usually keeping their mouth closed. Despite its appearance, this is a non-venomous snake.

Breeding occurs in spring, a week after hibernation. After only a few weeks, about 10 (3 to 26) eggs are laid in a moist, warm spot, usually under hay or compost piles, in rotting wood piles and similar places. Sometimes they lay their eggs communally with other Viperine snakes and sometimes also with Grass snakes. The eggs incubate for around 11 weeks before hatching.

A highly aquatic snake species; nearly always found close to water. They are diurnal. When they are disturbed, they usually swim away at high speed, almost always diving and hiding underwater among plants and stones.

Presence on Mallorca
This species is thought to have been introduced to Mallorca by the Romans around 2,000 years ago, as the species was widely used in religious rituals (see below). This use was almost certainly due to the species’ close resemblance to the venomous vipers of southern Europe, but non-venomous bite, which probably gave the handler considerable kudos for bravery and/or uncanny control of the “venomous” snake. It is likely that the Romans did not discriminate between the species, but found that the “vipers” that were caught in water were not poisonous. Apart from the aquatic habitat, the most reliable means of separating this species from the venomous Vipera species are the round pupils (compared to the vertical slit pupils of true Vipera spp.) and the position of the eyes near to top of the head, which allows them to look over the water surface without fully surfacing the head.

Bona Dea (the Good Goddess) was the Roman fertility goddess, especially worshipped by the Roman matrons. She presided over both virginity and fertility in women. She is the daughter of the god Faunus and she herself is often called Fauna. She had a temple on the Aventine Hill, but her secret rites (on December 4) were not held there but in the house of a prominent Roman magistrate. Only women were admitted and even representations of men and beasts were removed. At these secret meetings it was forbidden to speak the words 'wine' and 'myrtle' because Faunus had once made her drunk and beaten her with a myrtle stick. She was also a healing goddess and the sick were tended in her temple garden with herbs. The snake is her attribute, a symbol of healing, and consecrated snakes were kept in her temple at Rome, indicating her phallic nature. Her image could often be found on coins.

anel, Argus, flashpoint, roges, robindb, cedryk, rkailas, boreocypriensis, peter_stoeckl, cobra112, Ingrid1 has marked this note useful
Only registered TrekNature members may rate photo notes.
Add Critique [Critiquing Guidelines] 
Only registered TrekNature members may write critiques.
ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To Argus: Mallorca - CuberMerlin 1 07-30 09:49
You must be logged in to start a discussion.

Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2009-07-30 3:54]

Hello Nigel,
What a story and what amazing an shot! The carp just looks still alive...
You managed to do an excellent snake-picture, what isn't easy at all, like you say.
Excellent framing, good light ansd sharpness. Bravo!
Yesterday I saw such a snake in a little lake, but no way to make a good shot.
Thanks also for the interesting note
Kind regards

  • Great 
  • shree Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 49 W: 13 N: 71] (276)
  • [2009-07-30 4:10]

Wonderful wonderful timing, Nigel! And such an apt title.. The details and composition of your shot are good and framing enhances its beauty. But the winning point stays the timing of capture. Thanks for the nice note provided.

  • Great 
  • cirano Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 997 W: 0 N: 944] (13609)
  • [2009-07-30 4:27]

Wonderful capture,very impressive.Bravo!!!!

  • Great 
  • joska Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 806 W: 0 N: 4092] (22535)
  • [2009-07-30 4:28]

Exceptional shoot!

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2009-07-30 4:29]

Hello Nigel,
What a wonderful moment you captured here. The POV is excellent, fish and snake are both very good in focus. Great timing. Good sharpness and composition.

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2009-07-30 4:43]
  • [+]

Hello Nigel,
Great capture with a fine note. We visited Cuber a couple of days previously but saw nothing like this; in fact we didn't even see the famous Black Vultures on that day!
The POV and lighting are great and the sharpness excellent, especially of both Natrix maura and the carp prey, though I might have cloned away a few of the brighter reflection spots.
Thanks and best wishes,

  • Great 
  • roges Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 957 W: 0 N: 1329] (6264)
  • [2009-07-30 4:55]

Hi Nigel,
Exceptional capture.
Although extremely difficult ...
Nice achievement and playing, congratulations!
have a nice day,

Hi Nigel,

Almost a once in a lifetime shot well seen and recorded. Well done


Hello Nigel,
a great capture at right moment, superb sharpness, excellent POV and DOF, marvellous colours in a very nice composition, very well done.
Best regards

Hi Nigel,

Lovely capture! Lucky to see this reptile in a kill! Superb shot. Very nice and clear image with great focus. I liked your composition. Very well done1


  • Great 
  • el7262 (36)
  • [2009-07-30 7:48]

Bonjour Nigel,

Très belle photo de ce serpent en train de gober son déjeuner! Magnifiques lumière et détails !

Salut Eric

  • Great 
  • Nilson Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 488 W: 0 N: 566] (4423)
  • [2009-07-30 14:58]

Hello Nigel

Wonderful shot of this snake, you caught in the right moment, natural colors and lighting, excellent composition.
Well done

  • cedryk Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 967 W: 50 N: 1722] (5270)
  • [2009-07-31 8:43]

Dear Nigel,
That's a nice action shot! I appreciate the composition and technical quality of this photo made in uneasy conditions (sun and wet, shiny surfaces). Your note is also exhaustive!
Best greetings and TFS,

Hi Nigel

Top shot! Excellent POV to show the fish in the snakes mouth. Did you see any of the midwife toads?


hello Nigel!
Extraordinary capture and interesting note of history of these non-poisonous snakes that feed on fish....

best sERGIO

Hi Nigel, A superb action shot of this magnificent beauty while feeding! Perfect POV and details showing the activity well MF!
TFS and cheers,

Looks great with fish.
An exquisite frame.
Very nice sharing.

Hello Nigel,
exciting leap right into the action, showing the drama of getting swallowed from a touching point of view, frame fillingly closely approached with high impact.
As you say: "reptiles ... most difficult subjects to represent photographically" - more difficult even than a human celebrity on holidays, because of their intelligence. And much more awarding, because of their elegance. Excellent result under difficult backlight conditions, drawing the spectator head forward into nature.
Thank you! With best regards,

Hola Nigel,
primero gracias por tu ayuda en la id de esas complicadas especies de Lepidoptera; realmente se ha de ser un experto y recurrir a detalles más técnicos para algunas identificaciones.
Tu toma interesante y diferente a lo habitual, con una escena muy oportuna y un "recital"de luces y brillos.

Un abrazo: Josep Ignasi.

Ciao Nigel. Impressive dramatic situation. Excellent light here and stunning details. very good compo too.


Hello Nigel,
fantastic shot of this snake gulping a fish. I especially like the dramatic face of the fish that looks like crying for help.
Best wishes,

Dear Nigel,
A perfect candidate for my theme " animals feeding part two.

(Sometimes I smuggle in animals drinking, as you probably noticed. :-)

I used to go to the snake park in Hoedspruit at feeding time, but they were fed dead mice. Still it was very interesting to watch the mambas fight...

The details in your photo are stunning; every individual scale is a little master work. As always your technic is impecable, and the colours luminous.

Thanks for sharing
Best wishes for a happy week

Calibration Check