Mayhem in May: Changing weather and other surprises. A sanctuary for snakes!

The May in May. The beautiful hawthorn near the back of our house and its may blossom in the sunshine.









Wild peonies after the rain.












The mayhem here in the south of Spain is not just of the political kind as Spanish democracy votes in a new Prime Minister. Here the weather has remained cool, cloudy but with some beautiful sunshine and thunderous storms. May has gone, the month and as yet not the long suffering UK Prime Minister! Our month of May has been full of wild, wet and windy weather but with some glorious moments. Weather forecasters here in Spain seem to blame this on the USA and Canada. Well,it seems there has been a meeting of a cold front and a warm front and that’s blown over to us across the Atlantic!

Don’t cast a clout till May is out, goes the proverb.But June too began with cloudy, thunder threatening, days.With this inclement weather some wild ones arrived seeking shelter near the house. The feral kitten population seems to expand around this time but we rarely see them again. They will not come near and I fear many give up their lives to the foxes, mongoose, and snakes that live or should live outside of our house.

My day in May began with the need to photograph the very green mosses on the rocks and experiment some more with my new camera. I wanted some close ups before the moss dries out and I had become fascinated by these ‘micro forests’ since reading the book ‘The Signature of All Things’. The main character Alma specialises in mosses and ‘discovers’some of the principles of evolution through a detailed study of adaptation. She talks about’moss time’ and the very slow evolutionary changes that take place. However, on reading the book ‘The Emerald planet’ about how plants have changed and adapted to planetary conditions, it seems it took over 40 million years for leaves to come into existence and changes in carbon levels in the atmosphere affected this. Human evolution in comparison to this took minimal time.







So after the sunny morning taking photos of mosses, wild flowers,camelia and lilac,the clouds came and then dramatic storms.


It was thunderous and torrential rain. Dramatic change. And then T discovered a 3ft long snake disappearing behind some of my plant pots. We were struggling to identify this and it was very difficult to take a clear photo.










And then another day, a month later, we had more torrential rain and another visitor. I had taken shelter from this downpour inside the house in my sanctuary but on the storeroom side T saw a snake’s tail. We identified this one quite easily.

Ladderback adult snake in house.








Snakes in the South of Spain and Portugal.

We are lucky that there are few venomous snakes here and none with particularly fatal bites. I think more people in this area might be hospitalised for eating the wrong kind of wild mushrooms.

Snakes are a vital part of an ecosystem and like most wild animals would rather escape from us humans but can be dangerous if trapped or threatened in some way. Snakes may have a bad press but we can learn to live near them if we take a few precautions.

We identified the snake in early June as a ladder snake with two distinct stripes. Just visible from my yet another failed attempt to photo a snake. These snakes have markings like a ladder when young. As they become adult and much larger the ladder rungs disappear and leave the two stripes along the length of the snake. Snakes will certainly help control a rodent population. We think there are some bumps  to be seen. Perhaps a swallowed mouse or small rat.







On looking at the snake in May I have begun to think that this was a ladder snake but it looked a bit circular or even zig zag like a viper. Perhaps the rungs are just beginning to disappear on this one. It certainly did not fit any other similar snakes for our area so think this is the answer. We couldn’t see its head either; a triangular shaped head and vertical pupils indicate vipers and therefore poisonous.

Long snake which was hard to identify but think now is a young adult ladderback snake. Just beginning to lose the ladder and to just have the two single stripes.


One amazing fact about ladder snakes is that the females stay with their young for a few days. A more sanguine fact is they can be aggressive and bite and these bites can be painful even though not poisonous. Snake bites contain anti coagulants that prevents the blood from clotting and so can take time to heal too.

So what to do with a snake in the house, over 3 feet long, possibly a good rodent killer but with a painful bite if suddenly disturbed. Well, the internet and some helpful advice. We thought about the blanket option of covering over the snake and then gathering it into a bag. I didn’t quite like the idea of the broom to guide it to the door and this was the upper part of the house and no door to the outside! Our ecologist friend sent a note about providing a black bag or box as snakes like dark places. Well, there were plenty of dark spaces behind all the boxes and it had gone under a bag near the pipes. In this area we left one of the natural rocks and built over it. We thought the snake would hide there.

Too much deliberation. When we came to look under the bag by the rock the snake had gone. After some thought we think there may be a natural hole in the rock and the snake has left the house. I did check under the bed that night though.

