All Creatures Great and Small–Water Moccasins and Hummingbirds

Tammy Brown

All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
All things wise and wonderful
The Lord God made them all…
–Cecil France Alexander, 1848

The Great Cottonmouth Water Moccasin

Cottonmouth Water Moccasin
Cottonmouth Water Moccasin

When I saw this creature swimming fast, tongue flicking, heading down Piney Creek, I was standing safely on shore. The strangest thing is, the snake was so much bigger than any snake I’ve ever seen that it didn’t occur to me that it was a snake. I thought I was seeing an otter at first; then, i just didn’t know what it was. When I downloaded the photos I had snapped, I slowly realized this was a snake. I googled “huge Texas water snake” and found pictures just like mine of fully grown, record-setting Cottonmouth Water Moccasins. These reptiles reportedly grow up to 48″ with exceptions measuring in at 5′ or more. They are unusual in the ability to swim on top of the water displaying their full, astonishing length. I can’t say at what length this fresh-water serpent would measure, but surely 4 or more feet. It’s head was huge!

The reactions I got when I shared these photos varied from “shoot it” to “share the space” with it. Long-time Texans who grew up around snakes, insisted that Water Moccasins are aggressive and the only snake in Texas that will chase you down. Wildlife biologists assured me that these snakes are not at all aggressive, and that we could safely share the creek. At least I felt sure I wouldn’t step on this one–I couldn’t miss it. The very next day I encountered a two foot long water moccasin at the edge of the creek, and it did turn and head to the water faster than I could squeal and back up.

Tiny Wings–the Hummingbird

Each little flower that opens

Each little bird that sings

He made their glowing colors

He made their tiny wings

Hummingbird, Bastrop, TX
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Birds don’t get much tinier than these feisty, warring hummingbirds pausing at Little Piney on their way south for the winter. I could watch them for hours swirling around each other like graceful Kung Fu masters guarding the nectar while no one gets to drink!

The Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are almost as small, and twice as curious.

Blue-gray Gnatchatcher, Bastrop TX
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Northern Cardinal and Yellow-billed Cuckoo

I was happy to see this Yellow-billed Cuckoo in an elm tree at Little Piney. The Cuckoo’s numbers are rapidly declining.

Our Birds are Disappearing

I’m sure you have read and heard about the recent study showing that our bird population in the US has decreased by more than 3 billion birds in the last 50 years. Hardest hit were grassland birds because their habitat is rapidly disappearing. Wetland birds faired well due to early conservation efforts to preserve their homes proving that protection is effective. Unfortunately, environmental protections of every kind are being rapidly dismantled by the President of the United States.

Please do what you can at home to support the birds in your yard. Plant native plants, provide food and water, and keep your cats indoors. And please do what you can to support all efforts toward recovering the health of the earth. Whatever your political views, protecting the environment must become a bipartisan effort or our grandchildren will inherit a very bleak world. If Trump’s your president, let him know that you don’t support dismantling environmental protection. If he’s not, do everything you can to replace him in the next election.

Read more about the research at

More about how to help birds at

The Hymn by Cecil France Alexander

I grew up in the Methodist Church in Conroe, Texas. The sermons, Sunday School lessons, and hymns instilled in me values of kindness, respect, and the dignity of all human beings and creatures.

The last verse of Alexander’s famous hymn–

He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell,

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well.

It’s our responsibility to look after this world. Whether or not you believe in an Almighty God, this world is a marvel, a gift, and we have treated it as a commodity for us to use up and lay waste to. We survive only because the Earth generously provides all of our basic needs, and what are we doing in return but destroying it. If we open our eyes to see, and use our lips to speak the truth we might be able to save our home.

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