Eric and I were looking for toads in Walpole, Massachusetts, on 1 October 2017, when we spotted this beautiful Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus) under a rock. I'll admit — it fooled us at first!
Although it's hard to tell from the picture, this is a very small snake. [We estimate it was ~12 cm long, or a little less than 5 inches.] In a shaded woodland, the yellow ring around the neck was hard to see. We thought it was a salamander at first, but when I got a little closer for a photo, I realized it was a young snake.
Here's a zoomed-in view:
And the smooth, blue-black scales:
For a size reference, here's the snake in Eric's hand as we released it next to the rock where we found it. Adult Ringneck Snakes are often ~25-38 cm (~10-15 inches) long. In Massachusetts, hatchlings emerge from eggs in August/September, so it's likely this snake is only 1-2 months old.
Although Ringneck Snakes are also found in California, I haven't seen one there yet, so it was a treat to encounter this species!