Here is a good phone photo of another kind of southern Spain and Portugal snake. This was taken by a friend in Cabanas de Tavira. It has distinct markings and is a horse shoe whip snake. Photo opportunities of wild ones are all about good observation, quick thinking and fast shutter speed, and luck with the light!

Horseshoe whip snake photographed by Rosalind Siggs

Most of our days in May have been spent on exploring some local walks suggested by a bird and wildlife guidebook to our part of the Sierra Morena. It has been good walking weather and an abundance of wild flowers. Hopefully I can run some posts on these when I return from another visit to see my grandchild, now trying to stand! She is growing so fast but with all the changes in my life I just about manage a blog post a month. I will try and keep posting and keep up with all your posts too.


27 thoughts on “Mayhem in May: Changing weather and other surprises. A sanctuary for snakes!”

      1. Thanks, yes I will. A friend recently moved to Javier which I do not know. Previous visit was many years ago – touristy places like Alhambra, Granada, Barcelona. Alicante, Torremolinos..,

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi 🙂 “I did check under the bed that night though.” Yes. I would have done the same! 🙂 I can appreciate the role snakes play in nature’s complicated workings. I’d rather not have them in my home, though. I had to go look up poisonous snakes in this area after reading your post. Apparently, there are only four and they are relatively rare and not where I go walking around. I am happy to let the snakes have their spaces. All they need to do is let me know where they are so I can be somewhere else. 🙂 Pretty flower photos! I think moss is very interesting. It was the first green in the woods here in the spring. I hope you have fun visiting with your granddaughter. I am sure she will be happy to see you! ❤

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  2. Oh the kittens!!! The calico!! I have heard about the snakes in Portugal & Spain, but my, you do have quite a lot of them!! Snakes are fine, but not in the house!!! Enjoyed your post~

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Georgina,
    I’ve had snakes in my house but never see them more than once. Poisonous ones here are usually rattlers or copperheads. King snakes eat copperheads and mice, so I like them. I’ve learned to catch snakes by holding the head down with a shovel or something like it, then grabbing the snake behind the jaws. Haven’t tried it with a poisonous one but haven’t seen a poisonous one in years.

    Thanks for the photos and information. I enjoy the variety of your posts.

    Opher, Did you find that boa in your bed originally, or after he became a pet?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You seem very skilled in catching them! I guess snakes that eat poisonous snakes could be good. I have a hunch once a snake realises they are living with humans they probably will find their own way out. Best not to make the house a food source. Once when I kept lots of chestnuts in the house the wood mice came in. Perhaps a snake too but just for a snack! Hopefully.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have this thing about snakes .. I’m such a wuss! Thankfully we don’t have them in NZ, which is a relief given the amount of time that I spend in the garden. I have to say there is no way I could stay still long enough to photograph one 😉

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  5. Living near the East coast we have had a much cooler May than the rest of the country with sea frets coming in regularly. Your moss and flower photos are beautiful and I am fascinated by your snakes! I am glad our Grass Snakes keep to the garden as I wouldn’t like to have to try to catch one and persuade it to go outside! Enjoy your visit to see your granddaughter – trying to walk already! Amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, well similar weather to us then, but think it’s been Atlantic frets or certainly main wind direction with terrific clouds forming. Yes, it’s good to see the baby and watch some of the amazing development.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yikes!! That’s a big snake and I think you’re very calm and collected! Lots of interesting snake facts! The moss photos are glorious and they’re almost luminescent! Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The Signature of All Things I’m not suprised you’re noticing the moss! Ahh..exciting times with your granddaughter and it will be amazing to explore the world anew through her eyes as she sets out to see the world around her!😀🌺

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  7. Thank you for writing in defense of snakes. We have gray snakes in our yard. They don’t look venomous and always hurry away from us. Like spiders, we are happy to see them outside as we hope they will eat rodents and bugs. So far, the only thing bigger than a bug that came inside this summer has been a skink which I caught in a box and returned outside, forgetting to take a photo. I like the moss photos, too. Natures carpet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, snakes do get bad press but are so important in an ecosystem especially one we create which overfeeds the rodent population! I think we may have to invest in a certain kind of trap box as we tend to get visitors!


      1. I was just reading about a sonic device you plug into the wall to deter rodents and bugs. I might look into it since my husband is not fond of cats and our dogs are old.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Joanna, I bought one made in China last year for a mouse problem with my daughter in London. It also mentioned mosquitos so thought it might double up. We couldn’t believe the sounds, miaow, like a cat, every so often. Am sure some work well but we finally removed by humane, ha ha traps and blocked holes with wire wool. So far …..Good luck!

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